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Charlotte's Light Rail: Lynx Blue Line


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Charlotte's Light Rail: Lynx Blue Line

Now that the Lynx Blue Line's first section is open, it is time to archive our very detailed discussion of every step along the way of design and construction of this line. It is now a reality.

You can view the discussion history archived here:



Please use this topic to discuss any ongoing controversies and experiences related to the operation of the Lynx Blue Line and the plans for extending this line to the Northeast beyond UNCC.

Here is the CATS website on the Lynx:



UrbanPlanet.org Rail Transit Guide [iPhone]:


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Here's my report -

We boarded at East/West headed south just after 10 am, expecting the northbound trains to be full and southbound light.


Southbound was standing-room only and remained so through 485. All the park and ride lots we passed on the way south were wide open. Few cars.

At the 485 station we could see pulling in that the parking deck was full and there looked to be a line of people waiting to board.

The platform was a bit confused. Most of the people weren't going to 485 as a destination today, so most wanted to just immediately re-board. Because the platform isn't designed for this kind of crowd control (keeping people from crossing to the northbound train to board), most southbound passengers were hopping back onto a northbound train.

We were going to just walk over to catch bus 12 to skip the wait when, at the end of the platform the next northbound train was about to close its doors. There was un-filled room in the doorway so we jumped on. There was at least one vehicle stopped and some kind of maintenance work going on to the mechanism over one door (panel was down and someone was working). This added to the platform confusion as that train was mostly boarded when people started shifting to the next northbound train (leaving from the southbound side platform).

Oh, and just as the doors closed, the re-opened again and Mayor Pat boarded. He sat with the driver for the northbound ride.

It wasn't as crowded as a Tokyo train, but it was more full than any Charlotte bus I've ever seen. The ride back north stopped at each station. And by now, all the park and ride lots were full or filling. Most platforms had people waiting to board but, again, few were getting off.

We planned to go to 7th street, but realized there wasn't much chance of catching another southbound train as the crowd was just going to be up north. So we hopped back off at East/West. We were 2 of perhaps 8 total people who got off, so most of those waiting at the platform remained waiting. We recommended to a couple of people that they consider the bus. Based on the number of people waiting at each of the northbound platforms to the south (and I mean waiting at every single station), there was not much chance of an open seat for a while.

Overall I am very impressed with a few things:

1. The vehicles are very nice. high ceilings made the packed conditions easier to deal with.

2. The convivial attitude of riders. Most were taking it in stride, making the best of things.

3. The platforms are nice. Not sure about inclement weather under the shelters, but the signage is good.

4. Views from the elevated sections down south give nice context over the area. I already have several businesses picked out that I will never drive to again (Manifest, Pollo Royale, Bill Spoon's, Steak n Shake, Compare Foods).

And things that need to be unkinked:

1. Capacity was a problem, but this was to be expected if there were large crowds.

2. Not sure how well stations will queue under crowded conditions, such as before or after big events. This might be something that can be learned from this free day.

I plan to ride again tomorrow to head north.

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Another Report:

I boarded the second southbound train from CTC this morning and could not believe that we got more full as we headed into South End and down the line. At Woodlawn we had to start turning away passengers and every platform was packed. CATS definetly has issues between CTC and 7th Street. From 7th Street to Sharon Road West it took 25 minutes with us only stopping for 10-15 seconds at each station. Once we got in sight of I-485 station we had a 5 minute delay because one of the trains had stopped running due to someone pulling the emergency brake in one of the cars. Between that and I would venture to say 3,000-5,000 people at I-485 it was slow going. All the buses in the station and on South were full. THe wait to return Uptown was estimated at 1.5-2 hours. I eventually had to get a friend to pick us up from Carolina Pavilion and ride back Uptown. I was blown away by the reception this new line has gotten, this is great for Charlotte. Here are a few pictures, not the greatest quality of today's event Uptown.






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Here's my report -

At the 485 station we could see pulling in that the parking deck was full and there looked to be a line of people waiting to board.

