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Charlotte's Light Rail: Lynx Blue Line

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why skip all of the stations? just serve them with the front two cars. play a warning message at 9th street (and a couple of stations before) that the 3rd car doors will not open after 9th street...either disembark or be prepared to ride to pineville and back.

I think that would be a poor use of an LRT vehicle that cost millions of dollars to purchase. Basically for half the trip it would not be used, but it would still get wear and tear from running down the tracks. I would equate that to building a dead end HOV lane on the interstate with no exits.

I just think that if they are going to run 3 car trains they need to have 3 car platforms.

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Indeed. CATS stacked the deck for this kind of traffic by doing 2 things:
  1. They offered up a great deal of free parking. In fact I would say they sacrificed other functions in order to pay for this parking.
  2. They changed some of the bus routes so that bus riders have to get onto the LRT in order to reach the CTC to make a transfer to another bus.
As I mentioned earlier this direction has had the effect of concentrating all of the traffic onto 3-4 stations which can get quickly overwhelmed since LRT isn't the best technology for commuter rail purposes. This is particularly disturbing since many of the stations usually have nobody at them. This could be mitigated by introducing a parking fee at the park and ride lots, and changing some of the bus routes to go directly to the CTC. This would remove the bottle necks, but then I think the ridership would fall off to levels that would subject the agency to criticism. It would however let the system start growing to serve it's intended purpose with was to provide local transit between stations.

What you are observing is a land use problem...not a LYNX problem. When we get more TOD built around the stations then you will see more local traffic. Increaseing fees for the use of parking is not going to create local traffic. During the rush hour they already insert trains at the New Bern station...so those that live in South End have the oppurtunity to get on an empty train at New Bern heading downtown. Hopefully what we will see is more office development along the line outside of downtown so that not everyone will be heading in the same direction.

Regarding the bus intergration: every other transit system does this? Why should CATS be the exception? By having some routes be feeders into the line instead of going all the way downtown allows CATS to make the most of LYNX and it's buses. CATS has a finite number of buses...if they were to be decoupled from LYNX and went all they way downtown then the service level would decrease since the same amount of buses would have to travel a much longer distance...meaning the buses would not come by as often. Not to mention that the CATS buses would basically be duplicating the LYNX service. If CATS were to take your advice and keep the same service level they would have to buy more buses to make it work.

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I am offering up explanations on why the system seems to already have issues with capacity when in reality it, as was so accurately pointed out above, the very similar cheaper Houston system is carrying 3X the number of daily riders and not having similar issues.

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^Exactly, the systems in Houston and Charlotte are similar...the big differences between the cities are in existing land use. That is why you have more people riding the Houston system. They do have packed standing room only trains....but they are not at either end of the line...they are in the middle at the Texas Medical Center. If Charlotte had similar land use to Houston along the LYNX line then I would expect similar ridership numbers. However the land use is very different here so I don't expect to get the same ridership numbers. The Texas Medical Center has the same amount of jobs as downtown Charlotte... in addition downtown Houston has more jobs than downtown Charlotte. There are more than twice the number of jobs along the Houston line than along the Charlotte line...and hence a much larger amount of people that are served by the rail....hence why more people ride the line in Houston.

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I am offering up explanations on why the system seems to already have issues with capacity when in reality it, as was so accurately pointed out above, the very similar cheaper Houston system is carrying 3X the number of daily riders and not having similar issues.

There isn't problems with capacity as far as daily ridership. The problems are with special events like Speed Street. I don't think most systems of relative comparison could have kept up service with the sort of ridership that Speed Street brought running only one line, unless if they had an alternative special events plan with altered service- such as what I had suggested LYNX and CATs would do a few pages back.

With all do respect, I'm having trouble understanding what argument you are trying to make with LYNX and it's connection to why we should charge to park, why bus transfers is a problem, and why most people are riding the majority of the length of the line when almost all TOD developments under construction aren't yet completed.

