Here’s a small understatement: Charlotte has changed a lot in the past decade.
With that in mind, Charlotte Area Transit System is starting a fresh look at how to bring mass transit to the northern suburbs and the westside.
The result could be new paths or new types of mass transit in the areas in red and purple in the map below.
What’s the plan now and why does it need to change?
The current long-range transportation plan was approved in 2006. Conditions have changed significantly since then.
With the Red Line to the north, the original idea was to use the Norfolk Southern railroad corridor to build a commuter train from Uptown to Mooresville.
But in 2013, the company got a new president who basically took that option off the table. Even intervention from former Charlotte mayor and then U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx failed to find a solution.
Part of the current process will be to find out whether people who would use the Red Line are OK with waiting potentially years for turnover at Norfolk Southern are whether they’d rather explore other options for mass transit to the northern towns.
On the westside, the current plan is to eventually extend the Gold Line streetcar all the way to the airport. This would be different than what’s being constructed right now (the current route should be done by fall 2020).
But conditions have changed in west Charlotte as well. The airport has massive plans for its land, and the River District will transform the western end of the county. A streetcar line that runs on the road with cars might not make sense, though I’ve been assured that the current streetcar under construction will stay in place.
There’s been talk of the Silver Line, the light rail path roughly along the Independence Boulevard corridor, could ultimately be extended to the airport.
What happens next?
CATS staff have been holding a series of meetings across the city to get people’s thoughts on what to do. They’ll take all that and come up with recommendations by the spring.
Don’t be surprised if the plan is bold. CATS CEO John Lewis has been thinking big.
Of course, there’s no clear funding model for this. Federal money for transportation is uncertain at the moment, to say the least.
Look for some type of action by the end of next year.