Understanding Regional Mobility

The first step in developing this regional mobility plan was to cultivate a deep understanding of the region and the mobility needs of those who live in the CONNECT Beyond region. To understand the current and future mobility needs of the CONNECT Beyond region, four key analyses were conducted:

  • Existing Transit System Evaluation
  • Related Plans and Studies Review
  • Travel Market Analysis
  • Transportation Equity Review

Existing Transit System Evaluation

CONNECT Beyond conducted an in-depth Evaluation of the service delivery and performance for every fixed-route urban transit provider and community transportation provider in the 12-county region.

As part of the existing transit systems evaluation, CONNECT Beyond:

  • Created an inventory of all transit services offered in the region
  • Analyzed the service performance of each transit provider
  • Reviewed each provider’s transit service standards and performance measures
  • Completed interviews with transit provider staff
  • Conducted ride-alongs of select routes for each fixed-route urban transit provider

This evaluation provided valuable insights about the current transit services being offered in the region and served as the foundation on recommendations for how to improve coordination between transit providers to help improve service performance, efficiency, and connectivity.

To learn more, view the full Existing Transit System Evaluation.

Travel Market Analysis

To understand our region’s current and future mobility conditions, CONNECT Beyond examined existing and future travel patterns throughout the 12-county region using travel demand modeling software. Travel demand modeling is an analytical tool that provides insight about current and future travel demand and travel behaviors. Travel demand modeling provides a forecast of future travel that predicts where people will travel to and from the transportation modes they will use, and the daily number of trips that will be completed.

The following table provides a summary of the estimated numbers for current and projected population, households, and employment in the CONNECT Beyond region.

The Region in 2018 The Region in 2045
2.7 million people 4.1 million people
1.1 million households 1.6 million households
1.6 million jobs 2.3 million jobs

This means that between 2018 and 2045, our region will see a 52% increase in population, a 45% increase in households, and a 44% increase in jobs.

The regional travel demand model also showed that in 2018 there were approximately 3.52 million one-way trips (not including trips commuting to work and school) every weekday in our region and that in 2045 there will be approximately 5.5 million one-way trips (not including trips commuting to work and school). This is approximately a 56% increase in daily trips in our region between 2018 and 2045.

The regional travel demand model also helped CONNECT Beyond understand where the most future travel activity will occur in our region. The travel demand model indicated that generally much of the travel activity in our region will revolve around the City of Charlotte in Mecklenburg County, however, there is significant cross-county travel across the nine surrounding counties in North Carolina, including Anson, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Rowan, Stanly, and Union, and two counties in South Carolina, Lancaster, and York.

Analyzing travel patterns throughout the region helped CONNECT Beyond better understand the current and future mobility needs of our region and where certain alternative mobility options like high capacity transit services and enhanced bus services could be most successful. CONNECT Beyond used the insights from the regional travel demand model to help develop the recommendations for this regional mobility plan.

To learn more, view the full Travel Market Analysis.

Transportation Equity Review

A cornerstone of CONNECT Beyond was its focus on increasing and prioritizing transportation options for transit-dependent individuals and families. CONNECT Beyond analyzed the region’s socio-demographic make-up for factors indicative of transit-dependency, including holding a minority identity, having a low income, having a disability, being younger than 18 years old or older than 64 years old, and living in a household with one or zero cars. Areas with high densities of these demographic characteristics have the most significant potential for transit utilization. CONNECT Beyond evaluated the current transit services throughout the region and examined if these transit services provide sufficient accessibility and connectivity to essential services and key destinations.

The plan also analyzed the relationship between housing and transportation costs in the CONNECT Beyond region. Traditional housing affordability guidelines consider a home affordable if its price is 30% or less of a family’s income, but transportation costs related to a home’s location is also an important factor when calculating the cost of commuting and other daily travel needs. The Center for Neighborhood Technology developed the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index which provides a more nuanced view of housing affordability by calculating housing costs and transportation costs based on how far the home is from the region’s job centers and public transportation services. The H+T Affordability Index found that the average resident in the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia region spends about 52% of their income on housing (27%) and transportation (25%) costs. Affordable housing and alternative mobility options are crucial for social and economic mobility, especially for low-income households. Having access to alternative mobility options can help offset the financial burden of high regional transportation costs for low-income households.

The last step of the Transportation Equity Review evaluated how the CONNECT Beyond region can expand and optimize transit services by examining current and projected population and employment density data. The regional socio-economic datasets helped illustrate regional travel patterns (i.e., where people are traveling to and from) and areas of high transit propensity (i.e., the likelihood of using public transit). The insight gained from looking at regional travel patterns and transit propensity guided the identification and development of recommendations for existing transit network optimization strategies, transit service expansions, and new transit services designed to better serve transit dependent communities in the region.

The results of this review helped identify the strategic mobility corridors to support future high capacity transit lines. Through engagement with transit providers across the region, the equity review confirmed that while the current fixed route transit service is generally serving the areas of greatest need, those areas needed additional service such as more frequency and extended hours. The equity review also identified key areas where community and rural service providers could meet with fixed route operators and connect them to urban and suburban services.