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CATS Long Term Transit Plan - Silver, Red, Airport Lines

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In the context of what we are discussing, that is not correct. What can happen to that land depends upon the conditions under which the railroad in question first acquired the ROW. Many times these agreements date back close to a century. A railroad cant retroactively close a RR crossing in which they have agreed to and is used by traffic such as the one on Craighead. This is a busy road and my guess a NCDOT owned road so I don't see them agreeing to this. CATS certainly has no authority to order it. This road is used a lot by people living on the West side of Tryon to get to shopping on The Plaza and cutting it off will affect that.

From the context of closing the crossing itself, you are correct. They do not have the final say. However, from my experience in working with the railroad companies, it takes an act of congress to get anything modified within their ROW. From the viewpoint of the railroads, especially HSR, it is ideal (if not their policy) to have as few at-grade crossings as possible. So, the agreement to close Craighead is clearly part of the HSR strategy in addition to LRT and the freight rail that uses that area.

I also want to add that I'm not trying to argue in favor of the closing connection, but merely making an observation. I think that the city should be striving for as much connectivity as possible across railroads. Those things really slice up our city, especially on the north and west sides.

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I'd like your opinion on this: Hypothetically, if Craighead is closed, and the ROW running alongside Davidson from the Mecklenburg Mill north to Sugar Creek was home to HSR, Amtrak & freight on groundlevel- AND - the LYNX uses this area to bridge over those tracks - aesthetically speaking, how can this NOT be a huge, horrible wall at street level. I'm seeing a 50' wall like at the park-and-ride at Sharon Road West. Of course, this is hypothetical.

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Apparently CATS met, at the request of the Lake Norman Transportation Commission (new organization formed by the North towns & Mooresville) to discuss the plans for the North CR train line. John Murth presented for CATS. I think, and this conclusion is drawn from what was presented in the local paper, that two not unsuspected pieces of information came from this meeting.

  1. The first is that commissioners of the northern towns are coming to the conclusion that CATS really has no intention of building the North Line. CATS is focused on just one thing, the NE extension. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant as this is what is now entering the thinking of the towns given CATS continued inability to give the towns any information on the status of the North line. IMO, it should be obvious this is the hallmark of not getting something done. Furthermore as noted by Jim Brensman from Cornelius, if the towns don't watch out, they will try to put it behind the streetcar line as well. (in regards to Charlotte playing politics with this).
  2. The other conclusion is this. From the numbers that CATS presented, I don't think they have a viable plan for funding the NE extension either. I've written about this before. They are dramatically short of what I think will be needed for the funding and they are pinning their hopes of Congress changing the way it funds these things. There was a suggestion the 4 towns take their collective power in Washington (apparently they all have lobbiests) to help CATS with Congress because they said the transportation bill is being re-funding. There was an amusing comment made to involve Mel Watt and Sue Myrick. I am not sure why the town councils would want to involve themselves with CATS woes at this level.
I am predicting the day is going to come when they question the need to stay in the MTC and handing over their share of the transit tax to Charlotte. Maybe a better plan would be for the towns to team up with the CK Rider (the independent transit agency in Cabarrus) and pool resources to run transit within the towns and to run express buses to Charlotte. Simply remove themselves from the issues plaguing CATS.

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To the contrary, North and Northeast are both very alive. It's whether any other corridor could be built by 2030 that is seriously in question.

Put simply, it's not a matter of if CATS will still build the North line, but when (or how soon). The fear is whether the local match for Northeast will be there in five years if North moves ahead now.

Personally, I would be willing to gamble Northeast on the economy coming back by the time it needs the sales tax. But at the same time, North Meck Towns should be willing to use TIF to help pick up the tab. And that's just so you can make up the previously unexpected shortfall from a cash-strapped State. North Towns would still see their County sales tax dollars covering the largest share of project costs of any corridor.

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..... But at the same time, North Meck Towns should be willing to use TIF to help pick up the tab. ...
Why should they be willing to do this? Both times the citizens of those towns voted for the transit tax, it was because they were told it would be enough to build a train to the north. The TIF scheme is dead. You can't even provide a cost case for it even though it was asked for.

However I am willing to play ball with you on this. Let's get CATS to come to the North and plainly state that unless the towns commit themselves to TIF gambles, no train will be built there. I would love for them to that so we can see how that turns out. The fact that they haven't, and won't, means one of three things. 1. They are simply clueless. 2. The are afraid of the political consequences. If they said this, they know there would be hell to pay as the towns have the right to pull out of the MTC. 3. They don't believe TIF funding will work.

Your choice.

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It's North Towns' choice how long they want to wait. The corridor will still be built, just maybe now within twenty years, instead of two.

There are folks in Charlotte that also pay the County sales tax but could easily end up seeing TIF, MSD, an Uptown parking tax and more in order to speed up streetcar.

