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CATS Long Term Transit Plan - Silver, Red Lines


monsoon

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I'm not arguing that the line makes the most sense or will have the highest ridership numbers.  What I'm stating is that politically it would be the most likely to get done.  The CRVA and Center City Partners can argue it will draw bodies into uptown and help with large scale events while making Charlotte look like a "big city".  

 

Politicians can validate it as a step to connect our transportation hubs e.g. airport/light rail/street car/heavy rail.  And most of the general public won't be upset with it because compared to the BLE, it will be cheap and serve a basic, obvious function.  

 

There is no explanation  needed with an airport connection.  People get it.  People don't get TOD.  People don't get economic development impact reports.  An airport connection is much more tangible than "what development will occur in the future in the old intermodal yard near NoDa".

 

So, should it be the next leg of rail to be completed for real reasons?  No.  Would it be the most politically easy to pass?  Probably.

I would love to see a train to the airport as well, but until you can develop residential reasons, or at least some commercially viable stops along the way you will just have two terminal points connected by about 10 miles of rail.  Thinking out of the box, if the line were to either continue out to Gastonia, or dog leg left and run out Tyvola it might could be something.

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Dmann if look at the SEHSR proposal and studies from Charlotte to Atlanta there are stops there at Charlotte Gateway station, Charlotte-Douglas, and Gastonia.  while this would only provide limited service to the airport, it could be expanded with commuter rail along the same line.  It's not convienient service to the airport my any means, but considering the limited ridership the airport would generate, maybe hourly or half hourly service would be adequate.

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I actually think that a light rail line to the airport actually would be the best line to build not just for it's political benefits, but also  it's economic  and transportation benefits as well.

 

Consider a hypothetical line that runs from CTC to Gateway then along Wilkinson Blvd (or along the NS line) to the airport employee parking lots to the terminal then to a park and ride at Wilkinson and 485.  Here is why I believe such a hypothetical line would be the logical choice for the next line:

 

1.  Due to it's short length, it would likely be cheap, perhaps cheaper to the local taxpayer than the Red Line.  Such a line would only be about 7 miles long making it the shortest by a large margin, but there are other unmentioned cost savings benefits to this line.  For instance, Jerry Orr has said that he could likely secure FAA funds to support such a line.  The amount of funding is not clear, but lets assume FAA funds will only support the portions of the project built on the actual airport property.  About 30% of the hypothetical line would be located on airport-owned property.  Furthermore, if the city built it into Wilkinson Blvd by eliminating the median and the central lanes (bringing Wilkinson down to a 4 lane road), there would be very little cost associated with ROW acquisition.  There are some operational concerns with such a design, however it is 100% feasible to construct such a design.  I will explain the operational features as I envision later in this post.  Also lets not forget that the FTA is still willing to give money for these projects.  If you take Jerry Orr's FAA funds, combine those with possible federal funds, the 1/2 cent transit tax, and the reduced cost of ROW acquisition, you can see a scenario in which such a line is cheap enough to be completed with absolutely zero help from  the state, perhaps as a local CIP project.

 

2.  Operationally, the line provides several advantages to the city.  The most obvious is the connection between 2 of the most important employment centers in the region, Uptown with nearly 80,000 workers, and the airport with over 15,000 workers.  Those are not the only catchment areas though; a well placed park and ride near 485 would serve commuters from eastern Gaston county.  Furthermore, the synergistic effects of having a line to the current Blue Line, the BLE, and the Red Line [if built] would increase ridership even more.  Under such a scenario, commuters from Pineville, UNCC, and LKN would all have a single uptown connection to the airport. 

 

3.  With respect to land use, the line would serve to revitalize a struggling Wilkinson Blvd.  There is great potential for redevelopment.  Also, since the runways are North/South oriented, most of the area does not suffer unbearable noise pollution as most of the right of way for such a line is well to the east of the runways. 

 

4.  Politically, it provides the population with a tangible product for their tax dollars.  Light rail is extremely popular in the city even with some of the most conservative voters.  If the city were to build this line, perhaps it would provide a much needed boost in political capital and increase the chances that the 1/2 cent sales tax could be raised to 1 cent which will come in handy when they tackle the largest transit quandary in the area...the Southeast Corridor.

