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CATS Long Term Transit Plan - Silver, Red Lines


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The city’s $13.5 billion transportation plan needs more than a tune-up: That was the message conveyed last week by Mayor Vi Lyles during a discussion with local business leaders about city government priorities.

Lyles, a Democrat, will begin her third term today. During her remarks to leaders and investors in the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, the mayor for the first time acknowledged that the proposal known as the Transformational Mobility Network may wind up looking different than what’s been discussed for the past 18 months.

No word on what the new plan might look like but there was lots of talk about “inclusiveness” and regionalism. My gut reaction to “inclusive” is that it means more roads but I am a pessimistic guy.

Glad something is happening

https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2022/09/06/clt-alliance-city-council-city-government.html

Edited by kermit
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44 minutes ago, kermit said:

 

No word on what the new plan might look like but there was lots of talk about “inclusiveness” and regionalism. My gut reaction to “inclusive” is that it means more roads but I am a pessimistic guy.

Glad something is happening

https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2022/09/06/clt-alliance-city-council-city-government.html

Could also mean more robust Express Bus Routes to the Region…?

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8 hours ago, Hushpuppy321 said:

Could also mean more robust Express Bus Routes to the Region…?

Yea, it could. But I don’t have the sense that any surrounding counties are in the mood to pay for them (save Cabarrus perhaps). The fiction of WFH taking over the world is a very convenient excuse to avoid any expenditure on transit in outlying counties.

Edited by kermit
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I hope more Bus Rapid Transit is apart of any new plan. I would support a shorter first segment of rail to the airport which has thousands of employees and this could help our convention and tourism business too.  But out to Matthews more BRT and BRT out down Albemarle Rd.  BRT up to north Meck towns using the existing Toll lanes.  

I will be in this city later in the month El Paso which has an extensive BRT with very frequent service.  Every 15 minutes in prime M to F from 5 am to 7 pm then lesser frequency after that and weekends.  El Paso is working on their 4th BRT line now.  

http://sunmetrobrio.net/#routes        With frequent dependable service like that people can use it regularly and maybe have smaller feeder routes into this BRT routes. 

of course Raleigh is rolling out BRT and doing transit planning for dense uses around their BRT stops.  

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36 minutes ago, KJHburg said:

I hope more Bus Rapid Transit is apart of any new plan. I would support a shorter first segment of rail to the airport which has thousands of employees and this could help our convention and tourism business too.  But out to Matthews more BRT and BRT out down Albemarle Rd.  BRT up to north Meck towns using the existing Toll lanes.  

I will be in this city later in the month El Paso which has an extensive BRT with very frequent service.  Every 15 minutes in prime M to F from 5 am to 7 pm then lesser frequency after that and weekends.  El Paso is working on their 4th BRT line now.  

http://sunmetrobrio.net/#routes        With frequent dependable service like that people can use it regularly and maybe have smaller feeder routes into this BRT routes. 

of course Raleigh is rolling out BRT and doing transit planning for dense uses around their BRT stops.  

I strongly support a shortened silver line targeted for the route from Uptown to Airport Terminal.  

agree it will be beneficial to various forms of tourism, and I see the relative short distance between uptown and the airport as a plus to actually get a modern form of fixed transit between our major gateway and our city center done, while also giving a first impression to visitors that we're transit-forward.  A lot of airport workers live or could live on the westside, and if we can get TOD around stations with hundreds of affordable dwelling units incorporated into projects, should be a real economic boost while easing car/parking pressures as the airport grows.

Edited by RANYC
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8 minutes ago, jthomas said:

Agree 100% - let the LRT serve the densest areas with a high frequency, and don't waste billions building miles of rail parallel to existing rail corridors (CSX would probably part with their line for less than what it would cost to build the Silver line out to Matthews).

This would open up the opportunity for the Silver Line to serve the terminal at CLT directly. I just flew from CLT-SLC yesterday. SLC's new terminal complex is stunning, and the LRT stop is integrated very nicely (the station is immediately next to the terminal building - closer than the pick-up lanes for rideshare and private vehicles). Charlotte should look at doing the same.