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However I am willing to play ball with you on this. Let's get CATS to come to the North and plainly state that unless the towns commit themselves to TIF gambles, no train will be built there. I would love for them to that so we can see how that turns out. The fact that they haven't, and won't, means one of three things. 1. They are simply clueless. 2. The are afraid of the political consequences. If they said this, they know there would be hell to pay as the towns have the right to pull out of the MTC. 3. They don't believe TIF funding will work.

CATS has plainly stated for at least 2 years now that since the North Line doesn't qualify for Federal Funds and that the funding gap will have to made up locally (through TIFFS or Property Taxes or winning the Lottery, etc.etc.etc) . The MTC (not CATS) said that no more than 33% of the Funding for the North Line can come from the 1/2 Cent Sales Tax. Assume a 25% State match and that leaves you with the 42% Funding Gap that needs to be filled. CATS has applied for Stimulus Funds for the North Line and by the end of the year we should know if we get anything from it. If we don't get any Stimulus Funds then we are back at Square One and will be in search of a funding source.

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^No argument on that at all. It's all true. But the TIF idea is a dead idea. It was suggested by CATS but that doesn't mean that it would work. In fact it's good reason to believe it would be a financial disaster. This is coming from an organization that has consistently come up with business plans for construction that would have put a private business, out of business. Nobody has ever produced any numbers indicating that TIF financing would, especially in these days of declining real estate values and halted development, make any sense at at all. It's a gamble on the future value of real estate and everyone should understand that risk now.

The town councils rightfully make the point this train plan was conceived without any kind of involvement from them. Maybe in hindsight, the Mayors of the towns should have been forced to have their respective councils vote on any decision made by these Mayors while acting on the MTC, but this didn't happen. The failure of the MTC concept, is that it did not have political buy in from the elected town councils who control the budgets of these towns. It worked until these councils were asked to sign up to cover bills for CATS because the plans that were originally put forth, turned out to be totally unrealistic. This might have worked better if the CLT Mayor had at least tried to be an ambassador to these councils over the years, but instead he has instead been seen as a hotheaded ass.

The representatives of CATS have consistently failed to demonstrate any understanding of this. It's the reason they couldn't get buy in from Mooresville or Iredell county and it's the reason they don't have support from the various town councils being asked to fund them now. No elected organization is going to hand money over to CATS when it 1. Can't give them a total price tag and 2. they have no political control over CATS, and 3. has CATS track record on costs. If this money gets misspent, they have to answer to their taxpayers without having any political cover to force changes at CATS.

Now the average person reading this might be tempted to read this and say "fine.... let them choke in traffic, we will use the money to build trains in Charlotte." The danger of this of course, and not appreciated, is the 2030 Plan was sold to the state and federal government as a regional plan, a plan with universal support from the entire Mecklenburg delegation. If the towns pull out and instead start lobbying for transit projects in competition with Charlotte, the game is completely changed.

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The town councils rightfully make the point this train plan was conceived without any kind of involvement from them. Maybe in hindsight, the Mayors of the towns should have been forced to have their respective councils vote on any decision made by these Mayors while acting on the MTC, but this didn't happen.

The towns have been involved from the getgo. CATS has been meeting with the North Towns trying to get a financing plan that works. They are not locked into the idea of TIFFS. They are not going to the Town Councils of the North saying that they HAVE to use TIFFS. CATS is simply presenting the TIFF concept as an idea...but if the towns have a better way of financing the North Line then CATS is all for it. In fact each town can finance the North Line a different way. Huntersville could fund it from Property Tax, Davidson from TIFF, Cornelious from Speeding Tickets, and Charlotte from COPS. Whatever...it doesn't matter HOW they raise the money.

All along the way I think that CATS has shown they are willing to work with the North Towns to come up with something that works. I think a lot of Transit Systems would have thrown in the towel years ago when they found out it would not qualify for Federal Funds. Instead this project has been kept alive with millions of dollars being spent on it along the way.

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CATS has been meeting with the North Towns trying to get a financing plan that works. ..... Whatever...it doesn't matter HOW they raise the money.

You are completely missing the concept here. The councils of these towns have stated it is not their responsibility to raise ANY money for CATS. If CATS wants to build a train, then fine they can build it, but don't come looking to them to fund it. The TIF issue is irrelevant to this point as they are not planning to spend any time on it.

CATS and the MTC should have never booked the 2030 Plan if it required funding from the towns to implement, without first getting approval from these councils. This argument that CATS has tried to work with them, years after the plan was booked and millions already spent, is a disingenuous attempt to ship the fault of the failure of this plan. Thankfully the towns called this bluff.

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CATS and the MTC should have never booked the 2030 Plan if it required funding from the towns to implement, without first getting approval from these councils. This argument that CATS has tried to work with them, years after the plan was booked and millions already spent, is a disingenuous attempt to ship the fault of the failure of this plan. Thankfully the towns called this bluff.

