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Charlotte Area

CATS Plans To Restructure Bus Routes After Light Rail Extension Opening

CATS lost about $3.2 million in state funding for public transit in the new state budget.

Charlotte's Blue Line light rail extension from uptown to UNC Charlotte opens in about two weeks, and with it will come major changes in the bus system: More frequent service on some lines, more cross-town routes and connections to the light rail.

Charlotte Area Transit System has spent the past year on the restructuring - the first since the original light rail opened in 2007.  It's called 'Envision My Ride,' and the effort brought in lots of ideas from riders at dozens of public meetings. One of the major concerns was the lack of cross-town routes.

“We do have some cross-towns, but they don't operate very frequently,” said Larry Kopf, chief operations planning officer for CATS.  “So a lot of times the best way to get across town is to take a radial bus into the Transit Center and taken another radial bus all the way out.”  

Fewer riders now will face that challenge, as CATS consolidates existing routes to make way for new ones.

For the first time, there will be a bus to Concord Mills Mall. Other new buses will run from Southpark directly to the Eastland Mall area, and along LaSalle Street and Cindy Lane in north Charlotte, connecting to the light rail. Another bus - the Number 47 Greenhouse Shuttle - will serve a big greenhouse operation Huntersville.

“They have a number of jobs for people just starting out in the workforce, but … you know it's hard for people to get to those jobs, so we're going to provide that connection,” Kopf said.  

Riders also complain about long wait times. Right now, just six of CATS' 70 routes run buses at 10 to 15 minute intervals. The rest run at intervals up to an hour.  The number of those more frequent routes will grow next month, and eventually triple to 18 in the next couple of years, Kopf said.

The bus system changes begin March 19, the Monday after the light rail is scheduled to open.  More changes are in the works, and CATS plans another campaign this spring to gather riders’ feedback.

More details on the new and revised routes can be found here