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Charlotte Area Transit System Long Term Transit Plan

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Posted

This topic is a current discussion of the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) 2030 plan to build rail and bus transit in Mecklenburg county and the surrounding areas. A copy of the plan can be viewed at this link. Most of the discussion here involves the plan to build rail transit in Charlotte and out to a few of the surrounding communities. If the entire system is constructed, it will be completed by 2030.

This topic is a continuation of the previous "Which Line Should Charlotte Build Next" topic which can be viewed here, and here. The reader may wish to review these topics for a history over the past few years.

Basic Details of the 2030 Plan

  • The plan in funded in part by a dedicated 1/2 sales tax imposed on retail purchases in Mecklenburg county. This is a unique tax in NC and was passed by voter referendum in 1998. In 2007 a voter initiated referendum was placed on the ballot to repeal the tax. The effort was defeated in a very contentious election.
  • The tax is administered by the Metropolitan Transit Council. Voting membership is comprised of the 7 mayors of Mecklenburg, a member from the Mecklenburg county council, and a member of the NCDOT. There are a number of non-voting members on the council, but as of this date none have decided to become full members by agreeing to fund the system. The most notable of which was Iredell county which has decided not to participate in the plan.
  • CATS is a department of the city of Charlotte and does not directly report to the MTC. Instead decisions affecting it have to be approved by the Charlotte city council. Hence budgetary decisions made by the MTC also have to be approved by the council. Technically the city council has the power to override decisions made by the MTC, but at this date, this has not happened.
  • About 60-65% of the transit tax is used to operate Charlotte's rather extensive bus system.
  • CATS website is http://www.ridetransit.org.

Below is a proposed map that was originally produced for the 2025 Plan which proceeded the 2030 plan.

LYNX.jpg

Notes about this map:

  • At the time of this post, the only part under construction is the SW portion of the Blue Line. This line is scheduled to open at the end of November 2007.
  • There are no funding decisions that would make money available to build the remainder of the system. Generally the plan is for the transit tax to cover 25%, the NCDOT to cover 25% and the federal goverment to cover 50% of the capital costs of future construction. One exception is the Purple line. CATS will not pursue federal funding for this line as it is not believed to qualify for it due to low ridership.
  • Because Iredell county has decided not to fund its share of the Purple Line (also known as the North Line), its almost certain the two stations in Mooresville won't be built and unclear on the status of the station at Mount Mourne. CATS has said it will preserve this corridor should the need change.
  • Likewise, on the Blue Line NE, and the Silver Line the final stations have been eliminated due to the cost of building bridges and/or tunnels to cross I-485.
  • The Purple line is scheduled to open in the 2010-2012 time frame.
  • The Blue Line NE will be light rail technology. Current schedules have this line opening in 2012
  • Decisions concerning the Silver Line have been put off until 2011-2012, when at that time, the decision will be made to make this line light rail or bus rapid transit. The decision was put off for a future MTC and council to make as there was a significant resistance to the current plan for BRT.
  • The Orange (West) Line and the Streetcar Line are not likely to be considered until sometime after 2018 and are subject to significant change

Please send a PM to the staff to make corrections to this post.

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Posted (edited)

Metro, thanks for updating the beginning of this thread.

Edit: Sorry, the map hadn't shown up for me originally, but now I see it.

A more detailed view of the same map can be seen here.

Edited by Andyc545

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Posted (edited)

CATS Lynx Northeast Line info

Main page

Fast Facts

University City area plan (35 mb .pdfadopted by Planning Commission 10/22/2007, shows initial plans for sites of Rocky River through University City stations on NE line.

9th Street station is already there as a trolley stop with single track. From 9th St station to 16th St station, will follow NCRR ROW, going UNDER I-277 (277 is elevated) then must cross Charlotte to Monroe CSX freight line.

Edited by staffer
MOD EDIT: Please refrain from copying content from other sites. Use a link and then add your own comments and content.

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Posted

Recent story from the Charlotte Observer on federal approval of engineering work on the Northeast Corridor speculates work will begin in January. Senate passed FY 2008 federal transportation bill has $2 million for engineering, I heard Liddy Dole at the South line ribbon cutting say there is $3.7 million in the conference report on the bill.

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Posted

The Northeast Line can't be completed soon enough. Make haste.

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Posted

Thanks for posting that link, monsoon. It is good to see that that the state legislators are starting to looking expand on the victory by pursuing funding for roads by a similar process as transit is funded.

