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This paper applies six theoretical models of metropolitan decision-making to analyze the history of rapid transit planning in Charlotte, North Carolina. The political models employed include: the elitist model, the pluralist model, the class-dialectical model, the growth machine model, regime theory, and consensus building. The hypothesis under consideration is that none of these models fully explains Charlotte's decision to build rapid transit, but each one provides unique insights that, when combined, provide a rich understanding of the region's transportation and planning politics. To begin, I develop a set of expectations for how each model would explain Charlotte's decision-making. Next, utilizing information from technical documents, newspaper articles, and interviews with planners in the region, I describe the history of transportation and land use planning in Charlotte from the early 1980's to the late 1990's. Then I compare the historical events observed with the expectations outlined for each model to evaluate the power of the respective models to explain Charlotte's decision-making process. The comparison of observed events to theoretical expectations reveals that each of the models presents unique insights into the region's political process, but none adequately tells the full story, which unfolds over the course of nearly 20 years. Throughout the course of that history, different modes of decision-making seem to come and go, demonstrating the dynamism of metropolitan politics. However, there appear to be relatively consistent parallel streams of political momentum: one which seeks to corral elite interests in support of rapid transit, and a second that focuses on public involvement and neighborhood interests. The successful marriage of these streams by planners in Charlotte was a significant factor in the region's decision to build rapid transit. Finally, Charlotte's history demonstrates that transit planning does not need to operate in direct opposition to highway interests, and the coordination of transportation and land use planning can be achieved without significant state intervention.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Planning.
Includes bibliographical references.
Gregory L. Thompson, Professor Directing Thesis; Jeffrey Brown, Committee Member; Richard Feiock, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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