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Charlotte's Light Rail: Lynx Blue Line


dubone

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according to an email I got from the City of Charlotte, this week's City Source on Cable Channel 16 and online, new 7 pm Thursday 1/24 will cover "a look ahead at plans to extend the LYNX Blue Line to the Northeast Corridor."

video of the 1/24 cable show is now up at City Source,

the South Line segment runs from 0:44 to 2:52. Not really any "new" news, however. The segment talks of a 2013 open, rather than the 2015 reported in this thread recently.

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Took my first ride on the Lynx Saturday. Had my 3-year daughter, parked at Scalybark around 2ish and took the train to 7th street station. By the time it reached Scalybark, the train was standing room only until we reached the 3rd St/Transit Center. It was the 4-car (or 2 double car config). All sorts of demographics, age ranges..you name it, that was kind of surprising.

Did Discovery Place and got back to Scalybark around 5:15pm (train was full on the outgoing trip as well).

There was a one minute delay on the way back at the New Bern station. Other than that, it was pretty much a smooth flawless ride. Having lived off the Orange Line in NOVA for years and an avid user of the Metro, short delays can be rather common at times. At least you're above ground with the LRT versus a dark tunnel during these short delays.

Cons, as everyone has previously commented, the ticket machines, but having used many transit systems in the US (BART-Bay area, DC metro, NY, ATL, Denver LRT) I figured it out rather quickly but huge room for improvement. I had to assist a couple of people...and I am an out-of-towner.

Pros, the amount development in Southend...I had no idea.

I am going to recommend to friends/family for the CIAA tournament to avoid parking hassles as many have had to deal with in previous years.

Overall, a big step forward for Charlotte and hopefully for the Carolinas. Take note RDU.

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^I've noticed on my way home lately (the 7:03 or 8:03 train from 3rd street) that the trains stop right before Scaleybark (at the maintenance yard) and the driver's switch or something.

EDIT: Just wanted to add that the 8 o'clock train was PACKED tonight. Not sure why. It was standing room only by the time the train got to me at 3rd street. I took some pics on my camera but the memory card is so small I'm not sure how I can transfer them onto a computer. Also, the conductors changed again at the maintenance yard. The conductor who got onboard was rather amusing, with comical "watch the doors closing" and "the train is moving" announcements that had people laughing.

Edited by Nostyle
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I saw a blurb on lightrailnow about the Calgary Light Rail CTrain and their Ride the Wind program.

Since 2001 their electric light rail trains have been powered by wind mills meaning their light rail is a zero emmisions system.

Does anyone think that CATS and Duke Energy could be innovative enough to do in Charlotte what Calgary has already been doing for 7 years?

I think this is something very cool and should be pursued by CATS and Duke Energy to make it happen. It would be great publicity for both of them as well as good for the environment.

More on Ride the Wind in Calgary

wind_mill.jpg

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The only chance of this happening in Charlotte is if Duke decides to allocate some of the mandated renewable energy purchases to the light rail as greenwashing publicity scheme. I don't see this city really going out of its way to do it, though, since the implication is that they are spending too much taxpayer money to do it, even though the taxpayer is usually on the hook for the pollution externalities (health care, quality of life, etc).

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When the transit systems were first being built, most of them also built their own power generation stations. In Charlotte's history Dukes predecessor operated the trolley system here. However I think the question today mainly boils down to whether Duke Energy will embrace anything significant other than dirty coal plants and nuclear. Given their fights against environmentalists and the EPA in the courts and with lobbiests a "green" oriented Duke doesn't seem to be on the horizon anytime soon.

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I'm sort of dissapointed that Charlotte will be building the northern portion of the Blue Line in the center of North Tryon instead of building it a lot like the southern portion which is mostly in it's own right of way.

I think it more like a street car if you run light rail in the street. It's more like heavy rail if you run the rail like they have on the current portion of Charlotte's light rail system.

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I'm sort of dissapointed that Charlotte will be building the northern portion of the Blue Line in the center of North Tryon instead of building it a lot like the southern portion which is mostly in it's own right of way.

I think it more like a street car if you run light rail in the street. It's more like heavy rail if you run the rail like they have on the current portion of Charlotte's light rail system.

Are we sure that this is a fact, because last I heard, this is something that would be discussed in the upcoming engineering phase. All of the current drawups and sitemaps still have the train like S. Blvds, on the side of the road...

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A small bit of news, but the City Counsel approved funding for the engineering study for the NE line. They awarded the $9.5m funding to STV/Ralph Whitehead Associates which is the same firm that did the study for the existing line. They again had another iteration of the 2015 date. While I don't plan to live in the UCity area at that point, I hope they can push the line back to the 2013 date as the UNCC football program is now potentially set to start Division 1-A in 2012 if all approvals go through. The light rail line could get a pretty noticeable boost in ridership on Gamedays if the hypothetical future location for the stadium is built near the Mallard Creek Ch Rd station as currently proposed. Also, it will help shape the growth patterns around the campus and the uptown campus for UNCC as well.