This is the way.

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46 minutes ago, LKN704 said:

Went and got coffee yesterday with an old friend who just moved to DC to work for DDOT after working for Metro in Portland. He’s from Ballantyne and went to NC State but left immediately after graduating and hasn’t really been back except to see family. His background isn’t specifically in the public transit space (he’s a civil engineer and works more so in land use planning) but he is pretty familiar with transit as it comes with the territory, and he was pretty knowledgeable about both Charlotte and CATS’ transit plans. 

We didn’t talk about the Red Line or the Streetcar, but he thinks essentially everything about the Silver Line in its current planned form is a joke, from the low-density stations past the airport to the Silver Line alignment in Uptown. Given the estimated low ridership of the line west of Uptown (I think only 10K?) he questioned whether Charlotte warrants a fixed guideway system to the airport, and wonders if a true BRT system would be more sufficient. 

Full disclaimer, he is a big proponent of buses…he absolutely loves them and hates taking the train. He lives in a neighborhood in DC called Glover Park, which sits about a mile north of Georgetown. It’s a cute, preppy neighborhood, filled with rowhouses on side streets, and a main street/small town-like business district along Wisconsin Ave…it essentially feels like if you collided an longer strip of Downtown Davidson with the South End, removed both the low density and newer buildings (especially the new apartments and high rises) of the South End, and placed the entire neighborhood on steep hill. Anyways, the neighborhood isn’t served by the rail network. What it does have, however, is a series of busses (the 30 series) that when combined, arrive every 5-10 minutes between 6am and 9pm, and then every 15 minutes between 9pm and midnight, then every 30 minutes between midnight and 2am, and between 4am and 6am, for service that runs 22 hours a day. They run essentially from a Metro station near the MD border, past another Metro station near American University, then through Glover Park and Georgetown to Downtown, hitting several other Metro stops along the way, so it’s easy to transfer to rail if you need to. 

In any case, he essentially believes that revitalizing the bus network is the best way for Charlotte transit going forward. I should have written down everything he said but basically he believes the following should be done in favor of a grandiose rail plan:

1)    Revitalize the bus network while also decentralizing the need for the CTC in Uptown while emphasizing crosstown service. 

2)    Create bus transit corridors in denser parts of the city (like Park Rd, Providence/Sharon/South Park, Central, The Plaza, Eastway, Albermarle, and Harris) that feature service with headways no greater than every 20 minutes, along with features that make the bus more attractive to riders, like floating bus islands with lighted shelters with CCTV and seating at every stop, all door boarding, and dedicated bus lanes with signal priority when needed…so essentially not true BRT but enhanced bus service. 

3)    In areas where enhanced bus service as above isn’t feasible or warranted, at least improve the bus experience by working to implement more lighted shelters at stops to give the appearance of a safer, more comfortable system. 

4)    Work to remove the stigma that buses have in Charlotte. 

I hate saying this, but frankly I am inclined to agree with him in a way. Personally, I am not sure what can be done regarding the bus stigma in Charlotte. Apparently said stigma is worse than I had thought, because a few articles I just quickly found all point to Charlotte as an example where the stigma is particularly bad. 

I think the Silver Line could be successful if it had a better alignment through Uptown (possibly by tunneling) and was truncated to end at the Airport District (with a connection to a CLT people mover) and the Bojangles Coliseum but was built in a way to enable a future extension if conditions warranted.

While a stop directly at the airport terminal would be preferred, I don’t think that would be possible unless we didn’t plan on any future westward expansions. There’s too much development in terms of garages and such in the way that the only way you would be able to build an airport station directly at the terminal as an intermediate stop would be to tunnel and tunneling on airport property comes with all sorts of red tape in terms of FAA/DHS that the cost simply wouldn’t be worth it in terms of ridership. 

