It Just Might Work: Activating Battleground Ave.

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_D5C5045brianby Brian Clarey

I’ve lived in Greensboro so long I remember when trains used to run on Battleground Avenue. The occasional freight would make a bad situation worse, snarling traffic at that ridiculous triangle with Lawndale and Cornwallis. Then they just stopped.

But the tracks are still there, running along one of the worst designed commercial districts in the Triad. The roads are a mess — try pulling into the Acme Comics parking lot heading in from the north to see what I mean. And though there are dozens of shops along that stretch of Battleground, the walkability factor is dismal, with unconnected parking lots instead of sidewalks. It once took me three full, terrifying minutes to cross the street from the Elks Lodge to Geeksboro, dodging traffic the whole time.

I say we redesign the whole intersection to make it more walkable, and while we’re at it, why don’t we go ahead and activate that rail line? A terminal near Cornwallis would run along Battleground, past bars, restaurants, shops, a movie theater and a brewery on its way downtown, where it hits Smith Street, the end of the line.

A track of light rail like that connects Irving Park, Westerwood, Kirkwood and the north Battleground area with downtown, opening up employment possibilities, nightlife options and increasing economic activity at every point on the line. It also takes cars off the road, reducing congestion for the people who prefer to drive.

Moreover, I would take a train like that, especially if it were reasonably priced at, say, $2 a pop if it moved with enough frequency that I wouldn’t get stranded at IHOP.

Naturally, I have a vision of a public-transportation network that connects every city of the Triad, but I believe people need to be eased into the idea of riding trains just a little bit at a time. Baby steps.