The platform was a bit confused. Most of the people weren't going to 485 as a destination today, so most wanted to just immediately re-board. Because the platform isn't designed for this kind of crowd control (keeping people from crossing to the northbound train to board), most southbound passengers were hopping back onto a northbound train.

I plan to ride again tomorrow to head north.

Yeah, let me just tell you that me, my mom and some friends were standing in that parking garage line for an hour an fifteen minutes. We were going to catch the #12 initially instead of waiting in line, but one of my friends girlfrieds wanted to get the stamps to have a chance at winning the ipod. It was a great ride overall. i'm getting back on tomorrow as well, with my sister who had to work today. I'm just going to get off on the Sharon West stop this time though. :shades:

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I got on at Arrowood and went to I485 station because all north bound trans were full. At I485 station all had to get out and go to parking deck to back of line were there was a 2 hour wait. My wife and grand-daughter took the bus back to Arrowood. I will ride the line and be glad to pay my 65 cent in the future.

I went up to Woodlawn and to go home and all the parking lots along the way looked near full. I do not think CATS was looking for this many people.

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I (well, me and a friend) was also on the second train to head south fromt CTC/Arena. The Mayor and James Mitchell rode on our car. It was really interesting to see how excited the Mayor was as we headed south for the first time. He stood in the doorway of the control compartment and announced the speed as we got faster and faster heading south. I have to say...traveling at that speed (56mph) was pretty cool.

Our car was crowded but manageable on the way south. As others have said...the crowd at the 485 station was unbelievable. I really didn't know what sort of crowds to expect...but I really was shocked at the line at 485. We had to get off the train at 485 and then reboard. We were supposed to go stand in line at the parking deck before we reboarded, but we didn't. I misunderstood an announcement and thought they told us to get right on the north bound train. Then, because of some technical difficulty (I have no idea) they told us to just get on the train that had just pulled in. It wasn't until after we pulled away from the station that I realized I had misunderstood the announcement to go the deck and get in line. I thought we were just really lucky to be able to reboard immediately (sorry to anyone who waited in the line...I didn't skip on purpose!).

Things were generally smooth on the way back up...but people waiting at some of the stations started to push their way onto the trains when we'd stop. There were some small kids right in front of me and I was getting a little nervous they might get hurt. I'm sure their mother (who was alone) really didn't expect the crowds to be so big. We finally got off at East/West and walked back uptown just to get out of the crammed train car and to make room for others who might not be able to walk that far.

I'm sure CATS was completely caught by surprise at the number of people who showed up today. I told James Mitchell we should be so lucky for this to be an ongoing problem for LYNX. Today is no true measure though...I just hope some people aren't turned off by the crowded conditions today and don't ride it to work. As illogical as it sounds, I'm sure someone will make that arguement. Esp. after hearing some of the rediculous rhetoric from the SCAT campaign.

I congratulated the Mayor and thanked him. He said he was overwhelmed. It's quite a legacy he'll leave in Charlotte even if he accomplishes nothing else in his time here as mayor.

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I got on the first train from 7th street this morning and rode down to 485. From there they told us we had to get off and get back in line. My family waited in line while I took pictures around the station. After about an hour we finally got back on and took the sardine can back up to 7th st. That was rough. People at every station tried getting on even when nobody was getting off.

I wanted to stop at every station and take some pics and wait for the next train, but considering the madhouse I was happy just to get back. Maybe tomorrow or sometime this week...

Here's some from 485.


The line inside the deck going up one way and coming back. This is about 1/3 of it....


Bike racks



The line and amount of people at 485 was so great they started turning cars away and had to bring in buses to help get people back north.


And finally back up at 7th st again, the line was around the block and went down 6th st....


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I was amazed how packed it was.

All I was doing was picking up a gallon of paint at the Home Depot on Woodlawn. And I thought "What the heck, I'll take a ride on it since I'm parked next to the station anyway.". Like everyone else's report, it was about an hour of waiting at 485 to get a northbound train back to Woodlawn. I knew nothing about the free Ipod or other enticements.

