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Charlotte Area Transit System board votes to move central bus stop underground

Blue Line light rail tracks in South End
Erin Keever
SouthEnd light rail transit apartments.

The Charlotte Area Transit System's governing board voted in favor Tuesday of a controversial plan to spend $90 million to move the city’s main bus station underground, despite concerns about whether that option would be best for passengers.

The city wants to relocate the Charlotte Transportation Center on Trade Street underground so it can partner with a private developer to build a new mixed-tower on the site, and replace a bus facility that city officials say is at the end of its useful life. City officials have said the best way to "activate” Brevard Street with more development and business is to place passengers and buses underground.

During the discussion, some members of the Metropolitan Transit Commission said they were worried about the proposal, like Matthews Mayor John Higdon.

“Air quality is going to be the main concern,” Higdon said. “And we’ve all been to cities and countries across the world where you have been in a study garage with diesel smoke spilling in your face and that’s a pretty miserable experience.”

Huntersville Mayor Melinda Bales said she is worried the underground terminal would be too dark.

Krissy Oechslin, a member of a transit advisory group, said there are concerns about equity.

“Some of the criticisms have been that you hiding bus riders away,” she said. “And they tend to be lower income and riders of color and you are hiding them from the world. It’s a little dramatic, but people think that.”

Despite those reservations, the Metropolitan Transit Commission voted unanimously in favor of the plan.

CATS staff had recommended placing the station underground, which was the original concept proposed by the developer, Charlotte-based White Point Partners. CATS said it is a better option than building the bus station on the second and third floors of the new tower or building it at street level.

The city has said it will use a combination of federal funds and local money to pay for the project. The new station could open by the end of the decade.

After the vote, the group Sustain Charlotte said afterward that it’s “deeply concerned about safety, equity and cost of the moving the bus station underground.”

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.