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^This news was posted several days ago in the 2030 thread. It also explains why 2015 is most likely the earliest date the line will be operating.

oops, another example of thinking news i'm reading in the O is new news... I keep forgetting there are two threads for this subject.

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I'm sort of dissapointed that Charlotte will be building the northern portion of the Blue Line in the center of North Tryon instead of building it a lot like the southern portion which is mostly in it's own right of way.

I think it more like a street car if you run light rail in the street. It's more like heavy rail if you run the rail like they have on the current portion of Charlotte's light rail system.

To be fair, the South line was built in an abandoned Norfolk Southern rail corridor. That was a large part of why that line went first IMO, because the corridor was the easiest to implement quickly, plus it took advantage of growth in South End. If you look at all the other corridors, save the North line (on existing NS "O" line tracks), there is no such corridor to build on, so CATS is doing the next best thing. The only problem I see is perhaps with placing it in the Tryon median. I've heard several transit experts say that placement along one side of a roadway corridor is the preferred placement.

Here's a typical station layout for the NE line:

aeriallowangle.jpg

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They should have analyzed the option of continuing to use the mainline up to Pavilion Blvd and either cut across 485 on that bridge (it has a useless universal turn lane over the bridge now) or else simply use the Old Concord exit on 485 as the end of the line park and ride station.

I am not certain that it would be the better option, since it doesn't go through as many activity centers, and it would be either hard to find a good route to veer off to have a station on UNCC's campus (although there appears to be a decent option of following Suther to campus and John Kirk Dr back to the rail corridor, running either along UC Blvd or Vanlandingham in between). It would have been good, however, for them to gauge the potential ridership and cost savings (or increases?) of such a route. My hunch would be that there would be both fewer riders and a lower cost. However, perhaps it would be a better route, as it goes past many apartment complexes and very under utilized land, compared to the auto-centric retail complexes of Tryon that might not necessarily add many riders.

I think that CATS/MTC decided too early on the routes, rather than continuing to study multiple routes. I still believe that the Southeast corridor would be far superior if it were light rail parallel to the CSX line to Matthews (there is only one freight track which could have been worked around). Many times people have refered to the tracks parallel to Old Concord Road for the NE line (which the NE is already taking to just past Eastway). However, none of us really know the potential costs or riderships of such a route because they were eliminated too early in the process.

The Tryon median is a detraction, but frankly, we are running out of old rail corridors to use to get to our major activity areas and transit destinations. As long as they can engineer it sufficiently to properly operate there, then it isn't a big deal, but it is certainly less desireable than a dedicated corridor.

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Who can say that the Tryon section has a higher cost per mile than that along the railroad until the demands of a much more active freight corridor than South Corridor are known? The RR corporations might ask for significant vertical or horizontal separation between their tracks and LRT, adding costs per mile for retained fill (vertical sep) and/or property acquisition (horizontal sep). In such situation, thank goodness CATS didn't pick a route more closely following Old Concord Road.

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I still don't really understand the fuss about unpaying riders. It is still meeting the public purpose of transit, and every rider is already subsidized a lot. If a fraction of the riders don't pay, it isn't really costing any more to run the trains. Is CATS able to completely catch everyone, no. But it is a matter of cost versus benefit, where if the percentage of unpaying people creeps too high, then you can increase the number of inspectors. If not, then why bother bear the costs of inspection just to recover a tiny bit more revenue.

I find that local TV news needs to see things in black and white, and it doesn't really put in the balance necessary to see the full picture.

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Let's not forget the really wonderful infrastructure improvements that have taken place along South Blvd as the tracks went in. I hope that North Tryon would see similar improvements, especially where the tracks run in the median. Charlotte has a looong way to go for pedestrian circulation, especially in providing safe points to cross major roads. What better time to implement those upgrades than when a new train is going in?

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Let's not forget the really wonderful infrastructure improvements that have taken place along South Blvd as the tracks went in. I hope that North Tryon would see similar improvements, especially where the tracks run in the median. Charlotte has a looong way to go for pedestrian circulation, especially in providing safe points to cross major roads. What better time to implement those upgrades than when a new train is going in?

Speaking of infrastructure improvements and predestrian friendly areas; how do you convert a part of town that was designed and built for the use of cars and stripmalls into predestrian friendly areas? Do you just tear down and start over one at a time or just build onto what is already there? Also a general question to everyone, does anyone feel that the city will start moving north with the line or wait until the line is extended to move foward?

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Speaking of infrastructure improvements and predestrian friendly areas; how do you convert a part of town that was designed and built for the use of cars and stripmalls into predestrian friendly areas? Do you just tear down and start over one at a time or just build onto what is already there?

The biggest problem that I observe when cities try to make that conversion is that the car's right-of-way retains its unwavering dominance. The other extreme is closing off roads entirely and making "all-pedestrian zones," which is equally as distastful.

Roads can be made pedestrian friendly in a couple of ways: one, make them unfriendly to cars and two, break the "rule" that sidewalks have to follow roadways.