Now that the transit tax's future is secured and the South corridor is operating, my personal focus will be set on the NE line. I think the lines that are not set for federal funds should be set to lower priority in order to both wait for federal transit support to be increased and for development to grow up in anticipation of the lines so that the ridership numbers will prove to be higher and have a better chance at funding.

The NorthEast extension of the Blue line now has all of the momentum due to its enhancement of the current line, due to its high ridership, and due to the fact that it brings some major ridership centers into the mass transit system. It is exciting that it has federal funds for engineering, but unless the city continues to do its part in spurring proper transit supporting land use, then it could hurt its own chances. The Crescent project surrounding the IKEA will be the first test in how committed the city is to forcing quality infill to support the trains.

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Posted

..... It is exciting that it has federal funds for engineering, ....
As far as I know, congress has not appropriated any money to do this engineering work. The FTA does not have a discretionary fund where it can give transit systems money. It makes recommendations to congress and the funds are put into the budget. Dole and/or Burr could of course ask for an earmark to do the work. I am not aware they have committed the political capital to do so though it is a possibility in Dole's case since she has decided to run for election. Now if she can get it through a congress controlled by Democrats is another matter.

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Posted (edited)

As far as I know, congress has not appropriated any money to do this engineering work. The FTA does not have a discretionary fund where it can give transit systems money. It makes recommendations to congress and the funds are put into the budget. Dole and/or Burr could of course ask for an earmark to do the work. I am not aware they have committed the political capital to do so though it is a possibility in Dole's case since she has decided to run for election. Now if she can get it through a congress controlled by Democrats is another matter.

HR3074 FY 2008 Transportation Department Appropriations Bill conference report passed the House November 14, will be coming up in the Senate soon. It includes $2,000,000 (page 13604) as an appropriation to FTA for "Charlotte Rapid Transit, North Carolina". Dole told a group last week that total funding for the project in the bill was $3.6m, so more must be somewhere else in the bill.

(edited to improve links)

Edited by staffer

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Posted

^That is indeed the process that I described. The House & Senate have to resolve the bill and then submit it to the President who can either sign it into law or veto it. Whether or not Bush will do this is anyone's guess given how he has all of a sudden gotten interesting in vetoing spending bills. At this point no funds have been approved. My guess however is the bill will probably pass.

This would be very similar to the funding that was appropriated years ago for engineering studies for both the South LRT and the North CR line.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the link to the report staffer. The link for the 2mil is not working, but it is on page H13604. Check out all the different systems/projects receiving funds under the FTA. I'm a little lost in the wording and how the process works, but there are $1.6bil in funds being sent out? The largest of which seems to be to the Second ave subway phase 1 in manhatten, of $171mil.

This is all seperate from the small/new starts funding correct?

edit: linking to the page doesn't seem to be working for me either. You'll have to click on the page directly from the report...

Edited by Mobuchu

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Posted

...

University City area plan (35 mb .pdfadopted by Planning Commission 10/22/2007, shows initial plans for sites of Rocky River through University City stations on NE line.

...

I am impressed with this document though of course I get the feeling that it is a wish list, never-going-to-happen-as-planned kind of thing, but I'll happily hold my breath. Especially love the proposed street additions (I19-21), the idea of connecting/making a traverseable grid is really in tune, also curving the NE Line off of Tryon to create a station that is actually in the UNCC campus.

But I wanted to comment on the timing of the 29/49 bypass removal - 2012 is a long time to hold off on the redevelopment of many sections in the MSD that depend on it's removal, could this not happen irrespectively of the NE line plan (in other words, sooner)? Seems to need this to happen today, regardless of LRT plans.

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Posted

I wonder why Cats wont consider doing what is done in San Francisco... they have their light rail cars (Muni) on the streets, in a lane that can be driven in when the rail isnt around (I dont think your supposed to but everyone does), and when its around, it is on its rail... not exactly that different from a bus, but they control have a set path and in rush hour they can get around the traffic much more quickly. do something like that down providence road... even put up boundaries around the lanes for the light rail, it would cut into the space cars have to move, but most definitely would give some good reason to ride the system

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Posted

So while I agree with the fact that this is mostly just a wishlist, I can't help but hope that LRT will bring similar style developments to University. That is just what the university needs to get rid of its commuter school feel for good. If students have a place they can walk to, it will become more of a college town. In the street proposals, there are several streets proposed between John Kirk and the new Mallard Creek Ch Rd. They would have to tear down almost an entire apartment complex just to do that would they not? Oh well, I guess that's for another topic.

