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Charlotte's Light Rail: Lynx Blue Line

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lynx_ad.jpg

This kind of advertizing I can live with, though if it were a Coca Cola ad I might have a lower opinion. $30k is a nominal gain for CATS, but it's worth it for the experiment.

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They're starting to roll out the ads - I saw one of the new wraps go by during lunch. It looked pretty good, it definitely created a more "metropolitan" vibe.

::golf clap::

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This city needs to find a happy medium on advertising. These wraps seem very much in that vein. Normally this city goes for the staid look, but then occasionally gives a free-for-all and we end up with horrifyingly tacky billboards. Even Tryon has the new magazine stands, but the back of them, which seems intended for an advertising space, is just a blank green panel, and is almost certain to get tagged. We need more high quality pedestrian oriented advertising, especially around transit where the operations can be subsidized for the users. I'd also like to see some euro-style advertising 'morris columns'.

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The ads that the Bobcats put on the LYNX was tastefully done (saw them this morning). I can't understand why the city wouldn't want to allow this type of advertising on a regular basis. Heck, especially if it basically covers almost a month's worth of operating costs. Just imagine if they expanded it to the buses, taxis, etc. The additional revenue this generates should be a no-brainer. It could certainly help with the budget shortfalls and they wouldn't need to cut back on service.

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This city needs to find a happy medium on advertising. These wraps seem very much in that vein. Normally this city goes for the staid look, but then occasionally gives a free-for-all and we end up with horrifyingly tacky billboards. Even Tryon has the new magazine stands, but the back of them, which seems intended for an advertising space, is just a blank green panel, and is almost certain to get tagged. We need more high quality pedestrian oriented advertising, especially around transit where the operations can be subsidized for the users. I'd also like to see some euro-style advertising 'morris columns'.

I know this is not the place for this, but since you mentioned the newsracks there will be a combination of public art and event sponsorship banners installed on the back of the racks, similar to the pole banner or overstreet banners.

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Anecdotal, yes, but good anyway - I've noticed a definite uptick in train ridership over the past couple of months. Figures show that March was the first month this year that there was a month-to-month increase (still down year to date), which would seem to support my observation. Here on the cusp of May, I think April's numbers may be even better still, at least for LYNX. Without looking, I think the lowest weekday average LYNX hit in the past year was close to 13,000. In March, it was back over 15,000.

Also anecdotal, but there seem to be a lot more boardings at Bland and especially East/West. Not surprising given the influx of renters along the line.

Elsewhere, local bus route and circulator ridership was also up for March, but the regional express routes are still suffering mightily.

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According to an article on the Observer website, the blue line extension to UNC Charlotte will likely be delayed. They may build it out to the Sugar Creek Station as scheduled, but it said it may be 2019 or later before it is extended to the university.

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If it gets the light rail extension started sooner rather than later, I'm ok with that. While I think the extension up to UNCC is a vital part of the project (especially since they started to invest in uptown), stopping at the Sugar Creek station will suite people in North Charlotte for the time being since it has a park and ride lot.

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The Sales Tax in Meck Co has really taken a hit...that is why we are having to cut back on CATS, the Library, CMS, Parks, etc. Maybe we should find a more stable source of funding for this.

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I wonder if the public would support a new revenue source. I would support increasing the sales tax from 1/2cent to a 1cent, or something along those lines - but I wonder if the general public would.

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It will be interesting to see what happens with the deal NC struck with many online dealers to start charging sales tax. While it always stinks to see the tax line when you buy something online, it will definitely help the tax revenue situation.

http://www.dornc.com/taxes/sales/itrp.html

In part, this sounds like better news that previously indicated. Before, all signs pointed to 2019 anyway, but now they are at least back to talking about a section before then, right?

All in all, it is a total disappointment. This recession has gutted the transit plan. The streetcar has been abandoned and left to the city to do as a pet project. The North line got a better color, but red is pretty much a symbol of where it's going. The SouthEast/Orange line will be delayed further with the delays in the expressway construction. And now the BLE is toast.

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The silver lining, to me, is that engineering and design is moving forward. That will help keep CATS on the federal radar and get the projects closer to "shovel-ready" as funding sources become available.

Over the next decade those areas will be changing quite a bit, and these design plans should help guide infrastructure development and construction so the area will be ready to accept the new lines more easily.

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I wonder if the public would support a new revenue source. I would support increasing the sales tax from 1/2cent to a 1cent, or something along those lines - but I wonder if the general public would.

I would be for it but given the other budget issues with schools, etc in the county not sure how this would fly. But I'd bet the bitter suburanites that never leave their neighborhood and still cry about the arena being built would throw a fit over such a thing. Well, I guess that covers a large chunk of Charlotte Observer posters :)

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CATS sent this email clarification to today's article:

The Charlotte Observer posted a story online and in today’s paper that needs clarifying. The story indicates that CATS has plans and will consider phasing in the Blue Line Extension (BLE) due to reduced revenues from the sales tax. The reporter engaged in a series of “what if” scenarios after the Charlotte City Council dinner briefing last night and although I responded, I did make it clear that CATS had NO PLANS to phase in the BLE or other corridors at this time. Later this summer CATS expects a revised cost estimate at the 30 percent level of design inflated to the Year-Of-Expenditure (YOE). Staff will review the new costs when received along with current and anticipated sales tax revenue and develop scenarios for advancing all the rapid transit corridors.