My ideal version of the Silver Line leaves the existing stops at the Coliseum and Independence/Morningside, then leaves the Independence alignment with a stop at Central/Pecan and McDowell and 10th Street, stopping at CTC/Arena and Gateway, then stopping at Cedar St near the Stadium and 3rd Ward, and then continuing with the existing proposed alignment with a stop at Suttle, Remount, Old Steele Creek, Morris Field, Billy Graham, and the Airport District:

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The total length of this line would be less than 10 miles.  Until making this map, I had no idea what a total low-density wasteland Wilkinson was...filled with strip clubs, gun stores, and gas stations. I assume the goal of the city via the Silver Line is to force gentrification on this area?

Enjoyed reading this and appreciate you sharing your friend’s perspective.  Yes, the “w” for Wilkinson stands for wasteland.  I hope a silver line from uptown to the airport can spur new life and densification in what is increasingly a gateway into Charlotte from our hub airport.

Liked your friend’s summary of a revamped bus network here.  I don’t disagree.  

At the risk of being attacked on here, I’ll say that I don’t ride the bus regularly and don’t really have to, but tried it out once with a cousin who was relocating here from Boston.  We found the experience depressing.  Dark & gloomy bus interior and a discomfiting parade of mental illness.  We both felt new degrees of gratitude for having the means to be choice riders.  As for the battle against emissions, we decided to buy electric instead. 

If there was someway for the bus fleet interior to look and feel more like the light rail car and street car, then that would be progress in wooing choice riders from my largely ignorant and uninformed view on transit systems.

I don’t sense Charlotte is really targeting choice riders.  Charlotte transit appears to operate under a last resort assumption.

Edited by RANYC
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33 minutes ago, RANYC said:

Enjoyed reading this and appreciate you sharing your friend’s perspective.  Yes, the “w” for Wilkinson stands for wasteland.  I hope a silver line from uptown to the airport can spur new life and densification in what is increasingly a gateway into Charlotte from our hub airport.

Liked your friend’s summary of a revamped bus network here.  I don’t disagree.  

At the risk of being attacked on here, I’ll say that I don’t ride the bus regularly and don’t really have to, but tried it out once with a cousin who was relocating here from Boston.  We found the experience depressing.  Dark & gloomy bus interior and a discomfiting parade of mental illness.  We both felt new degrees of gratitude for having the means to be choice riders.  As for the battle against emissions, we decided to buy electric instead. 

If there was someway for the bus fleet interior to look and feel more like the light rail car and street car, then that would be progress in wooing choice riders from my largely ignorant and uninformed view on transit systems.

I don’t sense Charlotte is really targeting choice riders.  Charlotte transit appears to operate under a last resort assumption.

Yes, the bus system in Charlotte and other medium-sized cities is a de facto transit system of last resort. 

I don’t think you should be attacked for having those sentiments against the bus system in Charlotte, and you certainly aren’t alone in having those feelings. The very few times I took the bus when I was at UNCC I had a horrible experience, both on the bus and in terms of reliability (the bus frequently just never showed up) that I never gave it another go after a few tries.

I just don’t get how other cities have moved beyond the bus stigma to get everyone from all walks of life onboard. 

Obviously, frequency and the quality of service plays a major factor, but if you immediately improved headways overnight in Charlotte (let’s say to make every bus run every 10-15 minutes) I doubt you would see a dramatic increase in ridership. 

Other large cities have similar (if not worse) problems in terms of mental illness and homelessness, so I don’t see how that is a major factor. Is it because larger cities have more extensive social services? Are people in larger cities just more immune to social/societal ills? 

I’ve seen so many “interesting” things riding on the bus in DC, especially at night…from a baby being made (I thought it was just two people arguing over a seat at first) to a person screaming that there was a rabid dog on the bus (there was no dog onboard) to some creep next to me who was passionately sucking on a lollipop and shoving it in my face asking if I wanted a lick, and I have friends that have seen way worse. I’ve never felt unsafe however, and the buses are (generally) clean and tidy, and most stops have lighted shelters with passenger information displays.

