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Charlotte's Light Rail: Lynx Blue Line


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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.

I agree, seems odd. I feel like there's another reason for it... like giving them more leeway to remove loiterers and troublemakers from the platform. I wonder how strictly it will be enforced. I guess it does make sense for when there's a big crowd from an event...

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Just some before and after photos of the view of uptown and the blue line from 11th street. Definitely a big difference!

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Except for those peak and relatively rare periods, the current ticketing system works just fine; the current ticketing rate that has been reported is <1% and anecdotal evidence has given me no reason to doubt that figure. There are far, far more things I would rather see CATS spend money on, and as it is I think the open platforms will be able to, over time, more successfully integrate into neighborhoods than a closed platform would. Especially for stations along the LRT path, I can't fathom how destructive barriers around the stations would be.

Would a closed system provide some benefit to vendors that the open system lacks? Would rental fees really offset the costs of maintenance on expensive turnstile systems? And the ticket checkers also work in the capacity of security, security which would not go away so you aren't necessarily reducing the required manpower.

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....Would a closed system provide some benefit to vendors that the open system lacks?
They need the money for a refit to make vendor space available. The space would be outside the turnstiles
Would rental fees really offset the costs of maintenance on expensive turnstile systems?
If there a lot of people using LYNX then there is a huge opportunity to make money to help offset CATS costs. Any opportunity should be taken since CATS wastes too much money and there is essentially no external oversight to hold them responsible for it.
And the ticket checkers also work in the capacity of security, security which would not go away so you aren't necessarily reducing the required manpower.
I fully expect that a closed system will take more labor to operate. However it will free up staff to handle needs at each station.

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A closed system also gives them the ability to charge based on travel. A commuter from 485 could be charged more than someone going between stations in downtown. Right now it is simply too expensive to get on the train say at 3rd street and ride it 7th street on a casual basis.

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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.

I agree about allowing vending machines and similar retail activity at the stations. I would also love to see advertising on the trains, buses and at the stations (bus and train). I always enjoy the advertisements in cities like Chicago. Considering the fact that CATS is facing an uphill battle on finances, I would think this should be an easy decision.

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I think it would be great to have a few small newspaper stand/snack type of places along the busier stations on the line. I'm sure at the 485 station morning commuters would love a place to grab a paper and a bagel. Its still tough though, at the density we have here, to base a business solely on transit traffic. Maybe vending machines are the best start.

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I agree about allowing vending machines and similar retail activity at the stations. I would also love to see advertising on the trains, buses and at the stations (bus and train). I always enjoy the advertisements in cities like Chicago. Considering the fact that CATS is facing an uphill battle on finances, I would think this should be an easy decision.

I also agree. Vending machines would do quite well at stations however I'm thinking CATs is against it to try and eliminate spills and wrappers dirtying the stations and trains, with their enforced open drink rule. I have always said that a coffee shop needs to open in or near the 485 station deck or in front of it, but I'm sure for the same reasons CATs is hesitant. It seems the trains do have advertising, although it's limiting, it's there. I wouldn't be against seeing some at the stations if done right, though. I think CATs should reconsider advertising to help offset some the 1/2 cent tax that has been lost due to the economy.

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Neo according to the details about what they plan to do for the station expansions, it appears that they do plan advertising/information pillars. I agree that that is a very cool thing to do as long as they have decently high standards on the advertising quality.

Our urban 'powers that be' (CATS, CCCP, and the City Council) have generally been anti-advertising, as seen in the ad-free busses, stations, etc. I heard once that CCCP turned down a self-funded offer to put up aesthetically pleasing advertising pillars along Tryon that would have cubbies to distribute all those magazines and papers to replace the massive bunches of magazine/paper stands that are all over downtown. They were supposedly turned down because of 'visual clutter' as if the current state isn't visual clutter enough. Furthermore, we already have negative urban clutter in much of this city why not some clutter that reminds people more of real urban cities, pedestrian-oriented advertising!

