Charlotte, NC: Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS)

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Southeast Corridor

Project Description
CATS current Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project opened in December 1998 with a 2.6-mile two-way express bus-only facility (without on-line stations). The project took advantage of the barrier separated, reversible HOV lane that had been constructed by North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) in the median of Independence Boulevard (US 74). The 29 foot median single, reversible HOV lane was constructed several years before it was scheduled to open and operate as an HOV lane. In the interim, it was modified, relatively inexpensively, for two-way operation of buses. A queue jumper at the eastern terminus allows buses to bypass some of the worst congestion in the corridor. NCDOT currently plans to convert US 74 from a six-lane arterial to an eight-lane freeway to the Union County line.


Photo: Eastern terminus of the express bus facility.

The BRT project has been very successful. In the evening peak, the queue jumper provides a 10 to 5 minute time savings for outbound buses. The express lanes save 2 to 4 minutes in the morning for inbound buses (buses are operated in the peak period only), and additional time when there crashes or incidents on US 74. Because of the travel time savings, each express route that uses the lane has been able to add an additional peak-hour trip without increasing the bus fleet needed. Ridership on the express routes has more than doubled from 10,138 in January 1999 to 20,600 in October 2002. In a November 2002 Riderís survey, 93% felt that the express bus lane saves time and fifty percent (50%) indicated a preference for BRT over Light Rail Transit (LRT).

The Southeast Corridor is one of five major travel corridors in the Charlotte region that has been studied for rapid transit service. Light Rail Transit (LRT) was selected for the South Corridor in 1999 and will soon be entering into Final Design. Major Investment Studies (MISs) for the West, North, Northeast, and Southeast Corridors were completed in November 2002. Commuter rail was selected in the North Corridor and Light Rail was selected for the Northeast Corridor. BRT was selected for both the West and Southeast corridors. To insure that BRT is the most viable transit technology for the West and Southeast, both BRT and LRT will be studied further during the Preliminary Engineering (PE) phase, when more detailed analysis can be conducted. The completion of these studies resulted in the development of a system plan that comprehensively plans transit-friendly land use and rapid transit service for the Greater Charlotte region.

Southeast Corridor transit customers save time because of the bus-only transitway. The busway has become an important element of CATS bus operations.  Two 40-foot handicap accessible buses are headed to neighborhoods on Charlotte's eastside.  Customers of the two express routes bypass the congestion in the adjacent travel lanes during an afternoon rush hour by traveling in the congestion free fixed guideway.

The goal of CATSí transit planning efforts is to create a high quality, cost effective, seamless transit system that supports the Charlotte regionís land use goals. To facilitate this, many of the towns in the Charlotte region have developed numerous land use policies, tools, and initiatives to promote concentrations of development around existing development centers, in regional transit corridors, and at proposed station areas. During PE, each corridor will have substantial station area planning. If BRT remains the preferred alternative for the Southeast and West corridors after the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) has been completed; low floor, environmentally friendly, signature buses will be used in the transit-ways. Off-board fare collection will reduce vehicle dwell time at stations and will be utilized at BRT, LRT, and commuter rail stations.

See also:
o CHARLOTTE AREA TRANSIT SYSTEM, SOUTHEAST CORRIDOR PLANNING

Contact Information
Catondra Noye, cnoye@ci.charlotte.nc.us
Project Manager
Charlotte Area Transit System
City of Charlotte
CMGC/CATS
600 4th Street, 8th Floor
Charlotte, NC 28202
Phone: 704 336-3513
Fax: 704 432-0481

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