How has the recession and a proposed fare increase changed how public transportation runs in Charlotte? When will we see the expansion of light rail and the launch of the streetcar?
We recently caught up with Charlotte Area Transit System CEO Carolyn Flowers and talked with her about the future of public transportation and the challenges the system is currently facing.
Creative Loafing: How has the recession affected CATS services?
Carolyn Flowers: The most significant economic impact has been a loss in sales tax revenue caused by the confluence of factors resulting from loss in consumer confidence. The result has been a loss in sales tax growth.
What's in store regarding the expansion of light rail and the addition of the streetcar?
Light Rail (Blue Line Extension) is in preliminary engineering and will begin the 65 percent design level by early summer. The project is in the process for a full funding agreement with the Federal Transportation Administration. The streetcar is included in the long-range plan for the west and central corridors. There is currently an application for an Urban Circulator grant with the FTA to fund a demonstration project of 1.5 miles on Central Avenue. If awarded, the city of Charlotte would match funds for capital and future operating expenses.
What efforts are underway to increase ridership on CATS?
CATS is working with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and with social agencies to increase training (with programs like Seniors in Motion) and provide options to expand these population segments' use of fixed-route service. We are also working with local venues to provide support for special events services.
What are some new (if any) services that are being offered by CATS for riders?
We are working on some grants and other future funding options for special transportation service programs and extension of the Gold Rush services.
How would you describe your first few months on the job?
Extremely busy and exciting. It has been a vertical learning curve to learn my way around the city and to learn the priorities for transit.
What is your ultimate goal for CATS and transportation in the Charlotte area?
To provide a robust network of service in the five corridors in the long-range transit plan.
What, if anything, have you changed about CATS since taking the job?
I am focusing on the issue of balancing the needs of our core responsibility -- providing safe, reliable and quality mass transit -- against all of the programs that we had been providing and funding in the past. So, I am focusing on core services that provide the best utilization of our resources for the broadest base of riders.