Charlotte is home to the world’s sixth-busiest airport by takeoffs and landings, and Charlotte Douglas International is often cited as the region’s most important economic asset.
That’s why the airline industry’s sudden existential crisis could be especially consequential for the region.
Because of the coronavirus crisis, American Airlines and other carriers are struggling with the twin blow of a massive dropoff in customer demand and radically tightened restrictions on where they can fly.
Nothing speaks of the winter sky quite like a flock of blackbirds flying in unison above a sprawling pasture, field or marsh.
They spiral and bank and funnel, breathing life into a void of leaden gray. It’s a spectacle you won’t observe in any other season.
In the Piedmont, these flocks are often composed of an assortment of common species, not all of which are native or even considered true blackbirds: starlings, robins, brown-headed cowbirds, common grackles and red-winged blackbirds. Sometimes the rusty blackbird, an erratic winter visitor in our region, joins them. In other times of the year – when these very same birds are establishing territory, breeding and raising their young – they tend to be more solitary and competitive, and nest in pairs or loose groups. When winter comes along, they become more cooperative and sociable.
Leaders from across the region gathered Monday in a conference room at Charlotte Douglas International Airport with an ambitious goal: Creating a comprehensive plan for public transit, covering a dozen counties and setting the transit agenda for decades.
Called CONNECT Beyond, the 18-month planning effort by the Centralina Council of Governments is, to put it simply, big. The planning area covers 12 counties, in two states, with 17 different transit systems. Previous transit planning efforts have been focused mostly on one county at a time. The goal here is to come up with a plan to coordinate and prioritize projects, as well as funding requests, across the whole region.
“Twenty years from now, I think everyone is going to look back on this as the jumping-off point,” said John Muth, the Charlotte Area Transit System’s chief development officer.