© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Charlotte Area
See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

CATS Reduces Service, Makes Buses And Trains Free

A Blue Line train pulls away from J.W. Clay Station on North Tryon Street near UNC Charlotte in this 2018 file photo.
David Boraks
CATS Blue Line Trains will operate on a Sunday schedule.

Updated 1:19 p.m.
Charlotte Area Transit System is making buses and trains free, but plans to reduce service by about one-half beginning Wednesday until further notice, as commuting slows because of the coronavirus. CATS says ridership is down 41 percent since early March on buses and the Lynx Blue Line light rail.

Light rail ridership has fallen 58 percent since March 2.  Bus usage is down 29 percent, according to CATS. 

"We've gotten to a point where it makes sense for us ... with people sheltering in place and working from home.  And so now we want to mirror that so that we have the right number of vehicles on the street to match the demand," Lewis told WFAE.  

Ridership on CATS buses and trains is off sharply so far in March  because of the coronavirus.
Credit Charlotte Area Transit System
Ridership on CATS buses and trains is off sharply so far in March because of the coronavirus.

So far, the transit system has not cut any jobs or furloughed any workers, "nor is that the plan," Lewis said.  CATS will continue paying operators, even when they're not driving buses or trains, so they can stay home and stay safe. He admits that won't save money, but it will save fuel and maintenance costs.  

He said CATS' finances should be adequate to carry it through at least the end of the fiscal year. CATS does have a $30 million reserve fund, but he said he doesn't expect to tap that right now. 

But, Lewis warned: "All of this would depend on how long the current crisis lasts."

7 Days, But Less Frequent  Service

CATS says it will continue seven-day-a-week service, but with fewer trips. The light rail will operate on a Sunday schedule, which means trains only every 20 minutes during the day or every 30 minutes during late night hours. Trains normally run as often as every 7.5 minutes at rush hour. 

Buses also will run less frequently, operating on a Saturday schedule every day except Sunday, which will continue as usual. One route is being suspended for now, the No. 290-Davidson Shuttle. 

Express buses now will be limited to two trips in the morning and two in the afternoon on weekdays. Four commuter routes will be suspended, and commuters are asked to take local buses with similar routes. They are the 41X-Steele Creek Express, 61X-Arboretum Express, 65X-Matthews Express and 88X- Mountain Island Express.

CATS’ Special Transportation Services for people with disabilities are limited what CATS is calling "life-sustaining trips" to medical facilities and grocery stores. 

Keeping Vehicles Clean

Meanwhile, maintenance workers are continuing to clean and sanitize buses as previously announced. And workers are being given gloves and santizer. CATS also is urging bus riders to get off at the rear of the bus, away from drivers. 

Details are at RideTransit.org

Click here for the latest coronavirus news on WFAE’s live blog.

Sign up here for The Frequency, WFAE’s daily email newsletter.

What questions do you have about the coronavirus? What has this experience been like for you? Share your questions below.