Danny Rogers, PE

Senior Project Manager

LYNX Blue Line Extension

Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS)

Not sure that changes anything.

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I would be for it but given the other budget issues with schools, etc in the county not sure how this would fly. But I'd bet the bitter suburanites that never leave their neighborhood and still cry about the arena being built would throw a fit over such a thing. Well, I guess that covers a large chunk of Charlotte Observer posters smile.gif

I support such a thing. I wouldn't blame it all on suburbanites. Most that I know here in Cornelius support getting rail service. I find that most of the people that are against it are people from out of state (many of whom are suburbanites) that don't want to pay more taxes as that is the reason that they left their former state of residence and many old timers that have always lived here and do not have a need for the service. I don't blame them, but I do not share their rational. Additionally, transportation systems rarely are profitable. Many see that as a negative. I see all angles. I also see the future that tells me that if we don't get a commuter rail into place, we will be sorry in the future when it will not be possible.

In reality, I really, really want light or heavy rail here in North Meck. I mainly want it to go into the city for performances, bar hoping, or to walk around. I don't really 'need' it. I would just be cool. At this stage, I believe that the "it would be cool" is the status quo for us supporters. I can live without it. I just don't want to. I don't mind paying more tax, tolls, or volunteering to lay tracks. I just want the bloody thing. I am now middle age. I need for them to hurry so I can enjoy it.

If only they could extend to places like NoDa for starts, we could tackle the task of extending bit by bit as we can afford it. As long as the service is cental, it will do well as the current line does.

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I am in favor of a quarter or half a cent tax increase which I think will be necessary eventually anyway. I would prefer to see the extension get fully built all at once but agree that an extension to Sugar Creek (if it is done on a fast-track timetable) would be an acceptable beginning.

To be frank though I'm just not that worried. I think a lot may change (for the positive) as we await the federal funding decision.

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I think the federal funding process is why the city doesn't want to do this in stages. To go back to the federal government for additional funds for each stage is painful.

I would also support a charge of 50 cents per gallon for gas for the purpose of paying for or suplementing light rail. It would also present an incentive for more to be interested in riding the rail.

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I would also support a charge of 50 cents per gallon for gas for the purpose of paying for or suplementing light rail. It would also present an incentive for more to be interested in riding the rail.

If the city or county were to add an extra gas tax like that, you can bet that people will start moving out of here and into different counties.

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I wonder why costs for this extension aren't going down like the cost of road construction. I believe lower fuel costs would also translate into lower building costs for the rail line (asphalt, steel, etc). I wonder if the latest cost estimates were done before fuel costs began going down. I also wonder how long that "window of opportunity" for lower costs will exist before costs begin to rise (assuming they are in fact lower for now). The time to start this thing was yesterday...not years out. We need someone to find alternatives like the Governor's design-finance-build plan for 485.

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Part of it is that they keep increasing the scope of the project, with a significant number of new bridges. Wehile they travel along the railroad corridor, the bridges are generally already covered by other funds.

However, I am also confused how the bids for 485 can be so low because of the recession, yet they don't seem to be able to assume a lower inflation amount for other projects like the BLE.

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File under "bizarre local news:"

WCNC reported last night on a study which looked at retrofitting the South line for three car train sets. The story focused on rush hour crowding and the $66 million dollar cost for the platform / caternary retrofit. The bizzarreness was from the story's non-discussion of easier/cheaper options such as making all trainsets two cars (I rode on a single car at 5pm yesterday -- while four units sat idle in the yard at the service center) or increasing frequency by purchasing the cars for the NE extension early.

While I am highly dubious of the substance of the story I was surprised by the following quote:

The three-car trains will be required along the full length of the expanded light-rail system, transit planners have said, because the Lynx line is projected to draw nearly 25,000 daily passengers by 2030.

Is this 'mandatory three car line" business something we have heard before?

http://www.wcnc.com/...s-94987559.html

Edited by kermit

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CATS sent this email clarification to today's article:

Not sure that changes anything.

It does. The Observer article presented facts incorrectly. CATS isn't planning to phase the line, it's just an option they might consider at some point.

Read this article about it, and note the very last paragraph that appears to be a direct quote from the CATS marketing director:

“CATS has not announced nor has any plans to phase in the Northeast Corridor. If you are referencing your story on The Charlotte Observer article, they took liberties with a hypothetical questions they posed about the technical ability of where the closest stop would be in which the line could open up. CATS did not announce any change in our plans to build out the entire Northeast line to the end of the line. You also mentioned that CATS had estimated large increases in sales tax which is the cause of a funding issues. This is not the case. Financial projections of future sales tax revenues were based on average rates of increases. The issue that all transit systems and businesses are faced with is that the recession caused a significant drop in the revenues and thus a new base from which to grow from. CATS is currently pulling in sales tax revenue at a level equivalent to the 2004/ 2005 annual level. Projecting that new base out 10 years at a conservative rate of increase of approximately 3% creates a $350 million difference from the 2006 projects during the same time. This issue is caused by the new lower based caused by the recession not the cost of the projects.”

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I was in town on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and I had an opportunity to *finally* ride the Blue Line on Thursday and Saturday. The trains I rode were PACKED both days. I was expecting (hoping at least) to be a sardine on Thursday. I wasn't expecting it on Saturday. The train I rode on Saturday had half as many cars...that may have had something to do with how packed it was, but it was full...standing room only.

At any rate, it's a very user-friendly and very clean line...and something of which Charlotte should be very proud!

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