Edited by Andyc545

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^You also said that it was complete chaos, you almost broke your arm, and that you were concerned with the negative impression the lack of service would send to the general public.

I am not trying to start an argument. I am pointing out what happens when the LRT is improperly applied to situations that have better solutions elsewhere. As noted by many here, it fails horribly with dealing with burst traffic, but CATS priorities in building the system leads to attempts to utilize it for those very situations. I do think there were too many resources put into supporting the Park and Ride public. Resources that could have gone elsewhere.

You asked about logic. I would point out that to many, at least at the macro level, it would seem illogical to spend a 1/2 a billion dollars to construct an alternative transit system that gets most of its riders from car drivers. Houston is looked down on somewhat because they put their trains right in the public ROW, but in doing so, they also put the trains where people can get on the things without having to make a car trip first.

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Well yes in the context in which it was brought up. I think the biggest reason that Charlotte can't handle the traffic vs Houston is that the majority of users are getting on/off at 485 and getting off/on at the CTC & 7th Street. In other words, because it is being used primarily as a vehicle for free parking and bus xfers, all of the traffic is being concentrated at a very small number of stations and thus, the practical limits of the system are quickly reached.

I have not been to Houston so this is an assumption, but based on your comments and others, Houston's more urban system is being operated as a true alternative to the automobile and because of that, much of its traffic is getting around the city and not commuting/bus xfers. This would have the effect of spreading the traffic over a larger number of stations and thus they are carrying 3X the people.

This is a good description of Houston's line actually, as others have said the riders there are using it mainly as a convenience - after they have driven somewhere nearby in automobiles. It's line goes from downtown through the Medical Center and ends at the Astrodome. There is a zoo and a few cultural attractions along the way, but essentially the line does not serve urban dwellers, or pass through residential areas. There are suburban style apartment complexes in the vicinity of a few stops, but are in no way TOD, and are deceptively far away. Until it's line is extended to residential neighborhoods south of 610, it will remain a tool for drivers and event-goers [who drove]. Houston's line is not a good alternative to the automobile.

CLT's park and rides seem a similar concept but are generating less car travel due to distance from DT, and Lynx is actually used in lieu of automobiles for many (my impression anyway) and flows through what is or will be true urban/TOD geography.

Not to discredit Houston, but it's line was developed more as a novelty item for a large city that felt it needed to keep up with other large cities, and many protested it's funding not because they were anti-transit but because it's route and design didn't make much sense. In following CLT's Blue Line years ago while living in Houston I had the sense Charlotte was also vying for token big-city bragging rights, but in actually seeing and riding it it is a much different experience, and will actually be useful and blend in. I think that is due to the planned TOD zoning around it's path, the fact that there was available space for such development and that it actually connects residences with places of work.

Edited by nowensone

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^You also said that it was complete chaos, you almost broke your arm, and that you were concerned with the negative impression the lack of service would send to the general public.

This was during Speed Street. As I clearly stated, on a typical work week CATs has done a fine job adjusting to the influx of passengers to that originally projected. I stated during this particular event- where we likely saw record breaking numbers that are probably in the 5 to 10 times range of the regular ridership levels for those particular days, the system was not efficient enough to move all of the riders waiting at all of the stations. There were certainly things that should have been implemented to change this- I had made suggestions like running extra buses the length of the line and running trains at higher frequencies / staging. This isn't an every day thing but a special circumstance- that's why I suggested there being a Special Events Plan to implement operations more efficiently at these "off times". I still don't see what this had to do with charging for parking, the grin upon utilizing the line for bus xfers, etc at this point on LYNX and how implementing alternatives to what you stated above would help improve the operations of this system- which in turn of what you are saying, is limiting the riders to people living along the line (which we both know this has can't happen until our TOD developments are completed), people that can afford to pay to park their car in the deck, and people that will utilize the line for other purposes than commuting (sorry for the run-on sentence). I'm not arguing, I'm just trying to fully understand your perspective as it doesn't make much sense to me, as I have clearly acknowledged and recognized your other posts that I have both agreed and disagreed with.

