by Sam Hieb
Interesting op-ed in today’s News & Observer from Clean Air Carolina executive director Julie Blotnick urging Gov. Roy Cooper to pull the plug on extending the I-540 loop around Raleigh because, well, it would wreck the environment. But there’s another reason, according to Ms. Blotnick:
The young, diverse workforce Triangle employers seek to attract is not interested in suburban living and long commutes. As Amazon considers whether Raleigh will be its next headquarters, the company has been clear that it is interested in a city with a vibrant downtown, sidewalks and bike paths and a strong connected public transit system that will serve the headquarters.
Amazon may say that—what else are they gonna say?—-but let’s take a look at how that’s worked out in Seattle, where Amazon has its “urban campus.” Last week former N&O columnist Nicole Brodeur drew a not-so-pretty picture:
Thanks to Amazon’s unprecedented growth, Seattle became the fastest-growing big city in the country. From July 1, 2015, to July 1, 2016, we had a net gain of nearly 21,000 people. That’s 57 people per day, 1,710 a month and most of them out-of-staters who are driving natives out.
And they brought their cars. There are some 435,000 cars crammed into the city’s 84 square miles – or 5,185 cars per square mile.
So there are times when I’m sitting at a traffic light and don’t see a single Washington state license plate. No one is from here, and everyone is a little lost. You feel for them (we were all newcomers once), but also feel your palm twitching to lay on the horn.
So it seems to me Raleigh would be crazy to pitch Amazon without the 540 extension. Look I’m aware of the predictions—increased ride sharing, driverless cars, etc.—maybe I’m crazy, but I just believe it’s in our DNA not only to be mobile but in complete control of our mobility.