 

The operational concern with this design is how it will function in the median of Wilkinson Blvd.  The line would absolutely need to be a dedicated ROW line with stoplight timers to ensure it was able to cross intersections safely and with minimal interruption.  An example of such a concept is the stretch of South Blvd near Scaleybark station where the Blue Line runs in the median of South Blvd.  Obviously this would be much larger than that short stretch of highway, but the design is feasible, and it keeps the ROW dedicated to LRT while at the same time preserving the cost savings associated with building on property already owned by the government.  As far as traffic flows are concerned, left turns would be limited to intersections only, and with protected green arrows (i.e. no unprotected left turns).  Once again traffic signals would have to be coordinated with the train schedule, and traffic signal timers would be a must for the trains.

 

 

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Here is the focus of CATS on most pressing issues for transit in Charlotte per article in CBJ

 

Flowers presented the update as part of the city’s annual meeting with the local delegation of state lawmakers preceding the start of the General Assembly session. City lobbyist Dana Fenton included a couple of transit items in his agenda of items for support by the legislators.

 

These included flexibility for special tax districts and government bond financing options that could be used for a proposed 25-mile commuter rail line between uptown and Mooresville, as well as permission to extend the length of some buses to 60 feet from the current limit of 45 feet. 

 

http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/blog/queen_city_agenda/2013/01/charlotte-transit-chief-touts-rail.html

 

Streetcar was not on the agenda (though Streetcar wouldn't be since CATS has abandoned that as a priority a while ago.  No mention of Airport line.  

 

Mayor Foxx is also quoted saying that unless there is new financing options/flexibility the city can go 20-30 years without a new major line.  I think he's playing scare tactics there, but I do agree it will be at least 4-5 years before we even hear serious discussions for initial planning of a new line outside of the commuter rail.

Edited by Urbanity
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Conservatives likes sales taxes over income taxes because they are regressive (affect the poor more than wealthy) and are theoretically voluntary as you can drive to another lower tax district or order online.   The main issue that cities have versus rural communities is that it requires a higher degree of government-created infrastructure to support the density.   Obviously suburbs and rural areas do tend to need a lot of infrastructure (sewers, water, freeways, streets, roads, etc.), but many people have come to view the government infrastructure that goes in small cities, suburbs, and rural areas as basic and necessary, but then the infrastructure that must go into larger, denser cities as superfluous or luxury, (like transit, redundant connectivity (grids), sidewalks, bike lanes, greenways, urban parks, dog parks, tourist and quality of life amenities, etc.).   So it becomes a political battle to fund that infrastructure to convert into a larger, denser city.  

 

I think it is perfectly fine to stay focused on the BLE project that is imminent for the next couple years, and allow the current sales tax to stabilize and slowly regrow.   Hopefully NC will sort out internet sales taxation (pretty much we are suppose to already be submitting it manually with our yearly taxes, but no one does, and would be far) which will restore some of the revenues to the sales tax system, which is being choked off at present.   We also do not tax services, which is a growing part of the economy, so we end up with a higher rate on the sales tax for goods compared to many states.

 

BUT... I do think that after the BLE, if the tax revenues continue to be far below the REVENUES that were long expected from the original 1/2 tax, then I think it is perfectly reasonable to seek an additional source of revenue to get back on track with an updated transit plan.   Perhaps for that, we could seek something on Denver's model, and hopefully a more interesting long term transit plan than the one we have had so far, such as branches off the Blue Line.

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Light rail to the Airport just does not make sense, It just does not have the ridership. The airport sees about 20,000 local passengers a day (see http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/08/03/3425341/airport-light-rail-plan-for-dnc.html), and those riders come from a massive geographic area. That is not and will never be served by the Lynx system. Current lynxs ridership is 15k it got built on an original projected ridership of something like 9K riders.

 

I would be surprised if even 5k people would use the light rail to get to and from the airport. While this is just speculation I am at least trying to use some numbers. Would all those that claim building a light rail line to the airport "just makes sense" and "should be a top priority" please explain why.

 

The facts mam, just the facts.

 

TH

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UNCC is the anchor for the BLE and has only 25k students, many of which live on campus or in areas unserved by the lynx.  