The crowd did seem to take it all in stride. It was kind of like "Carowinds" lines to them for a free ride, I guess. I did see several neighbors walk up my street to test it out too, so I'm sure a lot of people living nearby were curious and gave it a try.

I've ridden other light rail systems but I was impressed with the smoothness of the ride and the view from the cars. Charlotte does have some great new transit infrastructure.

The Archdale and Tyvola stations are HIGH! You are above the power lines and the roofs of gabled two story buildings. It feels like looking out a 4th floor window.

Also, the park and rides were jammed full of cars. Especially at Sharon Lakes. I think we will quickly hear about adding parking meters, or widening these lots.

Edited by MZT
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What an adventure, what a day.

I started out at the CTC/Arena at a frigid 10am. This station really turned out well. I wish all of the stations looked like this one.


I was on the same train with the Mayor, Councilman Mitchell and evidently jednc :) The train was pretty full and we headed North from the Arena to the 7th St station where the doors opened and a CATS official was asking politely for people to get off the train..no one got off... and then she raised her voice asking everyone to get off the train...still no one got off...the Mayor then got her attention and told her there was room for people to squeze on and that we had just boarded a block down the street. She ignored him and kept on asking for people to get off. Eventually she gave up and a few people squezzed on. Then the operator had to switch from one side of the train to the other side...when he got on at the front he jokingly offered the train keys to the Mayor and asked if he wanted to drive. As jednc reported earlier the Mayor didnt drive but he did ride up in the Operators cab. Yelling out our increasing speeds along the way.


People on the train and on the platforms and on the streets going down were all in a pretty good mood. A lot of people were waving at us as we rolled on down South towards 485. Hardly anyone got on or off the train on the ride down to 485. When we arrived at the terminal station it was packed.


Even though we had police officers screaming at us to get off the platform and head for the 485 garage I kinda hung back until the platform emptied. There were some CATS people working on the train where someone had pulled the emergency brake by one of the doors. I heard one of the guys say that they would be ready to roll in a second so we got on that train. They rebooted the train by turning everything off and turning it back on...but no luck...the train wasn't going to work. So then we were forced to get off that train and off the platform. Some of the police officers working the crowd control on the platform at this point were really starting to get rude. Hung out on the pedestrian bridge for a while watching the clusterphuck that became 485 station this morning and decided to walk about a mile from the 485 station up to Sharon Rd West Station.


The crowd was pretty light at the Sharon Rd West station and we were able to board the first Northbound train that came along. The crowds on the train were packed to capacity.


You can see the skyline from the Tyvola Station. (to the right of the train in the pic)



While taking pics at the Tyvola Station I noticed that some of the LRT cars were so full they were not even stopping at the stations anymore.

The Woodlawn Station was pretty busy.


Got off there around 1pm and decided to try the Quiznos only to find it was closed. So we got back on the train and rode it up to the Subway for some lunch. After lunch went back to the Scaleybark Station and waited about 20 minutes for a Northbound train that never came. So we crossed the street and took one of the Blue Line Express buses which was pretty full too. The bus took us back all the way downtown where I was suprised to see the lines still very long for the Blue Line at the Arena Station. They were queueing up people at the end of the platform and would let on about 100 at a time when a train arrived. This pic was taken about 3pm.


It was pretty obvious that the line was overwhelmed by the amount of people that showed up today as well as the fact that most people wanted to do a full round trip of the line without getting off. I think they should have put up more festivals along the southern portion of the line to entice people to get off the train and make its operation more efficient. They had the right idea with the Passport system and getting it stamped at different stations. I think it should have been much more robust with more to do at various stations. Especially at the 485 station which had plenty of space to setup a bandstage and some vendor tents.

My 5 hour adventure on the LYNX this morning was definately one to remember. It is obvious that the rail is not designed to take people on round trips without them getting off the train. So I will have to hold off final judgement until it runs a couple of days/weeks with a regular schedule.

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I'm getting ready to pack the kids up and drive into uptown to ride the line. Any suggestions for family oriented stuff within a few blocks walking distance from any of the stops?

