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Charlotte's Light Rail: Lynx Blue Line


dubone

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....In comparison, what CATS and our City's Planning Dept. have absolutely done right is that they recognized in the late '90s, when they were planning a comprehensive mass transit system, that land-use planning was as important as the transporting of a rider from one end to the other. ......
By starting your post by equating criticism of CATS management of light rail, as a "failure to see the large picture", you either lack an understanding of what I have posted, or you have made the same mistake of criticizing their management with that of criticizing the decision to go to light rail.

First lets set the facts straight. I will remind you the decisions to make invoke a transit tax was a county commission decision, not that of the city of Charlotte and even today it's the county that controls that tax. In addition, CATS did not exist until AFTER the tax was created. Finally CATS is not supposed to develop transit policy in regards to the transit tax. That is the domain of the MTC. They control the tax and give and set priorities for CATS. In reality the MTC has done a poor job of requiring conditions on how CATS should spend their tax. Instead, CATS bungles through and is only responsible to the city manager and hence the Charlotte city council.

Second in regards to catylizing some sort of transit policy. The Charlotte city council has completely failed in this arena in that 1. they have not held CATS responsible for any metrics that anyone can measure on this matter. and 2. They abandoned their own transit and corridors plan that would have developed transit corridors that would have made rail more effective. Instead we have gotten the mess at NorthLake, the horrendous IKEA/Walmart development right on the transit line, and the Met which places a huge traffic burden outside one of these zones. This is the same city council that has been responsible for every bad urban planning decision made in Charlotte and one that definitely is not transit friendly. One only has to look at the developments approved after the tax was put in place despite assurances this would not happen. I am not sure how anyone could honestly say the city has done a good job of this or has placed a requirement on CATS for this. The in fact seem to operate in a complete vacuum. You have not given us any examples that would demonstrate otherwise.

Finally on your criticism of me for applauding the NCDOT on the work they do. I posted that in the context of comparisons to CATS. If you read through my posts on this site, you will see that many times I have suggested the NCDOT be broken up because in its present form it does not serve the needs of the cites. Furthermore I have also spoken many many times of the politics behind the NCDOT. It's a politics that most seem to ignore however when they vote in Charlotte instead choosing to vote on other more trivial reasons.

If you want to fill us in on the Large Picture, I am willing to listen but so far one has not been presented.

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I have anecdote type info as a daily LYNX rider/commuter regarding ridership, headways, etc.

- Park and Rides continue to look pretty full. Scaleybark looks 80%-90% to me on a normal day.

- I'm guessing many people gave up monthly parking spaces uptown, so switching back to driving (due to low gas or bigger headways) isn't necessarily simple or cost-effective.

- Bigger headways will irritate me, but having given up uptown parking, I won't switch back to driving.

- I usually ride at 6am and 3:30pm. In the past week I had occasion to ride at 7am and 4:30pm. I can't believe how crowded it is at those busier hours. I'm so happy I ride early. The 4:30pm was extreme. I got on at 3rd street (heading South) and everyone BARELY squeezed on to the single-car unit. I would think rush hours with bigger headways will make it worse.

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By starting your post by equating criticism of CATS management of light rail, as a "failure to see the large picture", you either lack an understanding of what I have posted, or you have made the same mistake of criticizing their management with that of criticizing the decision to go to light rail.

First lets set the facts straight. I will remind you the decisions to make invoke a transit tax was a county commission decision, not that of the city of Charlotte and even today it's the county that controls that tax. In addition, CATS did not exist until AFTER the tax was created. Finally CATS is not supposed to develop transit policy in regards to the transit tax. That is the domain of the MTC. They control the tax and give and set priorities for CATS. In reality the MTC has done a poor job of requiring conditions on how CATS should spend their tax. Instead, CATS bungles through and is only responsible to the city manager and hence the Charlotte city council.

Second in regards to catylizing some sort of transit policy. The Charlotte city council has completely failed in this arena in that 1. they have not held CATS responsible for any metrics that anyone can measure on this matter. and 2. They abandoned their own transit and corridors plan that would have developed transit corridors that would have made rail more effective. Instead we have gotten the mess at NorthLake, the horrendous IKEA/Walmart development right on the transit line, and the Met which places a huge traffic burden outside one of these zones. This is the same city council that has been responsible for every bad urban planning decision made in Charlotte and one that definitely is not transit friendly. One only has to look at the developments approved after the tax was put in place despite assurances this would not happen. I am not sure how anyone could honestly say the city has done a good job of this or has placed a requirement on CATS for this. The in fact seem to operate in a complete vacuum. You have not given us any examples that would demonstrate otherwise.

Finally on your criticism of me for applauding the NCDOT on the work they do. I posted that in the context of comparisons to CATS. If you read through my posts on this site, you will see that many times I have suggested the NCDOT be broken up because in its present form it does not serve the needs of the cites. Furthermore I have also spoken many many times of the politics behind the NCDOT. It's a politics that most seem to ignore however when they vote in Charlotte instead choosing to vote on other more trivial reasons.

