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Moving Thousands of Visitors in Wilmington Downtown

How do we turn a looming crisis into a huge opportunity? We’re the Moonshot advocates. We say seize the leadership opportunity now to apply exponential solutions. A superb solution is in plain site. Read on!

• In 2020, the Northside Park in Downtown Wilmington will open. Live Nation will begin concerts with leading entertainment from its worldwide system. Estimates are that 6-8,000 people will attend. How do you get them in and out and how long will it take?

• Wilmington has voted to preserve and renew its brick streets. While this calms traffic and preserves a rich urban history, it doesn’t help move traffic.

• No one wants to build parking garages on expensive downtown property. The City is short by thousands of spaces for such peak demand and has no parking inventory control system for the spaces it does have. Where are the spaces? Drivers clog the streets hunting for them. This needs to change.

• Even cities with extensive public transportation systems invariably have a “last mile” problem—how to get to and from the transportation terminus to one's destination—for work or play. Wilmington’s transportation system is not equipped to handle heavy usage. A new bus transportation center is planned for Third Street across from the Wilson Center. It’s a start and is planned for a multi-modal future. It must be an expedited part of the solution.

• The “last mile problem” is causing leading cities to revisit bikes and scooters with paths and lanes as part of a solution. We’ve seen wholesale drop off of bikes and scooters by competing vendors in cities across the country. Starting with bike rentals, now electric bikes and scooters are rolling out. Electric scooters are winning widespread support recently, despite some injury concerns. Change is so rapid, speculation is that small enclosed electric scooters (think more like golf carts) may soon emerge. Meanwhile, a few cities are already having success with autonomous shuttles, mostly for fixed point connections.

• Solution: The “Wilmington Rail Trail” (WRT). Wilmington has the abandoned downtown

CSX Rail Corridor under lease from DOT since 2015. Time to turn it into a last mile solution with pedestrian, bike/scooter/autonomous shuttle lanes with lighting. It begins at CFCC, runs under Third Street right next to the Transportation Center where an easy connection to public transportation will be a partial solution. The 10th Street end includes an underutilized parking lot and would be a much less expensive place for parking expansion to accommodate massive events.

• The best news is that leading developers, several City Council members, the Arts Council and others are already looking into activating the WRT as an arts and Greenway corridor. The dramatically successful High Line in New York City, an elevated track turned into a walking Greenway, is analogized as an example. It has created an economic boom as new construction explodes around it.

• Add provisions for shuttles and scooters adjacent to the Northside Park to connect to WRT would literally close the loop on a safer, more expeditious downtown access and exit system. It can be implemented quickly if all parties cooperate to obtain Arts and Surface Transportation grant funds, do expedited planning and construction. And by the way, this just might be the least expensive solution for the City to deal with parking and traffic solutions downtown for a long time to come.

The photo above illustrates a segment of an existing track bed that has been removed. RWF believes this project should be elevated to highest priority and developed as an extension of the City's bike path system ASAP.

If you like this solution, let us and the City Council know.

Bill Graham (for Moonshot Blogs and more)

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