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Charlotte's Light Rail: Lynx Blue Line


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One thing I have been wondering about, are there any HRT/CR/LRT/BRT systems that allow you to purchase your tickets online. I can't help by think this would really help with the lines to buy tickets.

Wow- never even though of that. Seems in todays age, and the inexpensive cost to make such an online system, plus saving CATs money on the ticket paper, etc. it would be an immediate given. I for one would definitly use it. Sort of like purchasing your tickets through fandango for a movie.

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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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Wow

I rode today for the first time and am very impressed. I left at 5 and the train had no room not even standing by the time we got to arrowood. I had no problem getting my ticket and everything seemed to be working properly.

Very nice, clean, trains and a great atmosphere so I'll definitely be riding it frequently from here on out. It really is a lot better than I thought, a lot better than driving even just for the hell of it to go to reids. I was surprised by how crowded it was on the way there and back. Looks like they got a lot of the kinks out, only thing they need more tvm's but I didn't see anyone having trouble.

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Hope some one from CATS is reading this forum. They could learn a lot on how to improve service. I have been thinking about riding it again when it is not so busy, but from what I have read here, it is always busy.

Hope the number riding the South Blue line is much higher than CATS projected. This may help to get the Norteast Line moving on a fast track.

Edited by RiverwoodCLT
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.......

One thing I have been wondering about, are there any HRT/CR/LRT/BRT systems that allow you to purchase your tickets online. I can't help by think this would really help with the lines to buy tickets.

It's difficult to do because it's easy to counterfeit and the single pass tickets are timed anyway for 90 minutes. (this is the only way to do it on an honor system)

They should think of adding some simpler machines that only sell single ride or day pass tickets and that only take cash. Instead of the soft screen these kind of machines should just have a real button for each ticket. Instead of it taking the time of an ATM, it would take the time of a soda vending machine. This would free up the other machines for more complicated transactions.

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More bugs are being worked out of the system. When the platform announces "train approaching, please stand clear of the platform edge", the ticker on the side the train is coming from then scrolls the message so you know which direction its coming from. I'm guessing the same will be done with the "train approaching in 2 min." message so that you know which direction. There was also an article in the paper yesterday that said they were working out the kinks in their GPS system to make that "2 min" more accurate.

The ticket machines are slowly being fixed. We rode to 485 yesterday, and when we arrived one of the machines was being worked on. About 90 min. later, on the way back that machine was working fine. I've noticed others that were not working at all last Monday are working fine now.

I jumped on the train about the same time the Panthers game was letting out yesterday. What a sight!! I got off at Stonewall to get these pics. The platform was completely filled going south and more people kept pouring in. CATS officials at the station were asking for more trains but there is only so many they can send without neglecting the rest of the line.

It was cool to hear a voice come over the loud speakers (someone from the VMF I guess) informing everyone when the next train was coming, giving instructions on where to stand on the platform, and thanking them for their patience. Almost like reassuring the passengers that they knew about the crowds and the situation and would be dealing with it. Anyway, here's some pics.

12-2-07

Stonewall station after a panthers game.

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Edited by Mobuchu
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I think the TVMs are a bit over-engineered. They should be reserved for the more complicated transactions. To supplement these machines they really need to come up with another machine with the simplicity of a coke machine. (instead of an ATM) The time difference in the two approaches really does add up.

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I jumped on the train about the same time the Panthers game was letting out yesterday. What a sight!! I got off at Stonewall to get these pics. The platform was completely filled going south and more people kept pouring in. CATS officials at the station were asking for more trains but there is only so many they can send without neglecting the rest of the line.

It was cool to hear a voice come over the loud speakers (someone from the VMF I guess) informing everyone when the next train was coming, giving instructions on where to stand on the platform, and thanking them for their patience. Almost like reassuring the passengers that they knew about the crowds and the situation and would be dealing with it. Anyway, here's some pics.

I was in uptown during the game, and it appeared they were stacking trains just beyond 7th street. I assumed that they were to help handle the football crowd (like I was hoping they would do in my earlier post). I guess it still wasn't enough!

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I think the TVMs are a bit over-engineered. They should be reserved for the more complicated transactions. To supplement these machines they really need to come up with another machine with the simplicity of a coke machine. (instead of an ATM) The time difference in the two approaches really does add up.

I know this isn't exactly what you are talking about, but it is a step in that direction. There is an option on the first screen that allows you to buy 1 adult one-way ticket by only pressing that button. I forget what the option is called exactly, but it's in the lower LEFT hand side of the screen. You press the button, put in your $1.30, and you're done. It's much faster than going through that same process step by step.

Also, CATS was selling Day Passes yesterday for the game for $2.60...the same price as two one-way tickets. They were doing this to cut down on the lines at the TVM after the game. Unfortunately, I had already purchased my one-way before the attendant came over and told us about the day pass. GREAT idea...but, a sign on the actual machine would have been a more efficient way to spread the word...not just one lady trying to approach everyone to tell them about the offer. No complaints though...thought it was great CATS was trying to be pro-active.

