Charlotte Chamber President/CEO Focuses on Transit at MORPC Roundtable
August 27, 2015

Light rail, street cars, and bus rapid transit have become a cornerstone of economic growth and talent retention in Charlotte, NC. How could a region the size of Central Ohio do this? That was the key question last week at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s (MORPC) Community Leaders Public Transportation Roundtable in partnership with the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), which featured Bob Morgan, the President and CEO of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.

Morgan told representatives from government, transit, development and business that it took business leadership combined with community support to reimagine and reinvent Charlotte's transportation system.  The roundtable included comments from regional leaders such as COTA Board President Dawn Tyler Lee, COTA President & CEO Curtis Stitt and Yaromir Steiner, from Steiner and Associates and chair of the insight2050 advisory committee. The roundtable featured a robust discussion among the community leaders facilitated by MORPC Executive Director William Murdock. 

Morgan would focus on the integral role of transportation and more specifically the role light rail has played in Charlotte.

“Light rail has improved our central business district, reduced congestion, and is a convenient mode of transportation,” said Morgan. “Millennials expect quality transit, and light rail helps attract more young people and businesses to Charlotte.”

It was still a long journey for Charlotte to implement its light rail system. At first, many were skeptical in investing in transit. Charlotte’s original light rail transit initiative passed in 1998, yet the rail was not operational until 2007. Just prior to the rail’s kickoff, a repeal initiative was on the ballot. However, with the backing of business and community leaders, the repeal was soundly defeated. Now the people of Charlotte are realizing the value of the rail system, which will continue to grow and develop.

With Central Ohio slated to grow by more than 500,000 people and an additional 300,000 jobs by 2050, many were eager to learn how Columbus could create a similar light rail system and what approach would be appropriate for the region.

“It is essential to support and promote all modes of transportation,” said Morgan. “Roads and light rail both play a key part in the transportation equation.”

MORPC looks forward to continuing the dialogue from the Community Leaders Public Transportation Roundtable and the future of Central Ohio’s transportation system. 

"Central Ohio is growing quickly while our residents and businesses are demanding more options in transportation," Murdock said."Now is the time to both imagine what is possible and to learn practical lessons from our peers in other regions.  Mr. Morgan really opened our eyes to what can happen when a business leader engages the community as a strong advocate for new transportation options. Transportation solutions can be a core part of an economic development and talent retention strategy."

Morgan was also the keynote speaker at COTA’s annual luncheon that took place earlier in the day.