Charlotte's new light rail extension opened March 16, and UNC Charlotte students are excited to be connected with uptown entertainment and internships.
Charlotte City Councilman Greg Phipps said the light rail was very popular during its inaugural weekend, but added that the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) waited to begin official data collection until after the initial excitement had died down. He said they will be able to get a more accurate reading of long-term popularity by April or May, but Phipps expects ridership to exceed expectations.
“I don’t know if it’ll die down, but I know right now people are really using it just because, you know, it’s brand new and the excitement is there,” Kintali said.
“We got 11 additional station stops on this extension, six of which were in my district,” he said. “In the summer of 2014 I think I hand-delivered about three or four hundred letters to different businesses around, giving them a heads up that the construction was getting ready to start, if (there were) problems with who to contact and stuff like that.”
The construction was frustrating for some businesses, Phipps said, as road closures and other disruptions may have reduced their sales, but there has already been a lot of development associated with the light rail. He said property values rose along the line, and new apartment complexes and offices popped up.
“It’s opened up a plethora of opportunities for businesses to really be able to engage and expand their service products and things, and it’s so far so good,” he said.
Phipps said some of the light rail ridership will likely draw from the bus system, which he said is being realigned to handle traffic more efficiently and to easily connect people from other areas with the light rail.
Light Rail’s Impact on UNCC
Betty Doster, special assistant to the UNCC Chancellor, said the semester bill for UNCC students will increase by $25 starting in the fall of 2018, but this will cover unlimited, free use of the light rail system. Faculty can pay $75 per year for the same privilege.