If your argument is that CATS should have gone about this a different way politically...then that shows a definate failure in leadership from the Mayors of Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville, and Charlotte. CATS takes all their political cues from the MTC.

However I don't think thats the reason this plan is not moving forward. The bottomline is that it comes down to money...not politcal process or buy in.

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...then that shows a definate failure in leadership from the Mayors of Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville, and Charlotte.
I completely agree with you on this. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Mayors in the Mecklenburg municipalities, including Charlotte, have no authority to commit municipal funds to a project without explicit authority from their respective councils. Does this change anything I said above? No I don't think so. CATS and the MTC booked a plan requiring significant additional funding from these towns, without first asking the towns for this money. At best, it was a very foolish thing to do.

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In fact, according to the local news, there was an altercation between the Huntersville town council and the Huntersville Mayor on this very issue. The town council is unhappy that Swain (mayor) voted with the MTC against town council resolutions. There was apparently a vote by the town council against the 1/2 cent addon transit sales tax that Swain voted for as a member of the MTC. The town had already voted unanimously against this tax increase and Swain went to the MTC and voted for it anyway. (These are all resolutions, the NC legislature is the body that has to approve it)

While I don't know that ability the town council has to force her do otherwise, it is an example of the MTC not having the support of the towns of their members. In other words, it is a major defect in the way this has been setup.

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Is there a place that provides monthly stats on CATS ridership? I tried googling it but couldn't find it and looked at the CATS web site but didn't see anything. Is this information readily available? Perhaps I'm just overlooking it.

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You can try to look at the minutes of the Mecklenburg MTC meetings that are on ridetransit.org. Sometimes CATS will present ridership reports that are entered into the record. The APTA publishes ridership reports for the transit agencies, but they tend to lag by at least a quarter and the information is dependent upon reporting by the transit agencies. See http://www.apta.com/research/stats/ridership/

You could also try to contact CATS directly.

If ridership goes up, CATS does a lot of press releases to the idiotic press in Charlotte which will report whatever they say without question. If ridership is going down, CATS is usually silent on the issue. My guess is that since we have not heard much about CATS, the numbers are no that flattering.

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Since the price of gas is relatively cheap, I am sure that CATS has been losing transit riders.

Ahh, but wasn't one of their stated goals to get people out of their cars? They never added on, but only if gas prices double. Or are you saying their ridership gains, which were so loudly touted as huge success, were not do to anything that CATS did, but was due to people avoiding high gas prices?

i.e. The 2030 Plan continues to fail at the goals put forth as reasons to support it.

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If ridership goes up, CATS does a lot of press releases to the idiotic press in Charlotte which will report whatever they say without question. If ridership is going down, CATS is usually silent on the issue. My guess is that since we have not heard much about CATS, the numbers are no that flattering.

Except for the report last month from the O about far lower Express bus ridership. LYNX ridership has remained remarkably stable despite the cheaper gas and higher unemployment.

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Sure. This wasn't front page news as far as I know, and it does say exactly what I said. It isn't CATS fault. CATS is only responsible when ridership goes up, but isn't responsible when it goes down. It's an amazing double standard that goes completely unnoticed by what are otherwise educated sensible people.

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I can't speak to the print edition, but it was the headline story on the website for at least a day.

As for "responsibility," this is taken from the September 2008 MTC Meeting Minutes:

Analysis [of August Ridership Increase]:

News of Hurricane Ike coming ashore in Texas sent the average cost of a

gallon of regular unleaded fuel from $3.70 to $4.04 in anticipation of a temporary

regional shortage. The shortage remained for nearly 3 weeks and kept the average

cost per gallon above $4.001. Services targeted towards those with a choice in

transportation options and system wide increased dramatically as the shortage

encouraged conservation and the need for transportation alternatives.

Calendar variations also contributed to the ridership increase for the month.

September 2008 had two less weekdays and two more weekend days as September

2007. Had the number of weekdays and weekend days been equal for both months,

ridership would have increased 39.4%.

Every story that I can recall from last year's big jump in ridership due to gas prices said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "because of the huge jump in gas prices," not "people falling over themselves enamored with delight in riding bum-to-bum with their fellow man on CATS"

And in fact that O article does reference the fact that CATS streamlined some of the Express routes through Uptown, and that

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Today between 5-7, there is a Citizens Informational Workshop for the Norfolk Southern Mainline improvements, and for the NS/CSX grade seperation proposal @ Char-Meck Gov Center (room CH-14).

The NS Mainline is the same line that runs through NoDa, Op Park, Intermodal Yards etc. Right? I assume this is why I got the mailer. Anycase, I think I might go to this - does anyone know what I can expect (will anyone else go? will it be very dry and remedial?)

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I think it's all associated with CRISP, so it also includes the rail line that runs northwest between Elmwood Cemetery and the NC Music Factory.

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