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Charlotte Area Transit System Long Term Transit Plan

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June 2006 30-page detailed report to MTC on NE line is here, includes FTA approval process diagram. This was for a public hearing. You can see the design option. Their are three options - Sugar Creek/Eastway section (not sure what MTC decided), UNC-C campus (on campus route chosen), and whether terminus would be inside or outside I-485 (inside chosen). Page 18 shows the proposed alignment on UNC-C campus. Page 26 shows costs for bridging 485 (extra $30m and would likely garner 200 riders), but of course extension to LMS could dramatically change ridership #s

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I'm just going by numbers that I picked up here on this site:

@50 to 75 million per mile for the LRT extension, we are looking at about 125 million to 187.5 million plus 22 million for the bridge (don't know how safe these numbers are but a good estimate nonetheless). This looks like a total of 147 million to 209.5 million for an extension to LMS, so lets say $200 million. Smith is saying he will only kick in 1/4 of that @ $50 million. How would this remaining cost be justifiable and who would spend it? Now I totally agree, LMS is a great ending point for the LRT. It connect another county to the city and would help tremendously especially during the races and events, as well as help connect Cabarrus Counties bus system to get people to the mall, etc. By the numbers that I had ran, to me it doesn't seem very cost feasable, honestly. If Smith wants it, he should be paying at least half of it, since the line would add probally 2 stations- one which would be his. So who would pick up the 100 million dollars. I say if Cabarrus or Concord was willing to pay 100 million or more with Smith's 100 million, then it should be expanded. If they paid more, then it would end up being a bargain for Charlotte/Meck b/c it would help actually fund the current plans. I guess the bigger question is would they support and pay for it? Obvious Smith really wants it, but he may have to up the stakes.

staffer, to my knowledge, all of CATs most recent plans still have that Sugar Creek cooridor undecided. I think that was something that would be examined as far as cost performance during the engineering and planning stages.

EDIT: they have the bridge price at $22 million.

Edited by Andyc545

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Why doesn't Bruton just threaten to move the track unless Concord is willing to extend to LRT to LMS?

Honestly though, I don't see how the cost can be justified to LMS to Smith. There is tons of parking, and the capacity of Lynx would make a minimal impact on traffic. He possibly is envisioning having private parking lots, but would people pay to park at LMS, or would they just drive to the next station that CATS own that would be free?

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Why doesn't Bruton just threaten to move the track unless Concord is willing to extend to LRT to LMS?

Honestly though, I don't see how the cost can be justified to LMS to Smith. There is tons of parking, and the capacity of Lynx would make a minimal impact on traffic. He possibly is envisioning having private parking lots, but would people pay to park at LMS, or would they just drive to the next station that CATS own that would be free?

Also N. Tryon / Speedway Blvd doesn't really get that busy, comparably, aside from the big races. It would probally be more feasable for them to just run busses from the end to LMS, and maybe Lowes could invest into private LMS busses for the races to transport people themselves. Would be a lot cheaper.

Just trying to envision a non-race day. I would likely expect to see near-empty trains, aside from maybe Cabarrus Co Commuters, which the 485 station would be able to support that anyway... Still don't see this cost feasable unless Cabarrus wants it badly enough to pay for it along with Smith.

Edited by Andyc545

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Light rail as implemented here in CLT simply does not have the bandwidth (capacity) to make any dent at all in a race event. At max capacity a station can only handle 3000 people/hour (one direction) and that is if they go to the 5 minute response time which they are not doing now. A race event can have upwards of 250,000 attending. 1.2% of this/hour isn't much.

But let's assume they decide to ignore this fact and build the line all the way to the Speedway anyway. If it adds $200M-$250M to the price of the line, and does not add at least another 6000 daily riders, it will most certainly cause the feds to reject funding for the entire line. Remember what I mentioned before, federal funding is based on the total cost of the line, not where the money is coming from. As far as the feds are concerned it won't matter if Concord or Smith kicks in money or not. If the cost goes up then ridership needs to go up too. This is why they are not building the phased line, it's why they canceled the earlier planned station on the other side of I-485, and why the line will not go to LMS.

Federal rules are written now as to not fund lines and so Tober, and I will give him credit for this, choose the only option that stands any chance of getting federal funds. That is a line that connects downtown to UNCC, nothing more nothing less. Anything else doesn't have enough ridership to justify the cost.

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Light rail as implemented here in CLT simply does not have the bandwidth (capacity) to make any dent at all in a race event. At max capacity a station can only handle 3000 people/hour (one direction) and that is if they go to the 5 minute response time which they are not doing now. A race event can have upwards of 250,000 attending. 1.2% of this/hour isn't much.