 

http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/cats/planning/BLE/involvement/meetings/Documents/BLEKickoffmeetings0308v3.pdf

 

When UNCC was added to the BLE routing in 2008, it was estimated that it was earn 3800 daily riders to the line (see link above).  Otherwise, the  line is supported by commuters and other types of daily riders from the neighborhoods and institutions along the line.

 

Obviously it was not a long detour to add UNCC to the Blue Line, but the original light rail plans for the corridor were going to SKIP that institution, and they still believed it would have merit and justifiability.  

 

So why would the west line not be seen in a similar light?   In addition to the riders that would be flying into the city, there are also ~20k employees ( http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/Airport/AboutCLT/Pages/EconomicImpact.aspx ) that work at the airport.    It would be HALF the length of the BLE, and serve neighborhoods and institutions along the corridor, but also all of the employees and travelers.  Also by including the airport on the rail system, but as part of a longer line (like the Airport to Southeast line that I and others have proposed on here), you can have lots of transfer options so that it can support residents in the west commuting to UNCC or SE Charlotte, etc.    

 

I would far rather see the next line be a $1B Airport to Chantilly/Bojangles Coliseum area East-West light rail than almost any other proposed line.

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Shouldn't an airport line reflect compounded ridership numbers from the whole system? I mean, it may be safe to say that boardings for an Airport-Line might be 5K, but all those students who transfer through the system from Blue Line to Airport would certainly make the line worthwhile. And when there are free park-and-ride options on the Lynx line, I could see a lot of people opting to park for free and ride in, rather than pay at the airport. Either way, you're going to have to lug your suitcase onto some sort of mass-transit/bus rack.

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Light rail to the Airport just does not make sense, It just does not have the ridership. The airport sees about 20,000 local passengers a day (see http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/08/03/3425341/airport-light-rail-plan-for-dnc.html), and those riders come from a massive geographic area. That is not and will never be served by the Lynx system. Current lynxs ridership is 15k it got built on an original projected ridership of something like 9K riders.

 

I would be surprised if even 5k people would use the light rail to get to and from the airport. While this is just speculation I am at least trying to use some numbers. Would all those that claim building a light rail line to the airport "just makes sense" and "should be a top priority" please explain why.

 

The facts mam, just the facts.

 

TH

 

 

Well, as we discussed; it would be cheap.  And considering our economic environment, some rail is better than no rail.  As far as ridership is concerned, why not just add one or two stops on the west side of the airport that serve as park and ride stops for Belmont/Gastonia?  There is a TON of cheap land on our side of the Catawba river and eventually could serve as a terminus for an even longer and broader commuter line in the future that would run into downtown Belmont & Gastonia.  Now it serves both the purpose of a transportation route, alleviating some traffic issues on I-85 in Western Mecklenburg County and serves our airport.  

 

It could also help to further develop the West Morehead corridor, which many of us believe could be a future juggernaut.  

 

Heck, long term, there is enough land out there to support a larger rail station that could serve the entire network.  Eventually the one on South Blvd will be too small.

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another way to look at the airport line is that it will connect a destination with _way_ more employment to downtown than the current I-485 station does. Combine the airport line with a large park and ride on I 485/85 and you have a pretty strong volume of trip generation. Combine with ridership from Ashley Park, West Morehead, Wesley Heights etc and the airport line could be comparable to the South line.

 

The other beneift of the airport line is that just about everyone can imagine using the line ocasionally (since no one likes to park at the airport). This removes the 'light rail does not go where I want to go' knee-jerk reaction to rail investments.

 

IMO transit is about long-term returns on investment. Redevelopment on the West side, combined with better/cheaper airport transfers to downtown, combined with the potential for a Belmont / Gastonia line extension make the airport line worth looking at.

 

An east line has me more worried -- its hard to imagine any employment or residential center (short of Matthews) that would make a solid anchor for the end of an LRT line. 

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Wouldn't it be great if some of the parking expansion funding could be funneled to instead support a transit line extension to the airport? I'm willing to bet that that thousands of local residents would rather take the train that leave their cars in long term parking.

 

I'd love to see stats on airport line ridership in other cities. I found that in Phillie, their downtown to airport line only averages 6,900 passengers per day. 

