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North Corridor Rail Demonstration Project Proposed

Transit Corridors on Major
Streets Is Not a Good Idea
Reports in the local media and from CATS indicate most of the consideration for locating light rail or busway corridors seems to be centered around placing them in or alongside major city thoroughfares. For example, the Southeast/Matthews Corridor is now focusing on running a busway or light rail directly upon either Independence Boulevard or Monroe Road.

The problem with directing all our attention on building these transit corridors on city streets is that it ignores the opportunities that using existing rail corridors offers. We are not making this mistake along the South Corridor where we are taking full advantage of incorporating the existing rail corridor into a new light rail line from uptown all the way to Pineville. Why are we now talking about doing just the opposite on three of the remaining corridors?

For example, the 200 foot wide CSX/Duke Energy right-of-way south of Pecan Street parallels most of the proposed Southeast Corridor, and in most places is wider than the right-of-way now in the planning stages for the South Corridor. Yet it has been consistently ignored by our transit planners for a variety of reasons, none of which has convinced CEMT are completely sound. Utilizing these rail corridors could not only cut the cost of building our new rapid transit lines, it could speed up their construction. Rebuilding busy city streets will be extremely expensive and will disrupt traffic and the businesses and homes that are adjacent to those thoroughfares for many months and probably years. Operating transit vehicles such as light rail trains on these streets may cause them to run slower than would be the case if they were operated on private right-of-way.

There is another side to the story however that CEMT would be unfair not to mention. Urban planners and developers like the idea of putting transit lines on the street from the standpoint of urban development or redevelopment opportunities. We need to be careful in putting too much emphasis on rapid transit as the sole tool of redevelopment. CATS should not be expected to make this kind of investment before detailed plans and firm investment in these urban communities has been put in place. Transit can not be expected to do it alone!

Letís not turn our back on the idea of utilizing existing rail corridors for future light rail. Many cities that have already built light rail would have given anything to have had these rail corridors available. Unfortunately most of them were not so lucky and therefore spent far more building their systems. The South Corridor should be our example for future Charlotte transit corridors.

February, 2001