Difficult as it might seem to get around Charlotte during the Democratic National Convention, it would be a lot worse in the absence of the 5-year-old Lynx light-rail line.
That’s the conclusion drawn by the Tampa Bay Times, comparing Charlotte’s DNC experience to that of Tampa and the Republican convention last week. Tampa voted down a sales tax that would have built a light rail system similar to Lynx , a 10-mile system that runs from uptown, near Seventh Street, south to I-485. Half of the cost of Lynx (more than $400 million) was covered by federal funds. Plans are in the works to double Charlotte’s light-rail system.
On Monday, Lynx carried a reported 33,000 passengers. Moving RNC visitors in Tampa, mostly with charter buses, was problematic, causing some delegates to miss portions of convention sessions or getting them back to their hotels after 3 a.m. According to the Times, Tampa used more than 400 buses compared with about 250 for Charlotte.
“Compared to this, getting around in Tampa was impossible,’’ said Andrea Braboy, a Tampa resident who’s here for the DNC. Added Sarah Meachen, also of Tampa, “Charlotte is light years ahead of Tampa. We’re not even close. I think I want to move here.’’
Party mood: Several media reports have characterized the mood among Democrats as more party-oriented than among Republicans in Tampa. That’s likely good for the Charlotte restaurant and bar business, but not necessarily for Obama’s re-election hopes.
The Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal described Charlotte this week as about “songs and cute outfits and ornate hats,’’ while Republicans exuded “a sense of four years of scorn, bitterness and a loss not forgotten.’’
The Rev. Al Sharpton, an MSNBC host, said: “If (Democrats) party in Charlotte in September, the Republicans could be partying in November.’’
Outside the hall: Some national media outlets have ventured outside Time Warner Cable Arena to report on how Charlotte’s challenges reflect on the country’s politics.
The Atlantic’s website is doing a three-part series on Charlotte’s economy. Wednesday’s segment concentrated on the loss of thousands of high-paying banking jobs here and how that undermined the tax base. City councilman David Howard was quoted that, “If you look at Charlotte as a pie, about a fifth of it in south Charlotte pays almost 50 percent of the city’s tax base.”
More uplifting was a story in the Washington Post about how government investment in job creation made for a Siemens AG plant, building gigantic gas turbines for industrial use. Siemens, a German firm, was recruited here partially by the international flights out of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport and a rail spur with state funding. But it was also about the engineers and technicians available in North Carolina that Siemens might not have had available off-shore.