I was in Charlotte for AASHTO as the token academic. AASHTO – The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (which used to be AASHO, so you know the lineage) is the organization of state DOTs, and is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
The conference was well organized, with lots of entertainment for the crowd and lots of food at the dinners. Few seemed ready to acknowledge the maturity of their industry, and many still wanted to go back to the go-go days (1920-2000) of rapid steady growth. The crowd did however acknowledge their fiscal stuckness. My impressions below:
- Charlotte Downtown is less than I imagined. I don’t know what I expected, and maybe I am just getting jaded, but Charlotte feels like a McDowntown, sanitized and homogenized with all of the features a downtown is supposed to have (tall buildings, bricks in the sidewalk, cultural amenities, and so on) that I am supposed to be interested in, yet it misses something by having destroyed almost everything that was there 50 years ago.
- Mert’s is good soul food (I had turkey sausage on rice and beans, plus excellent cornbread).
- The downtown has a few tall buildings, connected by skyways, but is surrounded by surface parking lots. I guess these are slated to be future development, but it would have been better to build on all of it and build shorter. Or better, leave the previous buildings standing rather than level them for parking.
- This Levine guy owns lots of land and is very philanthropic (the money is from Family Dollar stores).
- The LRT (Lynx) is a short stub through downtown (19 miles total, including built and under construction), though it is elevated in the center city. A CityLynx streetcar (1.5 miles) is under construction.
- There is a nice bus terminal, and the LRT is integrated into adjacent buildings.
- The Westin hotel is a nice venue.
- NASCAR Hall of Fame is everything you expect and more. The race driving simulator was cool, though most people seemed to crash.
- The Charlotte Motor Speedway is an impressive operation. Though note, they did “right-size” the seating at the track. They also paint their seats random colors to make it look more full than it is. There are condominiums on the race track, that people own, most of them businesses, but some people actually live there. They are not cheap.
- Really, they love them some stock cars down in Charlotte. See That’s Transportainment.
- There really is a huge divide between Red and Blue America. Red states are both more hierarchical and respectful of authority and military, and more hedonistic with their good-ole-boys, booze, fetish for fast cars, and profligate lifestyle. It’s been a while since I lived in Atlanta, but the south (and north) are quite different.
- Physically Charlotte feels a lot like a small version of Midtown Atlanta.
- As in Texas, the Customer Service culture is stronger here than Minnesota.
Airport gate attendants call out their flight to passing pedestrians to their flight. Not so much as to lure people onto a flight to Greensboro, but to help people find their flight. Photos are on Flickr.