 

Politically speaking, I think the northern towns and perhaps Matthews/Mint Hill to the southeast may grow tired of CATS constructing a Charlotte only rail system. It is a County wide tax after all. 

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Ahh now we are getting to the meat! The two proposals I have seen on this forum are:

 

1. Cheap and direct to the Airport via existing NS right-of-way. Few stations and low real-estate costs. BUT (big but) it would get few riders outside of the airport.

 

2. Wilkinson blvd route. Have lots of stops to pick up lots of additional riders. Bring the ridership count up, but dramatically increase the cost. And still population density is pretty low in this area.

 

I think a lot of the people that work at the airport do not live on the current Lynx (think socio-economic), maybe more on the BLE.

 

If you look at any population density map you will see that if you want to get good numbers you go east, not west. 

 

I guess my point is that the airport route is far from an easy call. I would much prefer going east where people live.

 

TH

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The N-S right of way does not have to be rider-free from the west side or 485/85.  It is only a block off of Wilkinson and closer to other neighborhoods south of the tracks than Wilkinson.  

 

The problem with the west line is actually its greatest asset, in that it is relatively close to downtown.   As a result, the plans seem to focus on a standalone airport line instead of making a project long and big enough to have diverse ridership/trips.  It seems that light rail lines seems to work best as projects 9-10 miles long, so why does it need to stop at downtown as though it is only delivering people from the airport to the bank towers.   Once it gets long enough AND has easy transfers to the 20-mile Blue Line, you get a significant combination of possibilities, including being much more useful to airport workers and travelers. 

 

If we pursued an East-West light rail that has an eventual tragectory toward Matthews, we would be getting somewhere with the politics, including the fact that many suburbanites actually do support rail to airports because that is a time when they will not want/need to hassle with their cars.   The first phase would be the western half ~9.5mi from a 485 commuter station to Grier Heights/Bo's Coliseum area.  It would serve a lot more of a population than just the west side or just the airport. 

- On the west, you get a 485 commuter station, which would be the typical commuting corridor to downtown or to institutions already on the rail system.

- Then you get an airport station, obviously for airport to downtown, to inner east Charlotte, or to anywhere on the blue line. 

- West Charlotte stations along the N-S would be just a block off of Wilkinson, very practical still for the Walmart zone, and the business and industrial parks along the corridor

- Following the N-S tracks through downtown opens up a large number of destinations and trips, including the BofA and BB&T stadiums, 3rd Ward, Gateway Station (critical to be included on the light rail system), Gateway Village, the massive TOD zone around Gateway Station, 4th Ward (the densest neighborhood in the city), and NC Music Factory.

- Then following the CSX corridor, you open up the territory northeast of Brookshire Freeway that the 277 Study is hoping to open up for redevelopment

- It allows for a direct transfer to the Blue Line just north of downtown

- As it continues on the CSX corridor, stations can be placed to connect to First Ward, Optimist Park, and Belmont on its way to the heart of Midwood

- A station in the heart of Midwood at Central Ave would be a tranfer point to the streetcar line to distribute riders to Presbyterian Hospital and other points down Central, however far the streetcar would go.

- A station at Pecan is in the heart of Elizabeth, and support Presby and CMC-Mercy

- Finally, ending the first phase at Briar Creek Greenway at Monroe, serving Grier Heights and Chantilly as well the activity center around the Bojangle's Coliseum.  Briar Creek Greenway also would bring accessibility to the Mint Museum, a number of medical parks off Randolph.

 

It brings many of the inner ring neighborhoods that have a decent basis for further densification and growth on the rail system, clearly providing opportunities and conditions similar to South End on the Blue Line, while also serving significant other places that can drive night time and commuting or tourist ridership beyond the very significant anchorship of the airport and downtown.   

 

 

Will it be money? Yes, but it would be a line that DESERVES the expense compared to some of the streetcar options for the east and west, and a line that could also yield federal dollars much more easily than the streetcar lines seem to.    That means that we could potentially spend the SAME or LESS local dollars because it would meet the conditions of federal grants. 

