Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln MPO Fast Facts:
Background: The Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln Metropolitan Planning Organization (GCLMPO) is a multi-jurisdictional entity made up of 34 local governments, NCDOT, USDOT, and other providers of transportation services to jointly plan for transportation improvements to the three-county region. The GCLMPO formally consists of 18 voting local government members.
Size: The Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln MPO is 1,140 square miles. Stretching about 27 miles from north to south and 45 miles from east to west, it is two percent of North Carolina by size.
Population: The three counties in the MPO together have a 2012 population of 384,836, meaning it represents four percent of North Carolina. This number is expected to grow to over 500,000 by 2040. The fastest growing areas are in eastern Gaston and Lincoln counties.
Commuting Patterns: All three MPO counties have more workers that commute out of the county daily than commute in for them. Gaston and Lincoln counties send over one-quarter of their workers to Mecklenburg County. Cleveland County has the highest-percent of its workers actually working within their home county, at 66 percent, while only 44 percent of Lincoln County workers actually work in their home county.
Public Transportation: Each of the three counties is completely covered by the community transportation system serving that county. These “dial-a-ride” or demand response programs are available to the general public, but primarily serve older adults and persons with disabilities. Gastonia is the only City in the tri-county area that operates a fixed-route service that reaches most of the city. Amtrak has a station in Gastonia, and the NCDOT contracts with a private operator for daily round-trip service between Boone and Charlotte, with stops in Gastonia and Lincolnton. Finally, the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) operates an express bus service (85X-Gastonia Express) from Gastonia and Belmont to downtown Charlotte.
Travel Modes: The predominant mode for travel in the three counties is via privately-operated vehicles. Two out of every three trips in the MPO is made by people driving their own vehicles. An additional ¼ of all trips are made as passengers in privately-operated vehicles. Of the remaining 7.4 percent, 4.4 percent of those trips are surprisingly made on school buses, while bicycling, walking, and public transportation total the remaining three percent of travel.
Vehicle Miles Traveled: Vehicles traveling in and through the three counties add up to over 10 million miles per day. Approximately 40 percent of this traffic takes place on I-85, US 321 north of I-85, and US 74 west of I-85. These totals have been stable for the past five years, primarily due to the 2008-2009 recession and higher fuel prices reducing the growth in travel despite an increasing population.
Air Quality Status: Air Quality Status: The MPO is a part of the greater Charlotte region, which has historically had issues with air quality, primarily from ground-level Ozone. Until 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the eastern two-thirds of Lincoln County and all but the northwestern portion of Gaston County to be in violation of the 2008 Ozone standards. The two areas, along with other portions of the region in a similar status, saw significant improvements in Ozone levels over the past decade and are now considered in “maintenance” for Ozone levels. Maintenance means that an area previously had an issue with air quality, but the area now meets standards. The EPA released more strict standards for Ozone in October 2015, but the greater Charlotte region is expected to meet these standards before they are implemented in 2017.