Left to right: Senator Doug Stoner; Representative Donna Sheldon; Senator Jeff Mullis; Colleen Cousineau, SLC Executive Director; Representative Vance Smith; and Sujit CanagaRetna, SLC Senior Fiscal Analyst
October 11, 2009 | Charlotte, North Carolina
SLC Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee Technical Tour
Lynx Light Rail System
Members of the Georgia General Assembly, Senators Jeff Mullis and Doug Stoner and Representatives Vance Smith and Donna Sheldon, recently participated in a technical field visit to Charlotte, North Carolina, arranged and sponsored by The Council of State Governments’ Southern office, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). The delegation, led by SLC Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee Chair, Representative Vance Smith, attended briefings by senior officials with the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), the LYNX system’s oversight authority, and rode the nearly 10-mile LYNX system that provides light rail service to 15 stations between uptown Charlotte and I-485 at South Boulevard. In addition, the delegation had the opportunity to ride in a CATS street car/trolley and acquire first-hand information about links between different elements of the transportation system currently in place in Charlotte. A discussion with a member of the North Carolina General Assembly instrumental in the development and implementation of the LYNX system was also arranged.
Charlotte’s LYNX system was inaugurated in October 2007 and joins a number of other cities across the country that have either recently launched (Denver, Houston, Salt Lake City) or are about to launch their own light rail systems shortly (Austin, Norfolk, Phoenix). Charlotte’s forward-thinking transportation plans for the future, termed the 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan, includes the aforementioned light rail system (and its continued expansion), streetcars, bus rapid transit, commuter rail and enhanced bus service, providing residents in Mecklenburg County and adjoining counties with a series of multimodal transportation options. Ridership in the ultra modern LYNX light rail system has surpassed all expectations with ridership in July 2008 averaging 16,936 trips per weekday; when the LYNX opened last year, officials projected that the light rail system would average 18,100 weekday trips by 2025. LYNX officials now expect ridership to top 18,100 weekday trips for an entire year by 2009 or 2010.
During the briefings with LYNX officials, the Georgia delegation was informed about the tremendous surge in economic development projects in the vicinity of the light rail stations with an unprecedented number of mixed-use opportunities spanning residential, retail, commercial and office projects under development. Formerly depressed areas of the city have been rejuvenated resulting in soaring property values and declining crime rates. The role of the arts and cultural institutions in spurring this economic resurgence was another area that the Georgia legislators were briefed on during the visit. Charlotte’s comprehensive transportation infrastructure will be a valuable model for the Georgia legislators to consider as they devise innovative solutions to respond to metropolitan Atlanta’s multiple transportation challenges.