Charlottes New Light Rail System Offers a Pattern for Virginia
From VARPs On Track newsletter, spring 2008
By VARP board member and Secretary Dick Peacock
This article previously appeared in the Charlottesville Hook and the Manassas Journal-Messenger.
On Monday, Nov. 19, a ribbon-cutting ceremony opened the Blue Line of Charlottes Lynx light rail operation. Charlottes mayor, Pat McCrory, called this event a monumental moment in the history of Charlotte. Federal, state, city, and county officials heaped praise on one another for this accomplishment. The magic moment came when invited guests sitting in the gleaming blue-and-white rail cars heard and felt the steel wheel hitting the steel rail on
On Nov. 24, the public hit the rails for the first time. They received free rides to test drive the system. This is your life, this is your community and the Lynx Blue Line is your train, stated Ronald J. Tober, the Executive Officer of the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS). Im glad youre coming along for the ride. Many basketball fans rode the line to the Bobcats Arena to see the Bobcats play the Boston Celtics. On
On Nov. 26, riders started paying fares. What happened next was absolutely amazing. CATS had estimated that it would take a year to reach 9,100 average daily riders. During the first seven days of paid operations, average daily ridership soared to 12,300. Strong midday and special event patronage pushed the numbers to levels higher than anticipated. Some riders even reported standing room only during the Friday lunch hour.
The initial success of light rail in Charlotte proves that a well-designed system can attract substantial numbers of people to rail transportation in any city in the Southeast. Norfolks light rail system could experience similar success in 2010. And Charlottes success should encourage the cities of Arlington, Alexandria, Charlottesville, Richmond, and Roanoke to consider light rail too and grab some of that success.