It looks great. I'm very excited to see this become a reality! Here's hoping they come through with the Independence Blvd line! (my current route into the city)

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I had gone to Original Pancake House (which is now open, by the way, on Charlottetowne), and was expecting to get dropped off on the way home and go for a ride. The line at 7th Street station at 12:30 was not only around the corner on 6th, but also then around the corner and up into the parking deck by Brixx as far as I could see. I got out figuring I'd ride anyway, but it was too cold without my coat, so I just went home.

After 3, expecting that the crowds had died down, I went out again, but it was still crowded. I eventually got on at East/West for a packed train. There was a girl sitting on the floor to my right, a little 4 year old kid with so much static in his hair that it stick straight up and attaching to his mother's coat, county manager Harry Jones and his family in the front of the second car, little black boys sitting from one family in a seat pair with old white men from another, some girls with their ipods on, some toddlers on their fathers' shoulders, and on and on and on. It was a very nice show of social unity while every experienced the new city that Charlotte is becoming. It was surreal that it is now a fact of life in the city.

As we have seen from the construction, the designs are both interesting, clean, modern, and cool. There are enough gadgets to keep everyone very well informed and interested. While not silent, the trains feel smooth and quiet enough to feel comfortable and secure (I hate the jerkiness of riding in a bus).

We had heard enough horror stories of the 485 station, so we turned back at Arrowood station. Between the New Bern and East/West station on the way back, the train did an emergency stop for some reason. Perhaps another train was still at the station or someone had crossed onto the tracks. Everyone looked at eachother but when it began riding again, it was no big deal.

I didn't time too much, but I know that the timing and schedule is very convenient. It went fast and felt like we were hitting the stations much faster than you'd expect to go between the different roads when driving. While I am not a commuter on it, I know for certain that I will take it certain places that I might go for retail, restaurants, and others. The transfer bus connections seem like a much more convenient way to go than to ride them from the transit center.

Anyway, just as it has been surreal to finally have a Target nearby that is actually open, it is just unbelievable that we finally have a mass transit option running in this town. It really gives a coming of age symbol for this city that I think everyone went to experience today.

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Things should settle down some at night. The paper said free rides would continue until 1AM. Maybe I'll even get on it again, just to get some donuts at East Blvd or something.

The train is way cool! It will mentally knit the length of South Boulevard into one place.

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On a whim, me and a friend decided to chance getting a ride from the Bland St station. Nada! Every train, north & south, was packed to the gills. I still loved being there watching the trains rolling by.

Has anyone else noticed the small crowns at the tops of the light poles? What a nice touch!


Here's a small video clip I took today while at the Bland St Station. The quality is not that great (taken from an old digital camera) but you can get a good sense of the train sounds.

VIDEO CLIP - Opening day from Bland St Station

Sadly, there are the scums that feel they must leave their mark wherever they roam. Not to mention the left over food, even though a trash can was less than 5 feet away.


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wow!!! what an experience today...i figured i would catch a free ride to pineville to see a movie...it was 12:30pm and i thought i would catch the train at 7th to make it to a 1:45pm show...WRONG!! when i saw how the line worked at 7th, i walked down to 5th. when i saw how 5th was going, i walked down to the stonewall station. when we saw at least 4 trains come back north, but none going south, i walked down to the carson station, where i finally saw a train going south, BUT, it was way too packed to get on. So I walked to the bland station, then on to east/west blvd, then on to tremont, but they were STILL way packed...so, onward to remount, then the superhike to the new bern station (kinda reminded me of the mcalpine park trail..just a little eerie) where i was able to get on heading south. i think this is gonna be a great exercise tool for me :shades: ...made it to the 485 station, where, as the pictures above showed, the line looked way too scary to even think about coming back anytime soon after arrival. oh, i made it to a 4:30 show at the amc pavillion. after the show, it was easy getting back on (phewww). rode back to the new bern station...hit chick-fil-a, back on the train by 7:50, back in 4th ward by 8:20. i need to cool my dogs off. i think i'm gonna like this, but no more opening day events for me.

