Letter: Charlotte Street ‘road diet’ will worsen air quality

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Why spend lots of money fixing Charlotte Street if it’s not broken?!

City Council recently passed the Charlotte Street diet program. The plan calls for Charlotte Street to become three lanes, allowing for bike lanes.

If you use Charlotte Street regularly, like I do, you will know that at certain times of the day, even with four lanes, there are traffic jams from Chestnut Street all the way to Edwin going south, and from the traffic light on Chestnut all the way to Edwin going north.

While I generally support more bike lanes and green initiatives, this proposed plan is not sound. It will cause even more traffic congestion with cars idling as they wait to drive down Charlotte Street. As cars idle, more exhaust will be created, which will cause more air pollution in the area neighborhoods.

Neighbors living in these areas who have asthma or compromised breathing issues will find it even harder to breathe, especially during the summer when the air is heavier with humidity. Walkers and bikers will also experience the air filled with fumes.

With the recent climate change report released last month, scientists predict temperatures to rise and air quality to decline. Does Asheville, the “green” town, really want to contribute to poorer air quality?

The cost of this project is estimated to be $1.25 million for the 50 bikers and walkers who use Charlotte Street daily. Come on, Asheville, can’t we think of a more thoughtful and efficient way to promote clean energy?

— Ann McMartin
Asheville

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18 thoughts on “Letter: Charlotte Street ‘road diet’ will worsen air quality

  1. Curious

    I am a frequent walker on Charlotte St. I rarely see other walkers and less frequently do I see people on bicycles. I’m curious if there is indeed documentation of the 50 cyclists and walkers a day Ms. McMartin cites?

    • Lulz

      LOL you expect facts and logic to supersede ignorance and decadence. Have you kinda noticed the biggest cons centered in and around government are the one’s with the time to speak up? They’re literally immune from their policies. Next up the city will seek to ban private vehicles from the street completely as the surrounding neighborhoods complain about the gridlock. And of course many won’t understand why limiting their ability to be mobile is only hurting themselves.

      • jayreese

        Many cities around the world are banning cars from the urban centers. Asheville will have some carefree streets in the near future as people grow weary of having to deal with the noise, smell and risk of harm. Streets work best when designed to move people not cars and actually make people more mobile.

      • My Name is Vengeance

        Oh Lulz, I sure did chuckle at the thought of the person with enough time on their to post bombastic, nearsighted ravings on nearly every Mountain Xpress story actually had the nerve to say “the biggest cons centered in and around government are the one’s with the time to speak up”. True to form you went on to contend that the next step will be for the city to ban private vehicles from streets. Not hard to understand you would go straight to baseless exaggeration, being that you lack any coherent arguments to support the positions you take. Even more absurd, you seem to be attacking someone who shares your dislike for the Charlotte Street plan. Then again your rhetoric is so chaotic and obtuse it is hard to make any sense of it at all, evidently even you have a hard time doing so.

  2. SpareChange

    Taken by itself, I am not opposed to the redesign for Charlotte because of any of the most cited reasons. However, I do question the city spending this money on what is already at least a functional street when there are so many other unmet needs. In short, it seems more a question of priorities than whether one design or another will provide some kind of optimum for bikers, walkers, traffic, etc. This should not be on the city’s top 40 list of most important issues to address.

  3. Dave Freireich

    More people will walk or bike on Charlotte St. when it is safer to do so. When the road is reduced from 4 lanes most drivers will shift to using other roads to get into town. Yes it will slow the cars down, by design.

    • Paul Kelman

      You’re right. I know I plan to use the street your house is on.

  4. Jay Reese

    As stated in the million other articles concerning this issue, when the government provides the proper cycling infrastructure people will utilize it. Numerous studies have show that, as Ray Kinslella famously quipped “Build it and they will come.

    The automobile is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases (plus kills 40,000 people and billions of animal every year) and the only cure is to reduce the need to drive so much, not make the streets wider to allow more cars.

    It’s obvious many people don’t like change but the time has come to accept the fact the automobile is a burden on our urban centers and its use needs to be diminished
    Years ago, the City Council reacting to the voice of the people had implemented and continuously backed a long term plan to increase the development of active transit to include more bike lanes. It’s clearly stated on their website

    • Curious

      I see some of the studies you refer to. Is there a study specific to Asheville that surveys the general population (not those already committed to cycling as a mode of transportation) that suggests/confirms that non-cyclists will choose to become cyclists if better cycling infrastructure if built? I’m ready to be convinced if the data is there. Please provide link.