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Posted

I am impressed with this document though of course I get the feeling that it is a wish list, never-going-to-happen-as-planned kind of thing, but I'll happily hold my breath. Especially love the proposed street additions (I19-21), the idea of connecting/making a traverseable grid is really in tune, also curving the NE Line off of Tryon to create a station that is actually in the UNCC campus.

But I wanted to comment on the timing of the 29/49 bypass removal - 2012 is a long time to hold off on the redevelopment of many sections in the MSD that depend on it's removal, could this not happen irrespectively of the NE line plan (in other words, sooner)? Seems to need this to happen today, regardless of LRT plans.

I agree, the document looks incredible, but will more than likely not completely follow through. The UNCC station on campus has been on works for some time, and I believe it is suppose to be integrated in the new Student Union that is currently under construction, which is in contrast to some of the other documents that CATs has on its website.

With IKEA, I hope that these plans get flipped around to the density that we all want, given there will be a station proposed right there. I read an article last night saying how developers were going to have to preserve trees and the enviornment more under stricter enforcement, but the IKEA project has been a slap in the face on that issue. I just hope they replant trees in after construction. I also wonder how WalMart is going to end up in all of this. I know it was only approved in that the WalMart had to be a top end design for them, whatever that means, but I have a feeling these types of BigBox, drive-in developments are going to hurt this plan for all of the potential that University City has as being. It was announced some time ago that the engineering would be funded by the fed's, so this is good and I'm hopeful that this means that it will be 50 percent paid for, also. Given the circumstances of high ridership and the train hosting to 23,000 current students and upwards of 40,000 predicted in the next 10 years, let alone the Research Park, this system will do tremendously well and be happily funded by the Fed's, or 50 percent at least. I agree- this couldn't come soon enough. If this line was here now, I would use it everyday of the week and weekends, and drive my car to a minimum. With rising gas prices and increased traffic, all of the 2030 plan couldn't come soon enough.

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Posted

Recent story from the Charlotte Observer on federal approval of engineering work on the Northeast Corridor speculates work will begin in January. Senate passed FY 2008 federal transportation bill has $2 million for engineering, I heard Liddy Dole at the South line ribbon cutting say there is $3.7 million in the conference report on the bill.

In addition to that the NCDOT rep that was at the Ribbon Cutting last week stated that NCDOT funds had been approved for Preleminary Engineering of the Northeast Line somewhere around $1M.

I am looking forward to the extention of the Blue Line up to UNCC probably moreso than I was looking forward to the current Blue Line.

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Posted

I agree, the document looks incredible, but will more than likely not completely follow through. The UNCC station on campus has been on works for some time, and I believe it is suppose to be integrated in the new Student Union that is currently under construction, which is in contrast to some of the other documents that CATs has on its website.

I may be mistaken, but in all the SU renderings, models, and future campus circulation maps I have seen, the LRT does not appear to connect to the student union. I doubt that it would be feasible to build the line through that stretch as it would have to weave between the new union parking deck, the student union, Cypress hall, Squires hall, and Witherspoon hall (by their former names as I already don't remember which ones changed this year.) Then it would have to curve all the way around the northern end of campus around the existing facilities just to get back to 29 again. That's just too much to risk with students walking around campus back to the dorms and the new Broker Health Center at all hours.

The future path of the line is still in question as much of the northwestern land on campus is wetlands. I would imagine that after the University City stop, it would cut south across 29, just to the southwest of CRI, make its way between the athletics fields and the crescent parking lot between CRI and the main campus, and then overpassing Toby Creek and the proposed campus greenway that follows its banks. The only logical location for the station on campus would be to put it at the most northern curve of Cameron Blvd. There are already relatively large lots available, there is a lot of campus housing right there, and there are also already campus shuttle routes to help support the line. This route would only cross about five pedestrian walkways on campus rather than the aforementioned location which would cross about twenty pedestrian paths and at least four campus streets. Each crossing would require extensive safety precautions as this is a college campus.

Overall, there are few routes that are even possible on campus. Of those routes most don't really make financial sense, allow for a practical route for timing sense, or allow for the safety of campus residents. I may not be a genius, but the path on the northern end of Cameron Blvd is the only place that seems logical to me and it is fairly consistent with CATS' prelim mock-ups.

