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Recommendations for Transit Corridors
CEMT Recommendations for Transit Corridors

The North/Lake Norman Corridor
The overall proposal for this corridor served by DMU (diesel multiple unit) rail is a good one, and is supported by the vast majority and local citizens and civic leaders in the area. However, we feel work on the rail aspect of this corridor should not wait five years before it even starts.

Also the busway along I-77 in this corridor is not wanted by the majority of citizens and the town officials of Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson, as far as we have been able to determine. A busway will only serve to further increase development along I-77 and to the west of this highway, to the detriment of the traditional centers of these towns. This is the exact opposite of what they are trying to accomplish with mass transit.

DMU commuter rail transit should be instituted in rush hour service as soon as money becomes available, an agreement can be reached with the railroad and the tracks and stations prepared. Rail service can be supplemented with mid-day bus service serving most of the train stations until such time as sufficient ridership has been built up to replace it with full rail service.

The Independence Corridor
There needs to be a greater number of public meetings regarding plans for this corridor. The mayor of Matthews, Lee Meyers, and other civic leaders have asked for more information and further discussion of the issues involving plans for this project. As it now stands, a sizeable number of people are not happy with the idea of a busway running all the way down Independence Boulevard, and through the middle of the Matthews business district. There needs to be further dialogue about the greater utilization of the CSX/Duke Power right-of-way as a possible alternate route and the substitution of light rail for a busway over the longer portion of this corridor.

The existing center lanes on the Independence Freeway could be used for express bus service, as is now planned. We think it could be shared with HOV car traffic however, without having a serious effect on express bus service. The focus of this express bus service however should be shifted to the Albemarle/Eastland Mall area. The planned bus transfer hub at Eastland Mall could be built and express buses coming off Independence Freeway and Albemarle Road could feed into this terminal. This would then utilize the existing express lanes, while testing the acceptance of a busway as an alternate mode of rapid transit.

The Airport Corridor
This corridor will be used not only by the people of the Charlotte area, but also by many out of town visitors traveling between uptown and the airport. This may be the only opportunity some will have to experience Charlotte rapid transit. We should concentrate on making that experience as pleasant as possible. Also to be considered are the many airport workers and citizens who want a fast, reliable trip to the airport.

While a busway might be cheaper and offer more frequent service, light rail could be a more attractive alternative. It also could be faster and more reliable, provided the alignment chosen is one that avoids heavy street traffic enroute to the airport.

Whatever mode is finally decided upon we feel that far more citizen input needs to be made, not only from the local community this corridor serves, but also from the greater Charlotte area, as this corridor is likely to be used more heavily by people from other parts of town. Also airport officials and even the airlines themselves need to be heard.

Pineville/South Corridor
We feel strongly that this is the corridor that is being done right, and the fact that it is proposed as light rail probably has a lot to do with it. Not only will it take advantage of a natural solution, a little used rail line, it will provide a necessary service to the area, while upgrading the property values of the neighborhoods it runs through. It makes so much sense it is a mystery why our city officials took so long to arrive at such a logical conclusion. Light rail will be a good companion to the

Charlotte Trolley, as light rail operates together with vintage trolleys in several other cities around the country. Light rail should cause no problems running through the convention center as opposed to major problems that would have occurred if a busway had run through this facility. Light rail should enhance rather than detract from property in the South End district. Even the rail line right-of-way, now overgrown with weeds and strewn with trash should look much cleaner and neater with the coming of light rail, and this can only help property values in the neighborhoods.

However, the greatest potential of this corridor will not be realized until the line is fully extended to the Pineville area, so it can serve the Arrowood and Westinghouse complexes and tap into the communities beyond. Large parking areas at light rail stations in the outlying areas are a must if drivers are to be lured off I-77. Feeder buses to the industrial and business parks, Ballantyne, Carowinds, Ft. Mill and Rock Hill are also a must to make this service succeed. Once all this is in place, light rail should be able to prove what a valuable tool it can be in community development, as well as providing fast, clean, dependable rapid transit service.

The University Corridor
This corridor seems to be plagued by the fact everyone has a different idea about which route it should travel between uptown and the University area. Consultants have recommended building a costly busway in a narrow corridor running parallel to the existing North Corridor rail line along Graham Street. This does not make sense to us. By using the North Corridor rail line, you avoid building an extremely expensive and duplicative parallel transitway. You also avoid the cost and time consuming delay of condemning property in order to obtain the right-of-way needed to build a busway. You also avoid damaging the property of dozens of property owners along this transit corridor.

By the time you get to Derita, you are well on your way to the University area without building a single mile of busway or railway. Yes, this does require the necessity of looking at building a light rail line, not a busway. However, logic seems to dictate that to do otherwise in this narrow corridor would be wasteful. Why duplicate infrastructure? Use the abandoned rail corridor through the University area and build through UNCC to tie into the Norfolk Southern rail alignment near I-485. There needs to be a large parking facility in this area for people coming in from Cabarrus County. At some future date, a satellite Amtrak station might be built in this area so that people could transfer from rapid transit to the train, or get off I-485 and transfer to the train, without the necessity of driving uptown.

Others may argue that a different alignment, such as North Tryon should be used. However, if the consultants recommendations are to be followed, building two parallel transitways alongside each other on Graham Street makes no sense to us. We don’t believe you will find many examples of other cities doing it either.

Summary of Recommendations
While realizing that not all these corridors are going to be built at one time, and not all can be built as light rail, we feel that far too much emphasis has been placed on busways! Busways at best are a still unproven technology, and to place them on four out of five transit corridors (the North Corridor will have a busway as well as rail) is a unwarranted gamble that the riding public will accept this type of rapid transit in preference to their automobile.

We must repeat again that no other city in North America has invested this much of their hard-to-come-by transit funding in busways with the exception of Ottawa, Canada. Should we make this large an experiment with the taxpayer’s dollar here in the hope that it works? We don’t think so!

We also do not agree with the idea of building busways now and replacing them later with light rail. This is an idea we have not heard of until it was proposed here. Rapid transit, whether it is bus or rail, is very expensive, and to come back in 15, 20 or even 30 years, tear it down and rebuild it just is not fiscally responsible. Federal funds are almost certainly going to be involved, and they will want their investment fully depreciated before any changes are made.

It is also an open question whether funding will be available for replacement of these systems in the distant future. Therefore it is most likely that whatever we build on these corridors now is what we will be living with, not only in our lifetime, but for generations to come. With this in mind, it is extremely important that whatever we do is done right! We strongly feel that you need to "do it right the first time or don’t do it at all."

Posted October 30, 1998