      • Jay Reese

        Asheville on Bikes posted a survey where a majority of local respondents said they would drive less if it were safer to bike or walk. This also applies to peoples willingness to use public transit if it is made convenient, is connected to were people work and play and is safe. It would seem to me the location of a study would not matter given that everyone desires to be able move about safely and conveniently although there could be an argument posited that a regions culture and relative awareness of the issues and their over all intelligence may play a part in ones opinion about transportation. Having never been to Davis Ca I feel safe in assuming young males residing there don’t revel in riding around in loud dirty diesel trucks harassing cyclist and proudly displaying their hatred for blacks and more pointedly President Obama. My point is it takes a particular intellectual mindset to fully grasp the problems with a 100 year love affair with the gas guzzling single occupant automobile. Fortunately more cosmopolitan individuals are moving to WNC and bringing with them the attitude and beliefs necessary for progress

      • Ron Patton

        Here’s a link to the most recent study for Charlotte Street (commissioned by the city in 2013): https://www.ashevillenc.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=29828&fbclid=IwAR1JP_75dpfvVuOizI3tltX-YLHOxzBAh5YMOZQdIF8yML7oe4QIG83_24A

        Quoting from the City’s 2013 study:

        “Most road diet projects are initiated for a combination of two reasons:
        • To mitigate specific safety deficiencies, typically involving pedestrians, bicyclists, and/or speeding;
        • As part of a comprehensive effort to encourage bicycle, pedestrian, and transit modes, often in conjunction with a complete streets, streetscaping, or renewal project.

        In the case of Charlotte Street, neither of these conditions is definitively met. There is no clear problem identified for which proposed lane reduction provides an effective solution, and the proposed project is not part of a comprehensive plan to enhance pedestrian, bicycle, and transit activity. Therefore, it is difficult to identify tangible benefits justifying moving forward with the project as currently defined. “

        • Curious

          Thank you for pointing to this important study. The overall impression from the study is great ambiguity; under the various alternatives proposed, some improve some things, some improve other things, some do little to make things better. As someone still open-minded on this situation, I’m still not clear what to think. A recent conversation with a business owner on the corridor indicated support for the “road diet.” An anecdotal evidence of one.
          It is important to note the paragraph following the one quoted by Mr. Patton . . .” difficult to identify tangible benefits justifying moving forward with the project as currently defined. “

          The study goes on to say, “this analysis does suggest that the 3/4-lane hybrid alternative could provide a reasonable level of traffic service. Combined with an integrated package of sidewalk, bicycle, transit, and streetscape improvements, this alternative could yield enough benefits with respect to safety, multi-modal access, livability, and economic activity to offset its costs.”

    • Steve

      Do people relize that most likely sidewalks will not be expanded in order to fit bike lanes? Bikers in this town are some of the most entitled snobs. It will cause more congestion and pollution and no , asheville wont be car free in a few years, especilly when electric cars take over. How many people are communting in this weather?! Yeah I thought so. AOB will never get another dime from me especilly after the Coxe ave mess. That street looks like crap.

  5. 50 pedestrians a day… right now, that means 50 brave souls are risking their lives (everything is a risk, right?) walking on the wild side of Charlotte, particularly the east side from Hillside out toward the freeway. The sidewalk feels like it is two feet wide, constantly obstructed by telephone poles, hemmed in by retaining walls, and the cars feel like they are (they actually are) whizzing by inches away. It’s intimidating, and although I will occasionally reluctantly shepherd my children up it, I would never consider letting them walk it alone. Why does that matter? Because there’s a crosswalk at Hillside and then not again until Chestnut, about a third of a mile, and although I would prefer to walk on the wider, nicer, and safer sidewalk on the west side of the street, that means jaywalking to get to the other side anywhere in between – which is borderline suicidal. So, if I want to take my kids up to the Pub on a weekend afternoon for their favorite (and the best) wings in town, it can be a harrowing adventure when it could be and should be a pleasant walk.