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Posted (edited)

I may be mistaken, but in all the SU renderings, models, and future campus circulation maps I have seen, the LRT does not appear to connect to the student union. I doubt that it would be feasible to build the line through that stretch as it would have to weave between the new union parking deck, the student union, Cypress hall, Squires hall, and Witherspoon hall (by their former names as I already don't remember which ones changed this year.) Then it would have to curve all the way around the northern end of campus around the existing facilities just to get back to 29 again. That's just too much to risk with students walking around campus back to the dorms and the new Broker Health Center at all hours.

The future path of the line is still in question as much of the northwestern land on campus is wetlands. I would imagine that after the University City stop, it would cut south across 29, just to the southwest of CRI, make its way between the athletics fields and the crescent parking lot between CRI and the main campus, and then overpassing Toby Creek and the proposed campus greenway that follows its banks. The only logical location for the station on campus would be to put it at the most northern curve of Cameron Blvd. There are already relatively large lots available, there is a lot of campus housing right there, and there are also already campus shuttle routes to help support the line. This route would only cross about five pedestrian walkways on campus rather than the aforementioned location which would cross about twenty pedestrian paths and at least four campus streets. Each crossing would require extensive safety precautions as this is a college campus.

Overall, there are few routes that are even possible on campus. Of those routes most don't really make financial sense, allow for a practical route for timing sense, or allow for the safety of campus residents. I may not be a genius, but the path on the northern end of Cameron Blvd is the only place that seems logical to me and it is fairly consistent with CATS' prelim mock-ups.

I saw a map a few weeks back (not sure if at charmeck.org or uncc.edu) that showed the station proposed to be across from Squires Dorm. I will try to find it again.

UPDATE: From UNC-Charlotte newspaper 6/15/2006:

Franz also discussed the route of Charlotte's light rail, as it is likely that a stop will be coming close to campus. Franz noted that two possible stops for the light rail would be around Clay Blvd. near the hospital, and on the north side of Cameron Blvd. in the Squires Hall area. This stop would coincide with a pedestrian walkway to the upcoming Student Union.

Edited by staffer

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Posted

I hear today on "Charlotte Talks" on WFAE that Fort Mill and Rock Hill are going to fund a study to connect to the South Blue Line. On the show they said that this would probably the first extension to the already plan lines. Fort Mill would be the first part of the extension and Rock Hill later.

LRT To Rock Hill would not be wise. That is a 30 mile journey (approx)... Fort Mill is doable and something that I hope that is accomplished. Since S. Carolina is looking into funding, it should be noted and considered to do a South End Commuter Rail in replacement of the North Commuter Rail. Obviously S. Carolina wants it over the Northern Communities, and commuter would work better, plus it could connect to the Gateway Station which was going to be used for the north line anyway. This would in turn be cheaper and more effective in all aspects than the North Commuter and LRT. Although adding a second "train" line to the south wouldn't get much positive feedback, I think both lines could continue to be effective in their own demands.

aussie lake- I'm not positive of where the rail was going on campus, I just remember hearing that during the design stages and announcements of the Student Union that there was going to be a station right there to be constructed as part of the project. They also wanted the LRT to be incorporated with the "Meeting Place" rep that they wanted the building to give. Now of course this could have been misleading information or the plans could have changed, but nonetheless, a station on campus is a hugggee benefit. Students love public transportation here on campus, and many utilize the bus system they have running through the campus now. LRT would connect students to food, shopping, and their homes- and this is all just the perspectives of this one station alone. Now I don't have any facts behind this, but I would think for federal funding and state funding this would be beneficial b/c you are connecting a State Publiclly Funded University.

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^Keep in mind that until the detailed engineering work is done, it is all subject to change as they will have to balance cost against ridership. For example, as far as I know, they have not even decided if the line will move out to Tyron at the Asian Mall or further up the road closer to Eastway drive. The first option is preferable, but it requires the city to spend money out of it's own pocket (instead of the transit tax) and McCroy express concerns about signing up the city for this debt.

There is a rumor floating around that CATS is going to suggest the MTC commit to buying the trains for the NE line (or some subset of them now) because Siemens is floating a discount if they do. If that happens they are going to suggest the city go ahead and commit to funding (without federal involvement) the section between downtown and Sugar Creek using city funds. Maybe to the tune of $300M. This is the least expensive portion of the line to build since they won't need to buy new ROW. Some years later the portion from Sugar Creek to UNCC would be completed once they could secure Federal funding to pay for it.

