On March 16, Charlotte launched a major extension of the city’s Lynx Blue Line light rail route. The extension comes just over a decade after the Blue Line’s inaugural run in 2007, and connects UNC Charlotte directly to the city center. The light rail line runs along an exclusive right-of-way and is projected to carry a daily ridership of 24,500 by 2035.
Architecture and engineering firm STV was the principal firm behind the project’s design. In a bid to provide greater physical and visual amenities to transit users and pedestrians, the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) set a $4.9 million budget for public art installations. Additionally, the project includes bike lanes, improved sidewalks and green landscaping.
The 9.3-mile extension adds 11 new stations to the Blue Line, bringing its total up to 26 stations on 18.9 miles of trackage. Four park-and-ride stations have been constructed as part of the line extension, providing approximately 3,000 spaces to reduce vehicular congestion of the I-85. Further intermodal opportunities are planned with the integration of the CATS bus services from neighborhoods adjacent to the light rail stations.
As reported by the Charlotte Observer, funding for the $1.1 billion project came from the federal government, providing half of the budget, with the city and state splitting the remainder.
The LYNX Blue Line is one of two light rail lines operated by the CATS, the other being the 1.5-mile CityLYNX Gold Line. Total daily ridership of CATS is just over 80,000, a figure expected to grow exponentially with an anticipated expansion of the Gold Line, as well as the development of an entirely new light rail line and commuter rail line connecting the city center to Charlotte’s northern suburbs. In an press conference reported by WFAE, CATS CEO John Lewis estimated the budget of these three transportation projects to be between $5 to $8 billion.
In line with the growing trend of transit-oriented development, Charlotte’s municipal government has rezoned areas surrounding new stations. According to BISNOW, hundreds of acres of mixed-use development, in varying states of completion, have already cropped up around the rail line extension.