On the subject of a closed system, I think it may be a decent final outcome, but I think we have a lot more pertinent investments to make before we try that. This plan is an excellent interim for high volume events to increase ticketing of deadbeats. In times where it is not at capacity, however, the marginal cost of a deadbeat rider is very little so random ticket checking seems appropriate versus spending all that money in a losing battle to try to keep people out. I like the openness of this system and I have been in many cities internationally that do it that way, too.

Also, keep in mind that alongside the light rail line is a pedestrian corridor. If you don't let people pass through the station, the you limit pedestrian connectivity in a number of areas, especially downtown.

I'm for it eventually, if it is implemented well, but I do think that there are better things to spend money on. Hey, maybe we can even leapfrog current ideas and use new tech. They can maybe use RFID-like tickets or those little metal stickers they put on stuff to prevent shoplifting. They could either trip a silent or audible alarm when someone walks on the train without one (the opposite implementation of the shoplifting things) or else use it in conjunction with that existing camera-based ridership counters and whenever the ticket to riders ratio dips too low, they can put a security guy on the train or something. That way, existing resources can just patrol the trains with the most offenders.

Again, because the marginal costs of deadbeats are low in non-peak hours, I am fine with some degree of non-payers, as long as we still write a decent number of tickets to help cover some of that lost revenue.

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.....

Also, keep in mind that alongside the light rail line is a pedestrian corridor. If you don't let people pass through the station, the you limit pedestrian connectivity in a number of areas, especially downtown. .....

Yes this was another very bad decision in the design. It means a 25 mph speed limit in the parts of the track where this exists, (more than 2 miles) which means this train line is always going to be crippled capacity wise. In practice, the trains crawl through downtown at a ridiculously slow rate. Part of the the controlled access redesign which, BTW, I am saying to do when the stations are rebuilt to handle 3 carriages, should be to eliminate this deficiency.
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As a daily rider, I don't feel like the trains move too slowly near/in uptown. I do get a little annoyed seeing the train stop at Carson street for nobody to get on or off.

Whenever the Simpson's lighting site and TV14 parking lots get redeveloped, I suppose this will change.

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Yes this was another very bad decision in the design. It means a 25 mph speed limit in the parts of the track where this exists, (more than 2 miles) which means this train line is always going to be crippled capacity wise. In practice, the trains crawl through downtown at a ridiculously slow rate. Part of the the controlled access redesign which, BTW, I am saying to do when the stations are rebuilt to handle 3 carriages, should be to eliminate this deficiency.

Ha! The parallel sidewalk along the line is present in areas that they go quite fast too, south of Tremont. The real reason for the slower pace north of Tremont is the many crossings and frequency of stations are the reasons for the slower speed not the parallel sidewalk allowing people to walk or bike between stations. Maybe you didn't realize I was saying 'pedestrian corridor' to refer to that path, but I am not sure then what interpretation of 'pedestrian corridor' would be something that would get an assessment of 'very bad decision in the design' on an urbanist discussion board.

Now, I do understand your separate point, although it is a tangential, that had they made it entirely controlled access with bridges over every crossing they could operate the train differently. But still the only way they could go faster in SouthEnd and Uptown is to remove stations. That, of course, creates a trade-off, with the train then being more focused on getting end to end faster for commuters than to provide useful service for transit-oriented lifestyles in the denser neighborhoods in the center of the city. They obviously weighed their options during design and added more center city stations, saved the capital cost of miles and miles of bridges, yet still maintained an end to end timing that is competitive with drive times and clearly supportive of commuters.

While I absolutely agree with the idea of zone based fares (the true meaning of fare zones, not what CATS is using now), I think that that is doable also in the current system without expensively closing the stations down. It would just be that you have a zone 1 ticket rather than a zone 2 or 3 ticket, and if you are caught outside your zone with that ticket it would be the same as not having one. Simple as that. I bet they didn't bother to implement that as it would be a bit more confusing for buying a ticket, and the line is too short to make the added complexity worth while. However, perhaps when more of the full plan is implemented, it might make sense to do this so that eventually.

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I think too much is being made of the fare zones and the implications.....it is simply an area you can't loiter in without a ticket....if you are walking through, you won't be bothered. It is designed to check fares at crowded stations before they get on the train when the trains are too full to effectively check. A major point by CATS that it would be descretionary and not a "gotcha" tactic.