But let's assume they decide to ignore this fact and build the line all the way to the Speedway anyway. If it adds $200M-$250M to the price of the line, and does not add at least another 6000 daily riders, it will most certainly cause the feds to reject funding for the entire line. Remember what I mentioned before, federal funding is based on the total cost of the line, not where the money is coming from. As far as the feds are concerned it won't matter if Concord or Smith kicks in money or not. If the cost goes up then ridership needs to go up too. This is why they are not building the phased line, it's why they canceled the earlier planned station on the other side of I-485, and why the line will not go to LMS.

Federal rules are written now as to not fund lines and so Tober, and I will give him credit for this, choose the only option that stands any chance of getting federal funds. That is a line that connects downtown to UNCC, nothing more nothing less. Anything else doesn't have enough ridership to justify the cost.

So Concord mills, the most popular tourist attraction in NC wouldnt supply enough riders to consider this extension. (Sad we consider this a tourist attraction, but... it is what is...)

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So Concord mills, the most popular tourist attraction in NC wouldnt supply enough riders to consider this extension. (Sad we consider this a tourist attraction, but... it is what is...)

Well although the mall and speedway gets a lot of tourism and people, you have to assess how many of these people would actually use the LRT to get to to places such as the line supplies- UNCC, NoDa, Uptown, and the extension which is Pineville area and S. End. People that are up in Cabarrus on tourism are mainly either a) people with cars, b) race oriented traffic that are there sticking around for the races and local restraunts/shopping/hotels, c) people that are visiting and sticking to the area specifically. Aside from the races, which we have 2 or 3 main ones, you wouldn't see these people "needing" uptown or the other areas that I have identified, aside for a small portion. Most will find their way of getting around without the need of a train, in honesty. Now if the line was there, maybe I would take it to get to Concord Mills to shop, however that area is so unpedestrian friendly that if I was doing more than just going to the mall, I'd be force to drive anyway, like go to Red Lobster across the street. Still, you have to think the mall would be another extension crossing 85, and that would probally be another 250 million dollars on top of the leg to LMS. I live up in this area and can say LMS is not the most lively of places when there's not a race or big event. I'd only expect to see commuters from Cabarrus using the line up at that stop, and if they can drive to that station, then they can drive the extra 2 miles on a 50/55 mph road with little traffic and just a few stop lights, and get to the 485 station to commute into uptown or uncc with only an extra maybe 5-10 minutes of driving. Aside from LMS, there really isn't any room for TOD or even such things as restraunts/retail/or residential areas that you'd be able to walk to from a station at LMS. They own so much of the land there and it is all covered by surface lots for as far as the eyes can see. I'd love to see rail transportation reach places such as Cabarrus, but this extension certainly wouldn't make sense by any means. Like I said, it wouldn't be unreasonable, however, for LMS to purchase some busses like CATs has, plaster their logo all over it for a much smaller cost, and use it during events to transport pedestians to and from the 485 station and the mall. Concord also has a small bus system which they could possibly expand their bus network to accomodate the last station on the LRT at 485 to their main tourist destination- Concord Mills. Unfortunatly the area around LMS is really just a big dead zone, a huge waste of space when it's not being crammed by 250,000+ people. Yes- the mall is a different story, but a 5 mile extension and a hugeeeee price tag almost doubling what is already in place for the NE Line would not be very well taken nor logical.

Edited by Andyc545

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I understand what you are saying and it makes plenty of sense. I guess im just a bit bias considering i live in China Grove and commute downtown everyday to school. I also just want to see Charlotte expand its transit a bit into another county. Maybe this will be much more feasible in time(longtime).

Thanks for the input.

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^^ Commuter Rail on the NCRR would be a much better option for transit from China Grove to downtown. But that probably won't happen for a long time, and it's a topic for a different thread anyway.

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So any of you think we could start a petition to get commercial advertising on the buses.. If we did, could anyone run the numbers on what it would bring in to help with transit and does it seem like a realistic possibility?

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So any of you think we could start a petition to get commercial advertising on the buses.. If we did, could anyone run the numbers on what it would bring in to help with transit and does it seem like a realistic possibility?

I'm not sure what benefit a petition would have, but it could be that the new CEO of CATS is willing to give advertising a go (perhaps this is why the Reid's ads are in the trains). I personally welcome advertising in mass transit. It gives a big city feel and many times offers some free art for folks to look at while riding into work or wherever. Before I moved from Chicago they had installed motion advertisements in some of the subway tunnels there that would give the effect of a movie being played while you passed it. (If I remember correctly they have one of these in the Blue Line tunnel at O'Hare for those of you who care to know.) Some unique advertising like this could play well here and offer funds to help supplement the costs of running the line. If I were running CATS I wouldn't turn down the opportunity to have a free advertising revenue stream to pay for some enhancements to the bus system and LRT.

