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What’s behind the collapse of bus ridership in Charlotte?

A Charlotte Area Transit System bus drives by uptown.
Michael LoBiondo/City of Charlotte
A Charlotte Area Transit System bus drives by uptown Charlotte.

For months, we’ve been hearing about problems with Charlotte’s bus system. Driver shortages have resulted in delayed or missed routes. Operators also have concerns about their safety.

Now, a WFAE special series finds that the Charlotte Area Transit System's bus troubles may be deeper than we knew. Ridership declined from a high of 23.9 million passengers in 2014 to only 5.9 million in 2022. That’s a 75% decline and one unmatched by any of the nation’s 50 other transit systems.

What’s going on? Where did all the riders go? And what does this mean for a city looking to expand transit and encourage people to ditch their cars? We have that conversation.


John Lewis, chief executive officer of the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS)

Julie Eiselt, Charlotte mayor pro tem and at-large representative on Charlotte City Council. She chairs the Transportation & Planning Committee.

Steve Harrison, political reporter for WFAE. His two-part series "Getting off the bus" aired this week on WFAE.

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Erin Keever is Senior Producer of WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. She has been with the show since joining the station in 2006. She's a native Charlottean.