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There is an option on the first screen that allows you to buy 1 adult one-way ticket by only pressing that button.
Yes I am aware that is there, but if you want to buy two tickets or a child ticket then you get mired down in the menus. All of the delays that I saw were with people traveling with kids or couples buying tickets. One elderly couple actually went in the second set of menus, twice to buy two adult tickets not realizing they could be bumped. This took a couple of minutes. If they could offer a cash only machine that did not have any menus it would speed things up considerably as you want a machine where people don't have to make a lot of decisions.
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Yes I am aware that is there, but if you want to buy two tickets or a child ticket then you get mired down in the menus. All of the delays that I saw were with people traveling with kids or couples buying tickets. One elderly couple actually went in the second set of menus, twice to buy two adult tickets not realizing they could be bumped. This took a couple of minutes. If they could offer a cash only machine that did not have any menus it would speed things up considerably as you want a machine where people don't have to make a lot of decisions.

Sounds like the machines are like the ones that they have for MARTA. They are a little too complicated for the novice or the visitor. Someone has to be by just to give simple instructions for the complicated operation.

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fun blog post I found by an uptown worker's family. Daddy takes train to work everyday. Mommy brings toddler at lunch time to visit daddy on train. "Charlotte is finally sporting a modern transit system. Our Light Rail is finally up and running, even though it only runs north to south right now. Daddy loves it and takes it to work and Graham loves it because he loves all trains. Here we are taking a trip downtown for lunch with Daddy..."

Coloring book in the works?

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In today's paper was an article about L.A. changing their subway and some light rail from the honor system (like we have in Charlotte) to a closed access system with barriers and turnstyles. The article can be found here.

I remember CATS saying it was cheaper to build an open access system and risk losing a % of the revenue rather than pay for barriers and turnstyles and then maintain that system. The numbers at the end of the article seem to say otherwise (at least in L.A.). This could be an economy of scale sort of thing, since L.A.'s system is much larger. Also, it might be easier to build a closed system for a subway and only some of the light rail system out there.

Still thought it was an interesting change of direction for them.

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As a train enthusiast and railroad photographer, I've been looking foward to the light rail opening in Charlotte for years. On Saturday, I took the wife and kids up and we rode from 485 to downtown and back. After that, we followed the line up to about Bland Station, but it was getting late and we wanted to go through Lancaster to see family on our way home.

Very impressed with the train ride as well as the layout. Here are some shots --

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I've trying to get back up there this week to shoot nearer downtown where the best photo ops are.

Joe H.

Columbia, SC

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Joe- nice photos :thumbsup:

jednc- I think Charlotte really didn't have the money for this and were willing to take risks while they tested this system out. I think that it was around 5% of the paying customer population that they were expecting and could afford to loose. Being caught by a ticketer is about a 6 to 16 chance, which is a 37% chance of being ticketed if CATs has all of their ticketers on the line and all trains up, for now. Obviously it is a better bargain to just pay for your ticket each time then suffer a 50 dollar one, and it's also a nice sense of security having a CATs employee on the line to help filter out troubler's. It would be an investment to gate all of the stations adequately, however they would be saving money from paying the ticket police, and narrowing a 5% non-pay rate to close to zero. I think Charlotte will have to do studies on this for their system, first, to adequately determine which payment system suits the city best. Are we full of honest people, or are there going to be too many 'hoodlums' taking advantage and not paying their 50 dollar 'you got caught' tickets.

Also, I think right now CATs is more concerned with getting ridership then getting every penny paid, at this point, but once we get an older system and more riders, it may be time for a switch like LA did.

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As a train enthusiast and railroad photographer, I've been looking foward to the light rail opening in Charlotte for years. On Saturday, I took the wife and kids up and we rode from 485 to downtown and back. After that, we followed the line up to about Bland Station, but it was getting late and we wanted to go through Lancaster to see family on our way home.

Very impressed with the train ride as well as the layout. Here are some shots --

I've trying to get back up there this week to shoot nearer downtown where the best photo ops are.

Joe H.

Columbia, SC

Wow, those are some outstanding photographs - its too bad you didn't have a freight train going by for the second bird's eye shot. You definitely have an eye for the rails!

If you haven't been to the light rail facility off South Blvd near New Bern station, you will find some great photos there. The building is accessed from South Blvd by an enclosed glass bridge that goes over the tracks. Looking North from the bridge the rail goes straight into Uptown. I believe that part of the building is also open to the public during business hours. (the building itself is beautifully done and is well worth the time.)

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Riding it is beginning to feel like a normal thing, now. I think seeing some dirt and wear on the floor of the trains makes it seem like a regular part of the city.

I bet within a few years people will be saying "how could we live without it".

Edited by MZT
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5% loss from the honor system with our ridership numbers does not justify paying for an expensive closed system that is less user friendly and requires just as much security to ensure people aren't jumping over. Also think about what is really lost by having those people not pay. All it is is that someone rides without paying. The costs of serving that unpaying customer on transit is nominal. The only loss is if that rider would have paid otherwise. But if it is chronic cheating on that individual's part, they are highly likely to be caught and pay a fine that exceeds what they failed to pay.

All of us are getting a huge subsidy to ride compared to the costs and what it would charge if it were for profit. Supposedly, we are subsidized about 75% per ride. Society bears that subsidy because Society benefits from having those people on transit rather than roads. So if a small percentage take a 100% subsidy on a few rides, it doesn't hurt much.

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The other advantage of having a closed system is that they could go fares based on distance, which is common on larger systems. Thus a ride between a couple of stations could be charged at a lower rate than now, and they could charge more to ride the entire line. This method actually increases revenues and ridership because people pay for what they use rather than a flat rate. It also facilitates the use of smart cards and other more innovative payment methods.

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