If you want to fill us in on the Large Picture, I am willing to listen but so far one has not been presented.

Sorry Monsoon.... I think I understand less about your above statement than your previous.

However, I didn't misunderstand your criticism of CATS. You mentioned that you were frustrated with the fact that they did not build the north corridor when they could have. Got it.

While we're setting facts straight....

I did not suggest that the City was responsible for introducing the tax. However, the effort was led by Charlotte Mayor Pat McRory.

I did not suggest that CATS existed prior to the sales tax. Not sure where you got that.

I did not suggest that CATS developed transit policy (did you mean land-use policy?). Either way, I was referring to the Planning Dept. when discussing land-use. What CATS and Planning both understood was that the two go hand-in-hand.

I do not understand the following....

Second in regards to catylizing some sort of transit policy. The Charlotte city council has completely failed in this arena in that 1. they have not held CATS responsible for any metrics that anyone can measure on this matter.

Please elaborate.

This I really don't understand....

Furthermore I have also spoken many many times of the politics behind the NCDOT. It's a politics that most seem to ignore however when they vote in Charlotte instead choosing to vote on other more trivial reasons.

Thanks.

FYI all. Just received this from CATS regarding the closing at Carson Station....

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jean Leier (704) 432-0496

CONSTRUCTION TO AFFECT LYNX BLUE LINE SERVICE THIS SUNDAY

Charlotte, N.C., December 17, 2008 - On Sunday, December 21, from 6:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., the LYNX Blue Line will not operate north of the Carson Light Rail Station due to construction of a pedestrian bridge in Center City. The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) will provide free connecting buses that will operate between the Carson Light Rail Station and the Charlotte Transportation Center (CTC)/Arena Station during this time.

If you are travelling southbound on the LYNX Blue Line Sunday morning and early afternoon, please board the connecting bus on Brevard Street at the Charlotte Transportation Center or on Brevard Street at Martin Luther King Boulevard in front of the AT&T building. Please arrive five minutes earlier than the published rail schedule to catch the bus to Carson Street Station.

For commuters travelling northbound on Sunday during this time, you can board the connecting bus on Carson Street for travel back into Center City. The bus will terminate at the CTC/Arena Station.

There is no charge to ride the connecting bus service. However, passengers will be required to have a valid ticket, transfer or pass while riding the LYNX Blue Line. Passengers can purchase light rail tickets from the ticket vending machines located at any light rail station. Passengers with exact change will be allowed to purchase transfers good for light rail travel on the free bus service that is being provided.

CATS

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Anyone know what/where this pedestrian bridge is going to be constructed?

From what I understand, the Pedestrian Bridge in question will be constructed along side the train bridge over 277 to Stonewall Station. I'm not sure how much construction will be necessary for the pedestrian bridge currently there is about 6 feet of gravel on either side of the tracks. I'm pretty excited about the pedestrian bridge, this has always been a place that I have wanted to take pictures from.

Here is the bridge,

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&...1&encType=1

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From what I understand, the Pedestrian Bridge in question will be constructed along side the train bridge over 277 to Stonewall Station. I'm not sure how much construction will be necessary for the pedestrian bridge currently there is about 6 feet of gravel on either side of the tracks. I'm pretty excited about the pedestrian bridge, this has always been a place that I have wanted to take pictures from.

This is great! I am constantly trying to find a way to cross from Uptown to South End by bike. It's never fun, and always treacherous. I've been taking College, but that's against traffic. No matter how I look at it though, there will never be a passage through the Convention Center, so the idea of riding alongside the Lynx the whole way is out.

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No matter how I look at it though, there will never be a passage through the Convention Center.

That really is too bad.

I love the prospects of this pedestrian bridge, by paralleling the blue line, it really is a great way for the city to save money and reclaim some of the limited access to downtown.

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I am definitely not an expert in bridge construction, but wouldnt a ped bridge crossing 277 require longer than a 6 hour disruption? Could this be in reference to the ped bridge that is part of Center City Green?

For the record, I am also extremely excited for the bridge over 277. I used to work for a company in the bottom of the Grandview building and would cross the highway walking beside the Trolley tracks (Pre-light rail obviously).

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I am definitely not an expert in bridge construction, but wouldnt a ped bridge crossing 277 require longer than a 6 hour disruption? Could this be in reference to the ped bridge that is part of Center City Green?

For the record, I am also extremely excited for the bridge over 277. I used to work for a company in the bottom of the Grandview building and would cross the highway walking beside the Trolley tracks (Pre-light rail obviously).

It does say for the construction of a ped bridge in Center City...

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Y'all if it were a ped bridge over 277 we'd all know about it by now. It would be big news in the O and on the various local networks. This is just the bridge at Center City Green. The only reason they are stopping the trains at Carson Street is because that's where the first set of track switches south of CCG are located.