    I do believe the general perception of people who actually live in the neighborhood, like myself who has lived on Linden Avenue for over twenty years is that many vehicles use Charlotte Street as a shortcut or bypass to avoid Merrimon. I know I do. I have always suspected the peoples who amusingly claim “North Asheville” residency out Beaverdam way of being the worst offenders, but you know, that’s just like my opinion, man. I absolutely believe that there is a significant if not enormous potential to diminish the automobile traffic to the benefit of the actual residents of the Charlotte Street corridor and Edwin/Kimberly even if it disgruntles some rogue wannabeavers.

    Cyclists, well, if you are a fit adult cyclist fully equipped with strobe lights, a daredevil disposition, and fluency in hand gestures you could consider Charlotte Street as reasonable to ride on. Especially heading north, where there is a slight downhill grade and you can go fast enough to assert your space in the automobile traffic. Kids on bikes? Older people on bikes? Families on bikes? In the current format of the corridor they would be (are) a danger to themselves and others.

    As far as car traffic goes and traffic jams, I am not sure I can agree with the original letter writer at all. As the letter is written, it created to me a perception that traffic jams are constant and vexatious, and in my experience they are practically non-existent. I drive Charlotte on a daily basis during morning and afternoon commute and it does get full of traffic at times, but I don’t think I can remember an actual traffic jam. Unless you consider four or five cars lined up at the light at the freeway a jam?

    The real issue with Charlotte Street is that it is simply poorly executed as it currently exists; it is not wide enough to accommodate four lanes of vehicle traffic, cyclists and pedestrians all together either safely or comfortably. The road diet seems to be a good resolution that can encourage cyclists and pedestrians so that the count is not just a measly ‘50’ a day and people will actually recreationally stroll or bike up and down the street. This will benefit the existing retail/hospitality businesses along the street, as well as encourage more investment in that category. This positively will increase the home values including my own.

    Now, can we talk about bringing back the streetcar tolleys?

    • luther blissett

      Stating the obvious, there are three non-interstate north-south routes from downtown: Broadway, which is mostly a four-lane divided highway where everybody drives 55 regardless of the speed limit, with only a few intersections up to I-26; Merrimon, which is a varied mixed-use corridor that leans more commercial than residential up to Beaver Lake, and Charlotte Street, which is mostly residential past Chestnut. I understand why people who live around Kimberly/Edwin or back behind the Grove Park Inn simultaneously want an uninterrupted commute and quiet residential streets, but how about “no”? “But exhaust fumes” is disingenuous.

  6. terry lansdell

    This is not correct! We cannot continue to build for cars alone. More car capacity means more cars, we need to build for everyone!

  7. Cecil Bothwell

    The info I saw while on Council suggested that three lanes actually move traffic more smoothly and safely than four. Left-turners in the left lane cause periodic unexpected back-ups, causing some impatient drivers to bolt into the right lane. With a dedicated left turn lane at intersections (the “third” lane), the left-turners are removed from the flow.
    An idea I floated that probably won’t happen is to ban left turns from Chestnut to Edwin, where there would be a new traffic circle. Then north-bound “left-turners” would go up and around. Meanwhile residential traffic from the east wanting to go south could make a right turn and go around the circle before heading downtown. (Much like traffic on Patton where instead of crossing the road one has to make a U-turn to access the other side.) The traffic circles on College and WT Weaver work beautifully.

    • Ron Patton

      The 2013 study commissioned by the city states that the 3-lane alternative will increase delays and significantly increase backups both on Charlotte and the cross streets.

      Quoting from page ii: “The Three-Lane Alternative involves restriping the entire length of Charlotte Street to three lanes. Relative to the existing 4-lane cross-section, in 2015 the 3-Lane Alternative increases delay by 2% to 5% for traffic traveling on Charlotte Street, depending on the time of day. Relative delay increases by as much as 11% (for the PM peak hour) in 2035. Delay increases for cross-street traffic are considerably worse. The most noticeable impact of 3-laning is a lengthening of vehicle queues, both for cross-streets and Charlotte Street. Southbound traffic approaching Chestnut Street during the PM peak experiences the most significant increases, from 188 feet to 782 feet in 2015, and from 220 feet to 1074 feet in 2035 (for 95th-percentile queues). ”

      Source: https://www.ashevillenc.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=29828&fbclid=IwAR1JP_75dpfvVuOizI3tltX-YLHOxzBAh5YMOZQdIF8yML7oe4QIG83_24A

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