IMO ads at stations serve as a form of art, but perhaps that's just my views and not necessarily the views of those around me. I don't think any of us like being bombarded by advertisements, especially when we're paying for a service, but in today's world it has almost become a necessity to offset the cost of running things or offering things for free or at a severely reduced rate. When tastefully done they can enhance all involved parties.

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^ The "tastefully done" part is key in my mind. The Wachovia city buses were really nice looking, and subtly carried a message of class along with the advertisement. But a McDonald's poster along the side of the bus wouldn't have been particularly attractive, imo. Same thing at the stations: if one of the heavy-hitting local corporations wants to put up some artistic-looking ads I'm all for it. But plain old poster boxes with random ads can clutter up the stations and make them much uglier than they need to be.

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They could add small flat panel tv's at all of the station that run advertisemnts, or a mix of

how to ride LYNX, how to set up the bikes, where the stations are, etc, while running an advertising ticker below. Advertisements quickly would pay for the flat screens in itself, and then help dedicate money to funding CATs. Also, it can get somewhat repetative just sitting at stations waiting for a train, so that would add to ones enjoyment while waiting also.

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Where CATS missed the ball at these stations was in not adding space for vendors to sell things. There is a huge opportunity there given the concentrations of people and would have brought a much needed infusion of street vendors to the city as well as making some of the stations profit centers. Even with the prohibition of eating on the trains, they could have had street stalls for selling food, snacks, magazines, and other things that people might want to pickup while out.

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So any of you think we could start a petition to get commercial advertising on the buses.. If we did, could anyone run the numbers on what it would bring in to help with transit and does it seem like a realistic possibility?

Don't do it.

The money you'd draw from these ads is a pittance compared to overall operating expenses, and especially when balanced with the corresponding loss of identity of the CATS brand. The only reason you see other NC transit agencies doing this is because they are typically cash-strapped, and need the extra cash to meet budgets. CATS is still trying to build a positive image in the city to draw additional choice riders to the system. It might not seem like much, but focus groups and studies have shown that branding and marketing (along with economy and convenience or course) is crucial in changing the attitudes of many potential riders. IMO, ads on buses would be a step back for CATS.

Now, ads at select stations and shelter locations would make more sense, especially since they can self-fund improvements.

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The main complaint we heard, which is part of the same vein, is the train doesn't go to enough places that a out-of-towner or tourist would want to go -- Southpark, Phillips Place, University, etc.

I think a cheaper alternative to Light Rail for getting to places like South Park, the hospitals, etc would be electric streetcar like the one that just opened in Seattle.

Here is a great little video showing it's inaugural run.

I could easily see one of these going up East Blvd and up East Trade to Elizabeth and Presby Hospital.

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I think a cheaper alternative to Light Rail for getting to places like South Park, the hospitals, etc would be electric streetcar like the one that just opened in Seattle.

Here is a great little video showing it's inaugural run.

I could easily see one of these going up East Blvd and up East Trade to Elizabeth and Presby Hospital.

I totally agree with you on that. I think that is what they plan for the future street car system here in Charlotte anyway but it can't come soon enough as far as I am concerned. These types of systems are used commonly in Europe in large towns and cities with great effect, and I think a similiar one here in Charlotte would make a great impact on the city - both economically and congestion wise. Now we just need the city planners to condense development and limit sprawl and we could create quite the model city!

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There is a rather interesting editorial in today's Huntersville paper that suggests that city councils of Cornelius and Huntersville are going to demand of CATS for the figures on how much of the transit tax is being collected in N. Mecklenburg. They believe the amount may be as high as $9M of the $72M collected each year. This is is the precursor of an eventual pullout from the MTC by these two towns, IMO. This is resulting from the fact that the Charlotte City Council approved funding for engineering studies on the NE line and won't do it for the North Line.

To state it a different way, if Huntersville and Cornelius refuse to provide additional funding for the North Line and it ends up being canceled as a result, these two towns want to keep their portion of the transit tax for something else and not left in the hands of Charlotte.

As some background, keep in mind the transit tax is a county tax but is also a tax that is turned over to control by the Charlotte city council. The towns are no doubt going to head down the road that this isn't a good arrangement from their perspective and want to change it.

I've said before that I believe the entire transit thing should be a matter of the county council and not divided up the way it is.