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The 277 crossing is not abandoned, but I wouldn't expect to see that one to happen for a long time.

I thought there were track switches between every station? That's really surprising that there wouldn't be any at all between Carson and CTC.

Yes, except in Center City where the only one is at 7th Street station.

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Widening the rail bridge was abandoned. However, the cause has been taken up by the city and they plan a series of projects which will dramatically improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity across 277. It was removed from the Lynx project because of budget cuts, and it was not part of the core mission of the rail line. Now that the light rail construction is completed, it will not be nearly impossible to widen the actual rail bridge without interupting transit operation.

Firstly, there is the massive rebuilding of the South Blvd bridge, which includes very wide sidewalks protected by a barrier and proper sidewalks connecting them to Carson/Lexington (a new intersection goes there, and nice streetscape next to the Y) and Stonewall/Caldwell/Brevard (new streetscape along each).

Secondly, the city plans to improve sidewalks on each of the bridges west of the Lynx (College, Tryon, Church) as well as Mint, which goes under 277. Tryon will be reduced here to one lane per direction and will get very wide sidewalks. College and Church will get modest improvements to the sidewalk width and streetscape.

Thirdly, the city's Center City Transportation Plan calls for an eventual street bridge to extend Euclid to Stonewall, connecting either to Davidson or Alexander. This will eventually be built, and will be planned to serve pedestrians and automobiles and provide a very convenient crossing for Dilworth and 2nd Ward residents.

Fourthly, the city has a longer term plan to build an iconic pedestrian bridge that will diagonally connect the current Lynx pedestrian path to College Street by the Westin. While it is unfunded, it was very well received during public meetings and will like be built unless there is some success in the freeway cap plans (which are highly unlikely within a decade). As you can't get through the convention center anyway, connecting the Lynx path in SouthEnd to College would be very practical for the routes the most walkers/bikers would take.

Lastly, as just mentioned, there are a number of brainstorm ideas for creating either a development or a park that caps part of the freeway in this area. Either cap plan would be very expensive and would be unlikely but possible and would replace the plans for an iconic bridge and possibly some other plans depending on the approach.

So while the simple widening of the rail bridge is dead, it caused the city to do a much more comprehensive analysis of connectivity across Belk Freeway, and to create multiple projects that when complete will be much more beneficial for than the original project.

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  • 2 weeks later...

CATS is planning to require people to purchase a ticket before they are allowed onto the train platforms. I don't really have a problem with this, since there are many "sealed" transit systems in the world (although most of them are subways), but from a design standpoint it seems counter intuitive. The platforms are designed to be part of the bikeway, they interact with walkways to the Epicentre and CTC, they are part of Reids, Levecchias, Imagineon... do these areas become offlimits for people unless they are using the train? It just seems unnecessary. If they wanted a sealed system, they should have designed it that way from the beginning. I'm sure it won't be that big of deal, just counter intuitive, like I said.

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CATS is planning to require people to purchase a ticket before they are allowed onto the train platforms. I don't really have a problem with this, since there are many "sealed" transit systems in the world (although most of them are subways), but from a design standpoint it seems counter intuitive. The platforms are designed to be part of the bikeway, they interact with walkways to the Epicentre and CTC, they are part of Reids, Levecchias, Imagineon... do these areas become offlimits for people unless they are using the train? It just seems unnecessary. If they wanted a sealed system, they should have designed it that way from the beginning. I'm sure it won't be that big of deal, just counter intuitive, like I said.

I think its something that's being tested for times when checking tickets on the trains isn't a practical option (read: too full). And they're only implementing this system on certain platforms this weekend, all of which can easily have controlled access set up (485, Stonewall, 3rd, CTC)

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CATS is planning to require people to purchase a ticket before they are allowed onto the train platforms. I don't really have a problem with this, since there are many "sealed" transit systems in the world (although most of them are subways), but from a design standpoint it seems counter intuitive. The platforms are designed to be part of the bikeway, they interact with walkways to the Epicentre and CTC, they are part of Reids, Levecchias, Imagineon... do these areas become offlimits for people unless they are using the train? It just seems unnecessary. If they wanted a sealed system, they should have designed it that way from the beginning. I'm sure it won't be that big of deal, just counter intuitive, like I said.

While its my understanding that ticket checking on platforms is only in unusual cases I am a little concerned that, at many stations, you may need to walk from one end of the platform to the other to purchase a ticket. While I am not particularly worried about getting a fine for walking to the E-W station from the South side entrance, I am concerned that this will make enforcement less effective (and perhaps pointless).

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CATS should bite the bullet and convert the stations to controlled access or at least the stations where there is a lot of traffic. If they manage to get the money to refit the stations to handle 3 car trains, then they ought to include this conversion. CATs also during this refit should look at their stations as retail opportunities. They could make a lot of money by renting space to vendors and/or vending machines. Seems like a huge opportunity lost.

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