You asked about logic. I would point out that to many, at least at the macro level, it would seem illogical to spend a 1/2 a billion dollars to construct an alternative transit system that gets most of its riders from car drivers. Houston is looked down on somewhat because they put their trains right in the public ROW, but in doing so, they also put the trains where people can get on the things without having to make a car trip first.

Where in Charlotte could you more effectivly place a mass transit line where you would gain a majority riders from walking/riding a bike rather than from cars in this year, 2008? The alternative would suggest continuing to build this city with a backbone of highways and roads for strict car use, rather than to start to construct "smartly" alternatives modes of transportation.

Edited by Andyc545

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Since the line has opened, and gas has risen $1 a gallon above already high prices... I cannot say that there has been any serious change in the utilization of Woodlawn, Tyvola or Archdale parking.

Tyvola has a large overflow lot next to South Blvd, which is often empty. Archdale is maybe 1/4 full.

I usually park at Arrowwood, which is perhaps 1/3 to 1/2 full most days. We know about the overcrowding at Sharon Lakes and 485 stations.

So I would say the ancedotal evidence to me is that the LRT is viewed mainly as a commuting alternative right now. It will take 5 years or so of transit-oriented infill before this pattern shifts. And even then - it'll be mostly from Scaleybark north where the LRT functions in an urban sense.

For what it's worth, there is an express bus stop just five minutes walk from my house. But I still drive to a LYNX station. The Express bus takes longer than the car/train combo (by about 10 minutes) and it runs on a limited schedule, while LYNX runs round-the-clock and is more flexible.

Edited by MZT

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I have ridden the Houston LRT from down town out to the end of the line near I-610. I would say it is built up with more density of offices (Texas Medical Center), housing, zoo, museum and football stadium. The big problem I have is it is in the street with traffic most of the way.

Edited by RiverwoodCLT

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One of the takeaways from Speed Street and other special Uptown events (CIAA, ACC, NFL) is that a single, newly opened, light rail line cannot handle--nor was it designed to handle--large special event traffic. The Lynx Blue Line was designed primarily (and rightly so) to accomodate the typical weekday commuter or TOD-dweller from S. Charlotte and South End to typical weekly activities along the line and jobs Uptown. Bottom line is you don't design a line like this for events that happen a handful of times per year... just does not make $ sense. Only when the other lines begin to open up and the system matures with more cars and boosted capacity from different parts of town into Uptown, will the system be able to better deal with larger volumes of traffic.

On a side note, someone from CATS told me that the state recently reimbursed CATS for a portion of the cost overruns on the Blue Line. Recall that the initial state FFGA--one of the few of its kind nationally--funded 25% of the costs of the project, supplemented by a 50% federal share. Of course, last year we found out that the overall project costs had escalated, and CATS had to fund the overruns out of it's local share, boosting it's contribution to about 30% IIRC. Apprently, the state has retroactively paid for the difference in a 25% share of the increase from $427 to $462M, or about $9M. FYI.

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One of the takeaways from Speed Street and other special Uptown events (CIAA, ACC, NFL) is that a single, newly opened, light rail line cannot handle--nor was it designed to handle--large special event traffic. The Lynx Blue Line was designed primarily (and rightly so) to accomodate the typical weekday commuter or TOD-dweller from S. Charlotte and South End to typical weekly activities along the line and jobs Uptown. Bottom line is you don't design a line like this for events that happen a handful of times per year... just does not make $ sense. Only when the other lines begin to open up and the system matures with more cars and boosted capacity from different parts of town into Uptown, will the system be able to better deal with larger volumes of traffic.

Well said. If this was the case, we would be looking at the Seattle Monorail - designed specifically for the World's Fair, and not nearly worthless for anything other than touristy stuff.

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Well said. If this was the case, we would be looking at the Seattle Monorail - designed specifically for the World's Fair, and not nearly worthless for anything other than touristy stuff.

