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Charlotte's Light Rail: Lynx Blue Line


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Fortunately, I am familiar enough with the bus system to have any inkling of what that meant, even though my companions had no idea. As it turns out, I didn't entirely know either. Bay "V", as is the case of every bay after "U", does not get any kind of wayfinding signage in the CTC. That is, we had no idea where to find V. It's on Brevard street, outside of the CTC, and not really signed at all.

rth, they could have had actual signage to Bay V.

Uhg. Sorry, venting. Should probably be doing this on the CATS feedback form.

I ran into this same problem when taking the Airport Sprinter since it takes off from Bay V which is hidden and not signed. I submitted a response to CATS a few months ago and no action has been taken yet. I am seriously thinking about speaking in front of the TSAC (Transit Services Advisory Cmte) where you basically have to shame CATS management into action. Or you can also speak in front of the MTC.

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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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Considering I've ridden 2X... which is still 2X too many. I didn't even know you had to pay for it until a friend told me... Live in Gastonia - senior in highschool. Don't get to uptown to often. Will on Friday, though. Takin' lightrail from Woodlawn.

How did you think that the lightrail operated? How could you possibly think the ride was free? Sorry but it appears that your school isn't doing a very good job.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Based on my limited observation (passing through at 12:30 and 2:30) there was much more traffic at Stonewall station today than usual -- I suspect due to the Bechtler opening.

Hopefully the completion of the cultural campus, combined with Duke moving into the new tower will generate significantly heavier lynx use at the South end of downtown.

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Interesting problem this morning. I just missed the 6:30 out of 485 (which appeared to be on time), so was waiting for the 6:40 to arrive. It finally pulled *in* around probably 6:48.

The 6:40 driver is the jolly caucasian guy (Happy Santa, as I call him). He seemed harried, and hurried to the other end of the train and got moving almost immediately, but we're still probably almost 10 minutes late at that point. I was close to the cab in the 2nd car, so I could hear the radio chatter.

Turns out the switches just outside the 485 station were not working, and it just happened right before Happy Santa got there. He apparently had to get out and operate them himself. Then, on our way out of the station, he had to get out again (twice?), and operate them again, to get us on the correct northbound tracks. (By the time all this happened, I'm sure we were 12 or so minutes late, and there was of course another train waiting to get into 485.)

All the while, the radio was alive with the dispatcher/controller directing traffic, telling trains where to stop, giving authorization to go through red lights, directing switching procedures, etc. All in all, it sounded like the dispatcher/controller did a great job, as well as the drivers. It sounded like the drivers had to keep doing this for a train or so, until a few minutes later personnel arrived to do the manual switching (so the drivers didn't have to). Sounded like they had 4 or 5 people out there, one on each switch. And by the time we got uptown, I think the problem was fixed and they were back to automatic switching.

Happy Santa was very apologetic all the way uptown, and tried his best to make up time by opening/closing the doors very quickly at each stop.

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They must have gotten it working by the time I was headed to work, because everything seemed to be running on time.

I also wanted to comment that I know exactly which operator you're talking about. He's one of those guys that you can tell really loves his job

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I've never thought of him as the Santa guy... but I know who you're talking about. He gets confused sometimes telling us whether we're on the northbound or southbound train, LOL

Two others that are recognizable are the younger sounding driver that cajoles people to "watch out for the doors" in a happy-sounding voice. Another one with a "black" voice is tougher on passengers to "hurry up and get in" - and he'll turn on the exterior megaphone too, and warn people not to smoke on the platform or cross in front of the train.

Edited by MZT
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"watch out for the doors" in a happy-sounding voice.

"Watch the closing dawz" (don't know how to spell Brooklyn-ese).

I used to take the D train from Brooklyn every day into Manhattan. The "Dynamite D" they called it. Every stop the morning guy would open the doors with "have a great [insert D word here] day.

Have a dynamite day, have a delicious day, etc. etc. It was great.

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Is the santa guy the one that used to work on the trolley? If so, a large art installation at the foot of some stairs in the TWC Arena features him in his trolley conductor outfit. It makes sense that he would have shifted over to the light rail as a career boost when the trolley operations were downsized.

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At one point in the late summer, Happy Santa was giving the weather outlook as we left 485 station. Hilarious.

There's one guy that, as we start to reach to uptown stations, often urges "please....make sure you have all your belongings". He'll also urge people on full platforms to "step all the way into the car".

My least favorite is Grumpy White Guy. He's EXTREMELY professional about the job, but sometimes scolds people for having anything audible (phone, MP3, etc) and reminding to use headphones. Twice I've heard him threaten to stop the train. He used to be really good about announcing all the bus transfers, but I think he tired of that.

In other news, LYNX totally changed the design of the monthly (and weekly) passes as of Jan 1. I was talking to a fare inspector (the Lou Gosset one), and he said that the inspectors weren't informed of it, at all. He said the first time he saw the new monthly one, he thought the passenger was trying to pull one on him. Ha.

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I've thought for quite a while that the monthly passes needed a redesign. The 2008 and 2009 ones looked so much the same month-to-month. I figured they'd start alternating colors monthly like many cities do with bus passes - but it looks like they're sticking with the dark green, just making the month of the pass a larger font.

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  • 2 weeks later...

On Monday's City Council agenda is an item to purchase 4 more LRT vehicles for the Blue Line.