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I think too much is being made of the fare zones and the implications.....it is simply an area you can't loiter in without a ticket....if you are walking through, you won't be bothered. It is designed to check fares at crowded stations before they get on the train when the trains are too full to effectively check. A major point by CATS that it would be descretionary and not a "gotcha" tactic.

Agreed. I see it like alcohol policy in parks. It isn't permitted, but if you are having a picnic with a glass of wine or a beer, and have it in a cup, they don't do anything. The policy is there to use when necessary or if people are getting out of hand.

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I think too much is being made of the fare zones and the implications........
I am not sure what you are talking about. I am referring to the concept of changing to system to a closed one if the stations are going to be rebuilt anyway to handle 3 carriages. The advantage of this, aside from the obvious deficiency of getting rid of the ride leechers is that it lets them establish usage based pricing that most modern transit systems in the world use. i.e. the people riding in from the suburbs will pay more than the people using it for local travel. They could also get rid of the really bad 1980s vintage type of ticketing they are using now.
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I am not sure what you are talking about. I am referring to the concept of changing to system to a closed one if the stations are going to be rebuilt anyway to handle 3 carriages. The advantage of this, aside from the obvious deficiency of getting rid of the ride leechers is that it lets them establish usage based pricing that most modern transit systems in the world use. i.e. the people riding in from the suburbs will pay more than the people using it for local travel. They could also get rid of the really bad 1980s vintage type of ticketing they are using now.

As I read it he is just saying some, doesn't seem to be you, are making too big a deal about what the new policy for having a ticket on the platform will be like. Just implying that suddenly anyone walking on the platform without a ticket won't be deemed worthy of being ticketed by the ticket cops. In other words a whole lot won't likely change unless there are loiterer problems, then the rule can be enforced.

Edited by Charlotte_native
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I went uptown last night for dinner and rode in on the light rail. The trains emptying at 485 were full of business men and women getting off of work, and then on the ride up the trains were quite full with people going to watch the BCS Championship downtown.

On the way in I did notice that after about Carson station the train was going unusually slow, even for this stretch of track. At one point we actually stopped briefly in the middle of an intersection, and then again right after the bridge over 277. On the way out after dinner it seemed significantly faster between stations and we didn't make any unscheduled stops at all.

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I drove in from Raleigh Saturday, picked up near University City my son and his girlfriend who are UNC Charlotte students, and headed uptown. We parked in the Reid's parking deck on 7th Street (only $5 for the day), and walked over to Time Warner Cable Arena for the 1 pm Checkers game. After the game we went back to the car and picked up all the ponchos we brought for the rain, went to 7th Street Station and brought three roundtrips (gambling I guess that that the Panthers game would not go into O/T the signage clearly stated the R/Ts expired at midning, not at end of the days service at 1 am or so) (why?). We thought taking the light rail would be fun (they had never ridden), plus it meant if there was rain pre or post Panthers game we would have less time walking in the rain. We took the train to 3rd Street and had dinner, then walked to BoA stadium. After the game, we walked to the closest station, Stonewall, and walked up the outside stairs. Security asked for our tickets before we could get to the platform (the new fare zone rules), so we dug them out (what if we did not have them, How could we buy them if we could not get on the platform to get to the TVMs)(Maybe they would let you on the platform if you said you were going to buy a ticket?)

Then we crossed the platform to take the inbound train back to 7th Street where my car was. There were about 50 people at the station waiting to go inbound, about 100 waiting to go outbound. At 11:39, an empty inbound train passed through the station without stopping. I asked the security why the 50 people were left standing in the station. He said the train was "out of service". I began to realize that, to save time, the train was not stopping to pick up inbound passengers so it could get to 7th Street to take outbound passengers. This seemed like pretty poor customer service to me. We waited about 6 more minutes and another train came that was taking inbound passengers.