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The option on the current Siemens contract with 2004 pricing does end in April 2008 however the city is negotiating with Siemens to extend the option period. As part of that they have allowed Hampton Roads Transit to piggyback off of their Siemens contract for 9 LRV's for their Tide line which just received a Full Funding Grant Agreement from the FTA. Under the contract they can still get the 16 LRV's required for the NE Line at 2004 prices until April 2008.

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There is a rumor floating around that CATS is going to suggest the MTC commit to buying the trains for the NE line (or some subset of them now) because Siemens is floating a discount if they do. If that happens they are going to suggest the city go ahead and commit to funding (without federal involvement) the section between downtown and Sugar Creek using city funds. Maybe to the tune of $300M. This is the least expensive portion of the line to build since they won't need to buy new ROW. Some years later the portion from Sugar Creek to UNCC would be completed once they could secure Federal funding to pay for it.

on #1, The City has an option to buy 16 more trains. I think I read recently the option must be exercised by March 2008.

on #2, I believe the North Carolina Railroad only sold the city the ROW as far as under the I-277 bridge (maybe 100 yards past the 9th Street station) From there on out to Sugar Creek a sale/lease/track rights would still need to be negotiated. The possible move of much of the NS railyard to the Airport would free up a lot of space. The far right hand part of the rails is the NCRR charter ROW, some of the area closer to N Tryon may be owned just by NS, but it is the NCRR part that CATS needs anyway. The NCRR ROW northeast of the CSX crossover (CLT to Monroe line) behind Alpha Mills (around 12th St) is probably under longterm lease to NS.

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Posted

I rode the Blue Line Saturday and Sunday (for the Panthers' game). The trains were beautiful and to a man (and woman) everyone was thrilled. Hopefully before any other line gets built out, the current stations will require expansion. The ticket machines did look overly complicated, and there does need to be more overhead hand railings. Still, what an experience, and how proud I am to be a native Charlottean and have this thing at last.

As far as CR, I don't feel South Carolina should even be on the discussion block for the next few years. Mecklenburgers voted to have themselves taxed, and it should be Mecklenburgers whom the lines serve for the foreseeable future. I hope the northern towns don't shoot themselves in the foot with "Pinevillian thinking".

Next up, the NE LRT to the University, and on to LMS if Bruton wants to kick in to get people to his new Disneyland Racing Destination. I read the link to the plans, and wonder if this line needs to be flexible enough to run by the (hopefully) future on-campus football stadium. This would really connect the City and its University!

With the expansion of Charlotte/Douglas, after the NE line is complete, perhaps a newer study will show either a LRT would be feasible after all, or perhaps a stop at CLT on a Gastonia-Charlotte CR.

The streetcars to Beatties Ford Rd. and Elizabeth will need to at least be UC before the NE line is finished. The support on city council for transit by the east side councilwoman should not go unrewarded. BRT doesn't come close to garnering the excitement and permanance of LRT. I hope the eastsiders will be rewarded with their own choo choo.

I look forward to what rail will do for the QC over the next 20 years. This is all going to go a LONG ways towards removing the dreaded NC after any mention of the nation's 19th largest city.

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.... Mecklenburgers voted to have themselves taxed, and it should be Mecklenburgers whom the lines serve for the foreseeable future. I hope the northern towns don't shoot themselves in the foot with "Pinevillian thinking". ....

The Pineville thinking that you are referring too is not what is taking place in the North. Pineville voted not to have the train come into the town simply because they did not want it to. In the case of the North, the towns are happy to have rail to come into the city, but unhappy with the current CATS plans asking them to take on 10s of millions of extra debt that, they say, will cause them to raise property taxes to support. Instead of that, they suggest, that CATS put in more of the transit tax to build the line. (at least as much used to build the South Line)

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I understand the differences, I was just trying to equate the north with Pineville through the analogy that neither could end up with train transit. I sincerely hope the new transit chief and the new northern councils will be able to work out an equitable funding plan. Thanks for pointing this out, Monsoon. Regardless, Pineville's leaders missed the boat (and the train) with their isolationist vote.

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Posted (edited)

Is the 1/2 cent tax collected in the northern Mecklenburg towns? If not they should sign on for the tax so it would not impact the property taxes.

Edited by RiverwoodCLT

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