The good thing is that CATS will be getting these LRT's at the 2005 prices ($1M cheaper per car than 2008 prices). The bad thing is that it will take about 2 years before these new LRT's will be delivered to CATS.

When the 4 new cars arrive LYNX will have a rolling stock of 20 vehicles.

My how time flies. The first of the four new transit vehicles is en route, with a brief stop in Atlanta. All four will be delivered by the end of March.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Let it be known, from the last CTAG meeting:

Several fare blitzes, the last one being in August 2009, have been held in an effort to insure riders are paying the required fare. The August blitz was conducted between the hours of 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm at both CTC and 3rd Street stations. Only 14 passengers out of more than 2,600 passengers checked were found to be without valid tickets. These results are consistent with the results of the previous blitzes conducted. Similar light rail systems in the country report that –on average – their rate of fare evasion is estimated to be between 2 and 10%. In 2010, staff plans to conduct 4 fare blitzes, some unannounced.

I wish CATS would be more public with these results to try and halt some really unjustified criticism about "people riding for free"

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As long as they keep 90+% paying, I personally don't care if the marginal people ride for free. But at those rates, it is especially fine, since the fines from those 14 people covered themselves and hundreds of other freeloaders, and it didn't cost CATS hardly any extra electricity to carry them.

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Interesting Transport Politic article out today:

"... the FTA will now be able to fund rail and bus lines that would have been automatically eliminated last year under the cost-effectiveness index, based on travel-time savings, and it will be able to fund a larger number of projects overall because of increasing local contributions ..... Cities that have received a full-funding grant agreement (FFGA), which ensures a stable federal financing source throughout a project’s construction period, scored well on most evaluation points, including local financial commitment and project justification ratings. For the first time since 2005, however, projects that received less than a “medium” score on the cost-effectiveness index moved forward as well. This is a consequence of a policy change announced last month by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood that encourages the implementation of transit programs that do more than reduce travel time — as the cost-effectiveness index emphasizes — but also encourage livability through associated development and general lifestyle choices ... Based on their current scores and their place in the FTA New Starts process timeline, five projects are likely to be awarded FFGAs in next year’s report: Charlotte’s Northeast Corridor light rail, Houston’s University Corridor light rail, the BART Silicon Valley extension, and Portland’s Milwaukie and Columbia River Crossing light rail projects."

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^Hey! How about that for a shoutout, huh!

I wonder if the new guidelines would allow the project to be phased. I know that the ridership numbers (the largest coming from UNCC) dictated that the only way to meet the numbers would be to build the whole. But if land use and livability trumps the actual ridership numbers, there could be a case for phasing.

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My how time flies. The first of the four new transit vehicles is en route, with a brief stop in Atlanta. All four will be delivered by the end of March.

Does this mean we will see them using more 2 train sets instead of just 1 train? Sometimes it gets too crowded with 1 train car. Also, great news about the new guidelines. I hope this means the Northeast extension will remain on schedule.

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Does this mean we will see them using more 2 train sets instead of just 1 train? Sometimes it gets too crowded with 1 train car. Also, great news about the new guidelines. I hope this means the Northeast extension will remain on schedule.

I don't KNOW anything, but I doubt it. They seem to purposely go to 1 car at (what they think are) off-peak times, presumably to save on electricity. I can't that having more cars available would change that.

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^A major risk to phasing could be having to compete against other cities more than once for the Feds' awarding of funds (more than one FFGA) at a time when that funding pot doesn't seem to be growing.

Granted, with the changing rules, qualifying for funding is now easier. However, without a corresponding increase to the New Starts pot, actually being awarded funding is now harder. That's because a larger list of eligible projects will now compete for non-increasing funds. Phasing the BLE would only add to Charlotte's own list.

And unless some New Starts projects are made part of the next stimulus, talk is the next transportation bill will not increase funding levels, given Obama's call to better control the growing deficit. If that's true, the Feds' had better re-define "shovel-ready" for the next stimulus, or no headway will again be made in reducing the transit-project wish-list.

Edited by southslider
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I don't KNOW anything, but I doubt it. They seem to purposely go to 1 car at (what they think are) off-peak times, presumably to save on electricity. I can't that having more cars available would change that.

I've sent CATS a couple of emails complaining about this practice. I don't understand what is keeping them from running two-car trains much more often than they do. I've been to two different Cable Box events and they were running single car trains afterwards.

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So the article mentions that "Cities that have received a full-funding grant agreement (FFGA), which ensures a stable federal financing source throughout a project’s construction period"

Could someone explain what that means? My read on it is that the Fed basically says "your project qualifies for funding" but doesn't necessarily specify what that funding is?

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When an FFGA is issued, the FTA agrees to fund the entire portion of a project that the applying agency has requested. In Charlotte's case, that would be 50% of the roughly $1.1-$1.2 billion cost of building the NE line. Though the money from the FFGA is not delivered all at once, it does represent a commitment to fund the full federal portion of the project, usually over the entire duration of construction. You won't find any cases where an agency requests $500 million from the FTA and is only granted $250 million. Projects are either funded fully (FFGA) or not at all.

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Ok, in the grand scheme of things does this mean that our NE extension could be moved up several years, since it was stated that it may not be done until 2019 or beyond? Or would Charlotte coming up with the other ~500 million still need to be figured out before anything is decided?

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