Now, most of the people at Stonewall were going to an uptown destination, which obviously could not be more than six blocks away, a few were planning to take the train in to stay on it and take it outbound without waiting in the crowd on the outbound platform. We were all paying customers (which means those going inbound to go out would in theory have to have an all day pass or be on the first leg of a round trip)

Any thoughts on whether the "out of service" train should have been picking up passengers inbound?

Oh, the best part of the Panthers game was exiting with 3 minutes left, on the ramps down from the 500 level one guy began shouting "Obama fix the Panthers"

Edited by staffer
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^ That is surprising, actually. I've not seen an out of service train on the tracks unless they're testing. I can't think of any reason they couldn't have been carrying passengers to 7th street.

On a different note, this weekend premiered a new time of arrival announcement system. The message boards now give interval updates as to the next train's arrival. From what I have seen thus far, the board announces when the next train arrives as soon as one leaves the station (ie, 7 minutes at rush hour), and then again at 4 and 2 minutes. There may be other intervals, I just haven't seen them.

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^ That is surprising, actually. I've not seen an out of service train on the tracks unless they're testing. I can't think of any reason they couldn't have been carrying passengers to 7th street.

On a different note, this weekend premiered a new time of arrival announcement system. The message boards now give interval updates as to the next train's arrival. From what I have seen thus far, the board announces when the next train arrives as soon as one leaves the station (ie, 7 minutes at rush hour), and then again at 4 and 2 minutes. There may be other intervals, I just haven't seen them.

Saturday night (when they added extra service for the rush exiting the Panthers game) when the empty train inbound that passed us by at 11:39, the new interval message board said the next train inbound train would be in 19 minutes (which was probably the correct info for a normal Saturday night), which caused the inbound passengers to be upset at the announced wait, but as mentioned the next train came in six minutes (probably both the empy train and the train that picked us up were both added and not on the schedule)

Edited by staffer
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Saturday night (when they added extra service for the rush exiting the Panthers game) when the empty train inbound that passed us by at 11:39, the new interval message board said the next train inbound train would be in 19 minutes (which was probably the correct info for a normal Saturday night), which caused the inbound passengers to be upset at the announced wait, but as mentioned the next train came in six minutes (probably both the empy train and the train that picked us up were both added and not on the schedule)

It would be worth the efforts, for the sole purpose of using the system more effectively and supplying better customer service for them to create several programmed time intervals for plug-and-play use depending on the day, time, and special events schedule. That way if there is a big game or event- they override the current times programmed instantaneously. I'd imagine the command center has the capabilities of quickly transmitting data down to the stations.

While typing, I was just thinking about another possible worthwhile investment for LYNX and the discussion regarding advertising. With LCD screens at low prices now, they should purchase some LCD TV's for the stations that suit a multi-purpose of displaying status messages on the line for arrivals of trains, possibly a full grid schedule for view, information for accessing additional information on your mobile device (which will hopefully have some web based applications be implemented by CATs), and then the source of income: Advertising.

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Well no surprise here..but CATS has selected to stick with the NC RR route for the NE Extention around Sugar Creek.

Reminder of the public meetings tonight and Thursday.

-Study findings and recommendations for Sugar Creek and North Carolina Railroad alignment alternatives (This recommendation will be presented to City Council and the Metropolitan Transit Commission for approval.)

-Station site plans for the 13 proposed BLE stations

-Historic resources identified within the project study area

The same information will be presented at both meetings. Meetings are held from 6:00 - 8:00 PM.

January 13, 2009

Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church

101 W Sugar Creek Rd

Charlotte, NC

January 15, 2009

Oasis Shriners Center

604 Doug Mayes Place

Charlotte, NC

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New station changes will also be shared at the meetings tonight and Thursday. Here's a quick summary of key changes:

16th is now "Parkwood" at Brevard

36th is now on the Tryon side of RR, or other side of the tracks from NoDA

Eastway is now "Old Concord Road," but only slightly moved from LPA

City Blvd and Harris/N. Tryon (was actually at Ken Hoffman), previously two stations, are now consolidated into just "McCullough"

University City is now called "JW Clay" (not really a significant change but clears up confusion with UNCC and McCullough stations)

"Mallard Creek Church" is now closer to Stone Quarry Rd than N. Tryon

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