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Light rail to the Airport just does not make sense, It just does not have the ridership. The airport sees about 20,000 local passengers a day (see http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/08/03/3425341/airport-light-rail-plan-for-dnc.html), and those riders come from a massive geographic area. That is not and will never be served by the Lynx system. Current lynxs ridership is 15k it got built on an original projected ridership of something like 9K riders.

 

I would be surprised if even 5k people would use the light rail to get to and from the airport. While this is just speculation I am at least trying to use some numbers. Would all those that claim building a light rail line to the airport "just makes sense" and "should be a top priority" please explain why.

 

The facts mam, just the facts.

 

TH

 

I used to live and work in downtown Chicago (Near North district) and would fly frequently. I typically flew out of O'Hare and since I didn't have a car I would take the red line and transfer to the blue line to the airport. Being Chicago is a major conference hub and the sheer number of workers and tourists you would expect the train to be overflowing with passengers at the O'Hare terminus. It was almost always busy, but it wasn't standing room only. Nine times out of ten the trains were maybe half capacity for seating...sometimes much less.

 

Considering Charlotte isn't much of a conference hub (at least with comparison to Las Vegas and Chicago) and the fact that we don't get that many tourists or local traffic to the airport, I have a notion that the trains at the terminus and most stations along a proposed airport line would remain near empty most of the time.

 

IMO, the only reason to support such a line (for the sake of conversation, personally I would love to have light rail to the airport) would be in preparation to future expansion of Charlotte as a destination city which obviously makes sense. The line would be a laughing stock for anti-transit folks until we can prove CLT to be a destination airport. Until then, the airport is likely better to spend money on an airport tram to minimize travel time to/from concourse E.

 

A spur from the existing line to Southpark would do quite well IMO, but I'm probably just wanting that for personal reasons. Being able to take a train one day from University to Southpark would be amazing and would be a great start to linking the city with some real destinations.

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What about THIS then?!?!?!

 

A light rail spur off of the Tyvola stop that branches north as an express line to the airport, and east to SouthPark.  You could pretty much follow the line Dubone made but continue on BIlly Graham Parkway to the airport.  Maybe only have 1 - 2 stops along the airport spur (exmaple Tyvola, West, CLT terminus).

 

Then on the other side have maybe 2 more stops with a terminus at South Park.

 

Now you've got airport access, increase ridership due to the connection to South Park for retail purposes and lets also not forget South Park is a business destination as well for out of town travelers.

 

HOW BOUT THAT?!?!?!?!?!?! :fun:

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I have ridden the subway to Astoria for LGA and to Brooklyn for JFK and the BART to SFO before.  They all have a slightly underutilized feeling.  But I have still ridden them because they were useful to me and to many other travelers as part of a real urban train network.  We have an airport that is only 4-5 miles from downtown. 

 

Meanwhile, I will never be riding the Blue Line to Archdale or Sharon Rd West or even to UNCC, I ride and will ride very often to South End and eventually to NoDa.   That dream purple line would have me riding to Elizabeth, Midwood, and the airport quite often.  

 

I think the other dream line roughly along the line by Billy Graham to the W Tyvola office area and then into South Park would be a good idea too, I think a line to downtown, Gateway Station and then connected around to the CSX line would be a superior and higher ridership line.

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What about THIS then?!?!?!

 

A light rail spur off of the Tyvola stop that branches north as an express line to the airport, and east to SouthPark.  You could pretty much follow the line Dubone made but continue on BIlly Graham Parkway to the airport.  Maybe only have 1 - 2 stops along the airport spur (exmaple Tyvola, West, CLT terminus).

 

Then on the other side have maybe 2 more stops with a terminus at South Park.

 

Now you've got airport access, increase ridership due to the connection to South Park for retail purposes and lets also not forget South Park is a business destination as well for out of town travelers.

 

HOW BOUT THAT?!?!?!?!?!?! :fun:

 

You have my vote for that plan! IMO the only other major extension we should even be talking about for light rail is down Independence maybe, and I'm not even sure about that considering it's nothing but a bunch of big box stores and auto lots.

 

The best use of money after the BLE is completed, IMO, is to put efforts into smaller spurs and express routes like the two mentioned above. It's silly IMO to have such a huge concentration on making downtown the terminus when places like SouthPark aren't going anywhere and if anything will continue to grow at a decent pace. I'm all for some sort of loop system for downtown though. Hopefully I don't get burned for saying that we should follow something to the tune of the I-277 around downtown but with a street car. Just thinking out loud here...

