• LYNX - Charlotte NC Light Rail (CATS, NS, NCRR)

  • General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by Bob Roberts
The Blue Line Extension opened today! This is an additional 9.7 miles of LRT (running Northeast from downtown Charlotte to the campus of UNC Charlotte) attached to the original Blue line (9.6 miles) which runs South of downtown Charlotte.

My initial ride revealed that the service is a bit slower than planned (30 minutes from downtown to UNCC vs. the planned 22) and there are some kinks still to be resolved, particularly related to the grade crossing gates on the N Tryon street median running portion. After the initial settling in period I suspect the line will be well patronized (I will be a daily rider).

For rail fans the two elevated portions of the line between 25th st and Sugar Creek stations provide excellent views of the NS yard entrance and the NCRR tracks leading out of town (along with the Charlotte skyline). The LRT runs along side the NCRR tracks from Parkwood station (mostly yard views) to Old Concord Rd Station (3 or 4 miles) (36th street to Old Concord rd is beside or above the main).
  by Bob Roberts
The Blue Line extension has been open for about 6 months now. There have been some teething pains:

1) A 22 minute trip between downtown and UNC Charlotte (the end of the extension) were promised. 31 minutes is what was delivered (no faster than driving). This is (IMO) correctable with better grade crossing protection in a few spots where the extension runs in the median of N Tryon street.
2) Parking decks on the extension are way under capacity. CATS had said they were going to charge for parking at the two decks closest to the University (unless you had a daily, weekly or monthly pass). This discouraged many potential park and riders.
3) Ridership when the line opened in March was around 24,000 per day. Last month it was 28,000. Projected first year ridership was 33,500 per day. There is still some significant construction along the extension and there are around 2,500 multi-family units currently in various stages of construction along the extension.
4) Despite parking costs of nearly $600 per year, ridership to the University has been OK, but not stellar. This may be related to the fact that faculty and students all have very different start times to their days so traffic is diffuse. I hear that the 1am train back to campus is always very crowded (I am never up late enough to verify).

Despite the issues above Charlotte is very happy to have the line open and its been positively received. There is also great potential for it to revitalize portions of town that have been long neglected. Overall its been a success, but the extension didn't knock the transit ball out of the park yet.
  by Bob Roberts
Phase 2 of the Lynx Gold Line (streetcar) opened to very little fanfare yesterday. This phase added around 3 miles to the initial 1.5 mile starter segment which opened in 2015. Phase 2 features modern vehicles from Siemans (the replica Gamaco trollys used for phase 1 were unreliable, they were recently sold to Memphis). The construction process was difficult, largely due to contractor incompetence, the opening was 1 day before the federal deadline for opening was reached. The line operates in mixed traffic in shared lanes. There is no signal preemption.

The Line now runs through the center of downtown Charlotte on Trade Street. Transfers to the Blue Line, and CATS buses happen at Charlotte Transportation Center (adjacent to the arena). The west end terminates at JC Smith University (French st), the east end at Sunnyside ave, near the Plaza Midwood neighborhood district. The Gold Line will serve Gateway station (once it opens).

While there is a pandemic, it appears CATS plans to operate the line at 20 minute, unscheduled, frequencies. CATS also lacks a real time tracking app, so using this as a circulator will be a challenge for riders. I certainly hope CATS will increase frequencies when downtown employment returns.

While I will appreciate the East-West option downtown on occasion, the slow speed of this line will prevent it from being as popular as the Blue Line.