Maybe other cities have a historic commuting/public transit culture that never existed in Charlotte?  

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7 minutes ago, LKN704 said:

Yes, the bus system in Charlotte and other medium-sized cities is a de facto transit system of last resort. 

I don’t think you should be attacked for having those sentiments against the bus system in Charlotte, and you certainly aren’t alone in having those feelings. The very few times I took the bus when I was at UNCC I had a horrible experience, both on the bus and in terms of reliability (the bus frequently just never showed up) that I never gave it another go after a few tries.

I just don’t get how other cities have moved beyond the bus stigma to get everyone from all walks of life onboard. 

Obviously, frequency and the quality of service plays a major factor, but if you immediately improved headways overnight in Charlotte (let’s say to make every bus run every 10-15 minutes) I doubt you would see a dramatic increase in ridership. 

Other large cities have similar (if not worse) problems in terms of mental illness and homelessness, so I don’t see how that is a major factor. Is it because larger cities have more extensive social services? Are people in larger cities just more immune to social/societal ills? 

I’ve seen so many “interesting” things riding on the bus in DC, especially at night…from a baby being made (I thought it was just two people arguing over a seat at first) to a person screaming that there was a rabid dog on the bus (there was no dog onboard) to some creep next to me who was passionately sucking on a lollipop and shoving it in my face asking if I wanted a lick, and I have friends that have seen way worse. I’ve never felt unsafe however, and the buses are (generally) clean and tidy, and most stops have lighted shelters with passenger information displays.

Maybe other cities have a historic commuting/public transit culture that never existed in Charlotte?  

IDK, Perhaps in these larger cities with better established transit cultures, you have more bandwidth to absorb the occasional horrid incident because such incidents are more than counterbalanced by mainstream ridership.  I rode subways in NYC for 14 years.  In my 3.5 years in Charlotte, I’ve become radically less tolerant to be in shared spaces with the deviancy, the derangement, the disgust and the incivility.

Edited by RANYC
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35 minutes ago, kermit said:

Buses still have extra  'baggage' in Southern cities that dates from the Civil Rights era. Buses were one of the first places to integrate, thus one of the first institutions to experience white flight. While some of this can be dismissed since it occurred more than 60 years ago, the sprawl-belt in the South was built to facilitate economic segregation -- a land use pattern (and culture) that still discourages bus riding.

EDIT: I have always found anti-social behavior on transit to be easier to dismiss and ignore in larger cities. In places the size of Charlotte I feel like I have more of a social obligation to help, so it hits harder. This might just be me though...

Feeling that obligation is very noble of you.

I guess the problem statement for Charlotte is how to stop and reverse a precipitous decline in bus ridership, and then to increase that ridership/rider reliance while also positioning the bus system for additional investment and growth to facilitate and sustain the city’s population increases.

Perhaps transit systems end up morphing into some version of the Uber/Lyft model, ie moving away from big and hulking fleet & labor management.

Instead, they become mobility brokers, harnessing the power of tech to connect riders and ride providers, even if those ride providers are independent and operating a much wider variety of vehicles than just big buses.  

Edited by RANYC
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IMO the only way to substantially change the perception of buses in Charlotte would be to make uptown parking MUCH more expensive. This, of course, would also require a) decent frequency; b) completely erasing all this work from home / pandemic business. 

Charlotte had a huge advantage for transit before the pandemic -- commonality of destination, uptown had an unusually large share of metro employment for a Southern city. That may never come back. 

In short, I don't think a bus comeback is in the cards in Charlotte. Honestly we would be wasting our time trying IMO.

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Imagine CATS as a tech & data-driven mobility broker.  Riders lacking their own mobility would sign up and each day on mobile devices, enter a couple of essential appointment times for the following day, and a series of advanced tech algorithms would balance out need and supply to generate an optimal fleet deployment (cars, vans, trucks, buses) & pickup schedule and deliver these times & instructions to riders via their mobile devices.

Would need to ensure riders have mobile devices.  Could target the poor and elderly for these tech-driven mobility services.

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