The Blue Line light rail is often overcrowded.
Not just around game day, when Panthers or Hornets fans pack the train in both directions for hours. Mornings are pretty hectic too. 5.3 million riders in the last fiscal year, and about 15,000 to 17,000 per day. On peak days, the light rail hits 35,000+. This is a whole lot more than originally projected when the line opened in 2007.
Charlotte’s already done a lot to deal with how popular the light rail is.
The city has put in more ticket kiosks, expanded parking down at the first stop (I-485). Trains run every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15-20 minutes during off-peak times.
The next big thing is to actually make the train itself bigger.
Charlotte has begun a project to expand train station platforms and upgrade the electrical system to accommodate three-car trains, instead of the two car trains on the tracks right now. The electric system means the city will also be able to run extra trains during special events.
The funny thing is that the original plan was to make three-car trains but Charlotte ultimately decided to cut costs by shrinking.
Construction is underway now.
There have been a billion delays on the project, but work is now being done. You’ll notice that some stations are being closed on weekends for construction (be sure to ALWAYS check the website before you ride).
The first step is to broaden the train platforms to accommodate three-car trains at four stops: I-485, Woodlawn, Stonewall and 7th Street. This work is expected to be done this summer and will allow CATS to run three-car trains during special events.
A later step will lengthen the remaining 11 station platforms — and the ultimate goal is to run three-car trains all the time. The stops on the Blue Line Extension opening in late 2017 will be built for three cars.