The first is a lot easier nowadays, since city planners have gotten their collective heads out of the suburban ass. Narrow roads, on street parking, small curb radii, etc force cars to slow down. Basically, don't give cars any more paving than is absolutely necessary. Along South Blvd they made these improvements at intersections... but that's kinda it.

The second is less common. With the exception of Uptown, blocks in Charlotte are car blocks. They are long. The typical rule of thumb for a pedestrian block is 300-500 feet (uptown's clock in at 400 foot square). This is why anyone driving down South Blvd will inevitably see pedestrians leaping across the roadway. Detouring all the way to the next signaled crossing can add 10 minutes or more to someone's walking trip. Add more signaled pedestrian crossing - LOTS more - to help. I'm talking painted crosswalk with an overhead red light that can be activated by a pedestrian wishing to cross. I've seen it done. It works.

Also - and this is a major pet peeve of mine - just make the pedestrian signals at intersections automatic. None of that "press to cross" nonsense. (I'M LOOKING AT YOU, NEW BERN @ SOUTH)

Sidewalks don't always have to be next to a roadway. Walkers can go places that cars can't even get close to. Charlotte does a little better in this area than many cities. The sidewalk/bike trail that was installed along the blue line is a great example of this. Sedgefield park also provides a great little cut through from Sedgefield to Park Rd, coming out just behind the Bi Lo. Its as fast for a walker to get through there as it is for a car to take the long road around.

Follow these rules and the strip malls will take care of themselves. IE, they'll be bulldozed for a higher and better use.

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^ Thanks tozmervo, that makes a lot of sense. I think the 485 stop still need work. The intersection there has been improved for perdestrians but the shopping center is not perdestrian friendly.

When I drive down North Tryon into uptown it does not feel safe. My big concern is will the extension of the light rail change that. Will it bring in the right buisnesses to move out the riffraff and make it feel more inviting. I guess I would hate to see part of the light rail have a reputation like Chicago's red line. For example, no one really rides the red line past the south loop because the area south of the city is so bad only the people that live there ride it all the way to 95/Dan Ryan. As far as moving out the bad to bring in the good, I can see the south part of the line moving in that direction. Also, I feel that if the city is move north to expand it will help to do this along with the light rail.

Also I don't want to upset anyone by saying riff raff, what I mean is moving out the elements that would make the city feel unsafe and brings a bad image to Charlotte.

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Also I don't want to upset anyone by saying riff raff, what I mean is moving out the elements that would make the city feel unsafe and brings a bad image to Charlotte.

And I think everyone here knows exactly what and where you mean. For example, Sunday Dinner Time leaving uptown and just off of 12th St (I think) watch a few guys jump out and mug a guy.... There was the big redevleopment plan of N. Tryon that is/was in the works too, so between that and the NE Line extension, we can only hope to see the necessary improvements, such as those that S. Blvd received. It sure feels a lot safer on S. Blvd now, especially in S. End.

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^ Thanks tozmervo, that makes a lot of sense. I think the 485 stop still need work. The intersection there has been improved for perdestrians but the shopping center is not perdestrian friendly.

When I drive down North Tryon into uptown it does not feel safe. My big concern is will the extension of the light rail change that. Will it bring in the right buisnesses to move out the riffraff and make it feel more inviting. I guess I would hate to see part of the light rail have a reputation like Chicago's red line. For example, no one really rides the red line past the south loop because the area south of the city is so bad only the people that live there ride it all the way to 95/Dan Ryan. As far as moving out the bad to bring in the good, I can see the south part of the line moving in that direction. Also, I feel that if the city is move north to expand it will help to do this along with the light rail.

Also I don't want to upset anyone by saying riff raff, what I mean is moving out the elements that would make the city feel unsafe and brings a bad image to Charlotte.

I think the Lynx extension will benefit Parkwood Ave. and Davidson St. more than North Tryon in the immediate area adjacent to Uptown. There's too many old industrial sites along Tryon and a wide freight railroad right-of-way in that area before you get to the LRT and that will be right along Parkwood Ave. by Optimist Park neighborhood. The freight railroad right-of-way will limit connectivity to Tryon. There's a homeless men shelter on College St. where it merges with Tryon St. under that railroad bridge, that's one of the reason North Tryon seems unsafe.

Edited by Shawn&Zae
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I think the Lynx extension will benefit Parkwood Ave. and Davidson St. more than North Tryon in the immediate area adjacent to Uptown. There's too many old industrial sites along Tryon and a wide freight railroad right-of-way in that area before you get to the LRT and that will be right along Parkwood Ave. by Optimist Park neighborhood. The freight railroad right-of-way will limit connectivity to Tryon. There's a homeless men shelter on College St. where it merges with Tryon St. under that railroad bridge, that's one of the reason North Tryon seems unsafe.

Do you think that the old industrial sites, if not used, will be converted into condos or apartments. That would bring a diversed developement to uptown.

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