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I don't like a loop streetcar. I think gateway station would make the loop redundant. Gateway offers a 1 stop connection to other transit. The loop would make you have a double connection. IE Huntersville, Loop, East/West streetcar as opposed to Huntersville, East/West corridor. Of course for the blue line from the red line it isn't 1 stop connection technically but I'm sure they'll offer shuttles between the 2.

I'd like to see the East/west & red line built and from there on out spurs from existing lines to Southpark, Ballantyne, Charlotte Colesium area, Carolina place, the airport and park & rides off 485 right after Ballantyne (this could help us put off the silver line) and a park and ride at 485 by the airport

Edited by AirNostrumMAD
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I think the only way to get service to the Airport is to use commuter rail. 

 

For several reasons:

 

1. Would be a logical extension of the red line.

2. Would not only to link Gastonia to Charlotte but also Link Gastonia to the airport.

3. Commuter rail is cheaper per mile and has lower density requirements. Also it is/can be faster.

4. Would be easier to implement as both Gastonia and Charlotte have existing stations and are served by Amtrak.

5. Later as density improves on the west side light rail or street car could be implimented.

6. Norfolk Southern would most likely prefer the Commuter service as the necessary track improvements would also benefit them unlike the light rail.

 

 

TH

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Commuter rail is for running a long distance into suburban towns at low frequencies throughout the day and high frequencies at rush hour.    Do you just mean you wish you run a cheap train back and forth from uptown to the airport without investing much into the rail corridor?

 

This is an urban airport, close to downtown, with fairly urban neighborhoods along the way.  People working at the airport would needing to travel throughout the day and have solid connections to transit throughout the region. 

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Commuter rail to the airport would certainly be easier and cheaper than LRT. The SEHSR plans even have a planned stop at the airport. Unfortunately there are two big problems with using commuter rail in the corridor: 1) the low frequency of commuter rail (I think the red line is initially planned for just six trips per day) make it all but useless for most intown travelers. No one is going to wait for more than 15 minutes for airport transport when so many flexible options are available. 2) The limited stops required for commuter rail would leave the West side without any service -- this part of town needs the benefits of TOD more than any other.

 

I realize that the airport is not a perfect destination for transit. However, other than Southpark and Ballantyne can you name any other possible endpoints (or stations) for LRT which would generate more traffic?

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Good points, I had not really considered how inconvenient the infrequent outbound service from the airport might be. But the ability to uses a ROW that already goes by the airport and could connect Gastonia and Charlotte is very tempting.

 

Neighborhoods to the west are going to be hard to serve with a line to the airport, they are more or less to the northwest. If I had my choice I would run LTR up the Hwy 16 to 485 and forget the airport .

 

If you go to the airport with LTR via Billy Graham or Tyvola you are in the woods except for a few office parks, but no one lives out there (trust me look at the aerial it's all trees). I also don't believe a park and ride out at 485 past the airport would be of value, no one lives out there and it's too close to town to make much of a difference to people once they are in their cars.

 

All that aside I firmly believe that any future LTR needs to be east, that where the people live, and the people on that side of town have asked for it.

 

Once more Charlotte residents are on the system I think an Airport route of would be a much easier sell. Look at Dallas they have had light rail and commuter rail for a LONG time before they got connected to their airport.

 

TH

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Neighborhoods to the west are going to be hard to serve with a line to the airport, they are more or less to the northwest. If I had my choice I would run LTR up the Hwy 16 to 485 and forget the airport .

 like along the old P&N route....

 

It still has a clear path into downtown, no new grade seperations would be necessary.

Edited by kermit
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 like along the old P&N route.... :whistling:

 

It still has a clear path into downtown, no new grade seperations would be necessary.

 Exactly!

 

And if you really want to appeal to the railroad gods you use the old P&N shops that still stand near (south of) the CSX inter-modal yard as a LTR service center. One can dream.

 

TH

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  • dubone changed the title to CATS Long Term Transit Plan - Silver, Red, Airport Lines
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