Worthless? It's been running for almost 45 years and despite being only a mile or so long, manages to carry 2.5 million people year.

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Every single friend I have in Seattle forgets it even exists. It is not part of the average Seattle-ites life.

2.5 million tourists a year is fine, but intercity transit it is not. It's an amusement ride.

Edited by The Escapists

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Every single friend I have in Seattle forgets it even exists. It is not part of the average Seattle-ites life.

...

And you think the South LRT is part of the average Charlottean's life? If ridership is 14,000/day, and assuming these are mostly RTs, then that means about 7,000 people/day are using the line. That is not many in a metro area of 1.5M people.

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I'm average and I use it. Whenever possible, and sometimes when it doesn't even make sense.

And we used to have a moderator here who used to ride the Seattle monorail. He even posted a rather extensive photo thread of his travels on it. I would assume that he was average too.

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Okay fine. Semantics aside, I don't see how something that has one station at each end, and no stops between can be considered anything other than an amusement ride.

To bring this back to topic, I am glad that Charlotte has real rail transit that CAN be used for anything that the rider can customize it's use for (I brought a birthday cake from 6th St Harris Teeter to Greek Isles for my wife's birthday. I did this because it is very hard to ride a bike with a cake). Without the Lynx I would have been stuck.

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I saw that article in the O today and was pleased with the ridership numbers. One thing I am wondering about is how revenue has been. Last time I saw a story about ridership along with revenue there was a very large discrepency. Granted some is due to bus transfers and monthly passes, but there was a huge gap in revenue and expected revenue based on the number of people riding.

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Every single friend I have in Seattle forgets it even exists. It is not part of the average Seattle-ites life.

2.5 million tourists a year is fine, but intercity transit it is not. It's an amusement ride.

The monorail links Seattle's major shopping district with Seattle Center where Key Arena, Opera House, Memorial Stadium, etc. is located and many fairs and festivals take place. More than tourists use the monorail. I think what you are trying to get at is that it is not a commuter line. When I worked downtown, I only used it to get events at Seattle Center.

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Okay fine. Semantics aside, I don't see how something that has one station at each end, and no stops between can be considered anything other than an amusement ride.

Those stations happen to be in two of the major activity epicenters of Seattle. So no, it is not an amusement ride.

Edited by Sundodger

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I'm curious what the intense heat wave of the last few days has done to the Lynx ridership? Maybe there's been no change with gas prices near $4, but I can imagine that a few choice riders who maintain parking spaces Uptown might just forgo the wait at the station if it means a few more minutes in the cold A/C.

I can recall some discussion a few months back of the lack of good shelters from the wind and rain at the stations... but what about shade? It seems that shelter from the summer heat is much more relevant in the south, with the mild winters here. I've riden Lynx twice and at the south end stations, I can't recall there being much in the way of shade. Maybe planting some trees between the path and the platform would help a little... then again, maybe it's not perceived as much of a problem.

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I'm not in town this week to see it first hand, but I do really hope they are using the option to have people press the door open buttons, rather than constantly opening all doors. In conditions like this, it is very important to reduce the amount of mixing between the interior conditioned air and the exterior air. It is obviously going to happen some, but if they can reduce it, it will obviously help keep the train cooler.

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I have seen no discernible drop in ridership the past few days. Just as many people biking/walking to New Bern as before. The trains are kept very cool (almost to a fault).

During times of light ridership in the bottom of winter they did switch to (or were perhaps testing) closed doors. I thought it worked fine, maybe they'll do it again during other light ridership periods.

As to the foliage, I'm still waiting to see some movement to get trees into the planters on the South End platforms (Scaleybark to Carson) - they sure would be nice these days.

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Has anyone else noticed that the TVM's on the Blue Line seem to be working noticeably faster? Last night I purchased a ticket at the 7th St station TVM using my credit card and the whole transacation went through pretty quickly. No delay in response to me pushing the buttons and only a few seconds to process my card till the ticket came out the bottom. It really caught me by surprise.

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