The Rail Trail in South End is an incredible resource for the community. It’s also a fascinating experiment in trying to retrofit a car-dominated, industrial area to become a pedestrian-friendly millennial wonderland.
There’s one intersection, in particular, that illustrates this better than anywhere else: Tremont and Camden.
There’s a lot going on here. It’s a three-way junction intersection (a “T”), but with the light rail tracks slightly off-set. The Rail Trail shifts diagonally here, and the crosswalk is a little past the stop sign on Tremont.
If you’ve ever jogged south on the Rail Trail, you’ve probably done the awkward dance of trying to cross while cars navigate the intersection.
The Charlotte Department of Transportation knows this intersection is an issue — and they’ve been working on it.
“It’s a lot better now than it was two years ago,” says Scott Curry, the department’s pedestrian planner. The big change was putting in the brightly painted green crosswalk. It’s a pilot for Charlotte’s “Urban Trail Street Crossing” program, an effort to make crossing roads more friendly for walkers and bikers.
Eventually, intersections on Charlotte greenways will all look like this.
But Curry says this is about all the city can do to make this intersection more navigable for pedestrians. He acknowledges that there are “awkward geometries” here.
“We really feel like we have done everything that we can,” he says.
That’s the challenge. Areas that were designed for cars can only get so pedestrian-friendly. And that’s why it’s so important for new developments to take things like this into account.