The Growing Streetcar Trend
Plus, a line even NCGA Republicans won't cross, and McCrory's dismal month of May
Bits and bobs:
1. OnEarth magazine has an informative (and cleverly headlined) story about urban streetcar projects in at least eight U.S. cities in addition to Charlotte. This may surprise you, since here the streetcar project is treated as a money-sucking travesty, but it turns out there's some genuine rationale to support this particular mode of transportation:
A story in yesterday’s New York Times would certainly seem to validate the notion that (Anthony) Foxx has a firm grasp of where transportation is headed and how to get us there. The article, about how twentysomethings are eschewing their cars in never-before-seen numbers for alternate forms of transit, is datelined Charlotte and contains within it the startling fact that the city’s light rail line "was projected to reach a ridership of 12,000 people within 7 to 10 years; it hit that level in the first month and a half." The overall image of Charlotte is that of a city that has smartly rooted its recent transportation decisions in demographic realities — namely, that millennials are opting to drive less and walk, bike, or take mass transit more. Streetcars are the most visible symbol of that reality.
As I've said before, Charlotte's specific streetcar plan may need some adjusting. But Foxx hasn't been supporting a wild scheme to defraud south Charlotteans of their tax dollars and force SUV owners at gunpoint to ride the train to hang out on Beatties Ford Road. He supports what is, at base, a reasonable idea. It deserves to be treated as one.
2. We may finally have reached the line even N.C. House Republicans won't cross:
Rep. Bob Steinburg, a freshman Republican from Edenton who described himself as a hard-core abortion opponent, said he would support the bill only if the prohibition on contraception coverage was removed.
“It’s almost like we’re stepping back in time,” Steinburg said. “To suggest in the 21st century that women would be prevented from having access to birth control — even as far to the right as I am — is going off the cliff. This is going too far.”
I won't go so far as to say Rep. Steinburg deserves "praise," exactly — the cliff's edge is a few months back up the slope — but his recognition of the 21st century, and contraception's place in it, matters. North Carolinians ought to count it as a victory. It's about all we've got.
3. While the legislature has taken us several steps back toward the Precambrian, Gov. Pat has been having his own, more pedestrian bad month, as Chris Fitzsimon of N.C. Policy Watch details. None of this adds up to impeachment material, of course. But the would-be architect of North Carolina's resurgence is running into the choppy waters of actual governance, which should start taking a bite out an approval rating that remains high despite the antics of the demolition crew at the Legislative Building. The governor should thank the legislators making him, and everyone this side of Hamas, seem sane.