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I agree. Having it as a city department is no good. An authority setup might be even better (would allow for increased participation from other counties/municipalities).

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I totally agree with you on that. I think that is what they plan for the future street car system here in Charlotte anyway but it can't come soon enough as far as I am concerned. These types of systems are used commonly in Europe in large towns and cities with great effect, and I think a similiar one here in Charlotte would make a great impact on the city - both economically and congestion wise. Now we just need the city planners to condense development and limit sprawl and we could create quite the model city!

I'll second that. As a PM resident, I was extremely disappointed (but not suprised) at the MTC's vote last year to put the Elizabeth/Central Ave streetcar on the back burner in favor of pursuing the North line as a reward for the "smart growth" [TOD] policies being pursued in Cornelius, Davison etc. IMO, that change in the plan did not make sense at all, especially from the standpoint of pursuing "smart growth." The vote was predetermined since Charlotte is underpresented on the MTC [and poorly represented by McCrory, IMO ]. Charlotte residents pay the bulk of the taxes, and make up the bulk of the riders. The fact is, "smart growth" has different meanings depening on whether you are a resident/tax payer/concerned citizen in Charotte, or you are a developer in the northern part of the county.

The fact is, IMO, if you advocate truly "smart growth" you need to encourage higher density residential growth near uptown rather than pursue policies that encourage/support suburban sprawl - including commuter rail - which will most likely be underutilized and underfunded anyways. I would have no problem with MTC disintegrating quite frankly. While I am all for regional planning ( especially in regards to preservation of green space), too often this translates to policies that take tax dollars from the majority (Charlotte residents) to in effect subsidize development (and sprawl) in the suburbs. It is not that I don't support light rail. I believe the construction of a line extending through NoDa to the University area should be a priority. However, fast tracking (no pun intended) the North line ahead of Charlotte street cars makes no sense (at least beyond doing some engineering studies and acquiring rights of way). Development needs to start from the inside and work its way out.

Build the streetcars as planned (and add a line to South Park and the airport) and people (and businesses) will be flocking to the city. In fact, one of the reasons I moved from south Charlotte to PM was to drastically shorten my commute to uptown and be close the planned Central Ave. streetcar. This in turn would dramatically increase the tax base and ridership numbers that would help support future light rail development to outlying regions. It is also my belief that part of the reasons Grubb's development in Elizabeth as well as needed redevelopment along Central has faltered a bit (beyond simply the credit crunch) was the MTC's vote to push back the street car to a date when I may need to use a walker to get to the station. If we build it, they will come.

Obviously, I can't deny some self-interest on this matter. I would just simply love to be able to ride a streetcar to Uptown or South Park for a movie and drinks, rather than drive, find parking, etc! But really, I just think pursuing the street car first makes a lot more sense in terms of economics, true "smart growth," and just plain fairness to the citizens of Charlotte.

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Out of curiosity, what happens if the MTC disintegrates? Does the city of Charlotte keep its $63 million (going by the numbers above) and use it for projects that don't cross city lines?

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Out of curiosity, what happens if the MTC disintegrates? Does the city of Charlotte keep its $63 million (going by the numbers above) and use it for projects that don't cross city lines?

Basically yes. But the reality is that thousands of people commute between North Meck and Charlotte everyday. So for routes such as 77X they would have to do an Operating Agreement where they would split the costs of operating the buses. Obviously the Commuter Rail would be killed.

This might open an oppurtunity to run DMU to the proposed Eastfield Station on the North Line.

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Out of curiosity, what happens if the MTC disintegrates? Does the city of Charlotte keep its $63 million (going by the numbers above) and use it for projects that don't cross city lines?
I am not sure if Mint Hill, Matthews, and Pineville will want to take back their portions as well. Keep in mind that it takes more than this amount to fund CATS operational budget. There is none left for capital projects.

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I am not sure if Mint Hill, Matthews, and Pineville will want to take back their portions as well. Keep in mind that it takes more than this amount to fund CATS operational budget. There is none left for capital projects.

That might be true for North Meck, but not for Charlotte. There would be plenty left over for capital projects in Charlotte.

Remember that we receive considerable operating assistance from the Feds and NCDOT. As well as Capital funding grants for nearly 75% of expansion (that includes capital grants for buses)

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....Remember that we receive considerable operating assistance from the Feds and NCDOT. As well as Capital funding grants for nearly 75% of expansion (that includes capital grants for buses)
True, but that is based on operating a regional system. A system that is reduced to operating for just the city would receive different consideration as, I would assume, the other parts of the current region would also insist on keeping their share of these funds as well.

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