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We pulled in this evening after a day of driving but I was intent on riding the train on its inaugural day. We drove up and parked at East/West (when it's warmer, we'll walk for sure) and arrived as a northbound train was leaving the station (oh well!). We hung out on the platform with about ten other people waiting for the NB train. There were a number of people waiting for the southbound train as well. While we were waiting, my partner pointed out that somebody was already making a mess of the stations (there was a wad of gum on the station support). I used the hotel card key in my pocket to get the gum of and deposit it in the trash. We boarded the train and found seats for the ride up to 7th Street; the train had quite a few riders but also a few open seats. We didn't know that the train would sit in the station for ten minutes before it departed back SB. We waited and then rode back down to Stonewall to catch dinner on the Green.

After dinner, we wandered back to Stonewall to catch the train back home. It was packed to the gills and then we realized the Bobcats game had just let out. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood and people were makig jukes about us being like NYC. Regardless, I do hope this is indicative of the type of support our new train is going to get in the future - it's exciting!

The Carolina Pavilion opposite the 485 station should help finance a sky bridge to deliver shoppers across South Blvd. to shopping and the theater. The walk from the station to AMC is going to be a biggie.

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I too was intent on riding the rails on its inaugural day so my friend and I parked at 7th Street Station and boarded the train at the station there. We rode the line all the way down to 485 and then took the line all the way back north. We saw some very packed train cars heading southbound when we were heading north, and this was about 10pm.

I was very impressed with everything that the light rain line had to offer, I just wish I could use it on a daily basis.

From what I have read in previous posts, I would say that CATS has had a very successful first day of service and I hope that people going to the Panthers game tomorrow will use the line.

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What is interesting about this to me is how the concept of something being "on the line" makes it not particularly relevant where the destination really is. Imagine living at Scaleybark. You could get to either end of the line in 15 minutes, and anything that is a short walk from a station would seem to be "nearby".

The next thing we need to work on is getting more business to stay open late. Charlotte is still kind of a drowsy place that like to close up at 9:00.

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So assuming that the crowds will eventually die down, are there stop bells like there are on buses? You know where you push the button to alert the driver that you want to get off at the next stop so they don't stop unnescesarily at stations where there is no one waiting and no one wants to get off? Would that screw up their timing if they don't stop at each station for the alloted 30 seconds?

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I rode from uptown to Pineville and back today. Overall a very pleasant experience excluding the huge crowds and waits. The trains are very nice -- actually, I think they are the exact same trains that Houston has. The same layout, the same voice, the same "dings," and the same horn. Pretty sure they are the exact same ones.

One thing that I think has gotten no recognition is 3rd Street Station. In my opinion, it's the most creatively designed station there is. Yeah, CTC is a great station and looks cool. But have you seen 3rd Street Station at night????? It's INCREDIBLE! Just drive down 3rd street after dusk and trust me...you will have your eyes focused on your rear-view mirror more than the road after you pass it. 3rd Street Station gives a great quirkiness (which is something we don't see a lot of in Charlotte) to this area of town.

Here are some pictures I took along my ride...

Cranes in Southend


Long lines at 485 Station


Don't want to wait for the rail? Long lines for the bus, too.


Beautiful trains on the elevated track


Crowded Trains!


Bland Street Station


3rd Street Station


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This was an absolute great introduction to Light Rail in North Carolina. I am used to crowded lightrail/heavy rail as I lived in SF for approx. 10 years and witnesses rush hour commutes and Giants game fans. I rode the lightrail today from Bland St station. I had a beer at Tavern on the tracks, then hoped on the lightrail to watch the Bobcats lose a nail-bitter to the Celtics, then back to Tavern on the Tracks to have a couple more beers. All while crowded both ways like a pack of sardines. None-the-less I had a great time, and people on the train seemed to be excited just to have the privileged of being able to ride the lightrail even though it was crowded. It was a great feeling indeed.

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