LYNX Light Rail: Five Years Later

July 23, 2012 16 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Nearly five years ago, Metro Jacksonville covered the opening of Charlotte, North Carolina's LYNX light rail line. Today, we present a photo essay of the environment that has developed around Charlotte's rail line to illustrate what could be possible in our own city when community-led vision enters the picture.

Uptown Charlotte

Uptown Charlotte currently serves as the Blue Line's northern terminus.  Twenty years ago, this central business district's environment was eerily similar to present day Jacksonville's.  After two decades of coordinated planning, the center city now employs more than 70,000 people and attracts over 25 million visitors annually to its 120 restaurants and 50 nightspots.  In addition, more than 13,000 residents live in Uptown Charlotte.

Paralleling Tyron Street, two blocks to the south, the Blue Line LRT provides direct service to several Uptown attractions including the Charlotte Convention Center, Nascar Hall of Fame, Charlotte Transportation Center, Times Warner Cable Arena and the 7th Street Public Market.

7th Street Station serves as the northern terminus of the Blue Line.  Located at the base of a nearby 7th Street Parking Garage is the 7th Street Public Market.  Five years ago, this space housed a local grocer, Reid's Fine Foods.  Citing the impact of the recession, Reid's closed June 2010.  In March 2012, the 7th Street Public Market opened in its place with funding from the private sector.

A weekend-long grand opening is underway for uptown Charlotte's new 7th Street Public Market. The market is unique because it is a non-profit--a very different kind of non-profit where you can buy locally grown and locally made food. Shopper Danielle Miller was buying some fresh fish Thursday evening. "It is very convenient because you can just come right here, then go home and cook it up." If you live on the Lynx light rail line it is easy too, because there is a stop right outside the market. Charlotte Center City Partners was turned down when it asked for $1 million in public money to fund the market after Reid's moved out. So, the organization found sponsors like Carolinas Healthcare System to come up with the money. "A public market in an urban center, it should have everything going for it and we are on the right track," said Robert Krumbine, of Center City Partners.

Charlotte's Future

Streetcar tracks were added as a part of Elizabeth Avenue's streetscape in anticipation of the Center City streetcar corridor.

At present, the only completed portion of the LYNX network is the five year old 9.6 mile Blue Line.  However, CATS' long-term master plan includes 76 miles of light rail, commuter rail, streetcar and bus rapid transit by 2030.

"The shape of Charlotte over 100 years is dependant on transit. Development will go where transportation infrastructure will allow it."

Elizabeth Avenue.  These tracks will become a part of Charlotte's 1.5 mile starter modern streetcar line by 2015.

Blue Line

With construction set to begin in 2013, the Blue Line will be extended 9.4-miles to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  This 11 station corridor is estimated to carry 24,500 weekday boardings by 2035.  With a capital cost of $977 million, this light rail line is anticipated to be completed in 2017.

Red Line

The Red Line is a proposed 25-mile commuter rail line that will be constructed along existing Norfolk Southern tracks, providing service from Uptown Charlotte to northern Mecklenburg County.  Estimated to cost $456 million to construct, there is currently no clear funding source to move this project forward.

Silver Line

The Silver Line is a proposed 13.5 mile rapid transit corridor that will be operated as either bus rapid transit (BRT) or light rail (LRT) between Uptown Charlotte and Matthews, North Carolina.  Plans call for the 16 station, $582 million corridor to be operational by 2026.

Center City Corridor

This project is a proposed 9.9 mile streetcar line that will connect the University Park area of west Charlotte with Eastland Mall in east Charlotte by way of Uptown Charlotte, in a primarily east-west direction.  In July 2010, a $25 million Federal Urban Circulator Grand was awarded to the city, allowing construction on the initial 1.5 mile starter segment to begin.  Current plans call for the starter segment to be operational by 2015.

West Corridor

The West Corridor is a proposed 6.4 mile streetcar line that will connect Charlotte/Douglas International Airport with Uptown Charlotte by 2034.  With a completion date over two decades away, in 2008 CATS announced enhanced bus service (JTA's version of BRT for Jacksonville) to serve this corridor as a placeholder.  Called Sprinter, the service began a year later in September 2009, featuring fewer stops and timing similar to that of the future streetcar route.  The Sprinter serves as a great example for JTA and Jacksonville how to implement cost effective BRT in a relatively short time period.

Determining Jacksonville's Transportation Future

It is now 2012.  After five years of operation and economic development in Charlotte, locally we still have no Bus Rapid Transit and the concept of commuter rail and streetcars in Jacksonville has not moved past the study phase. Tied of Jacksonville being in a continued state of malaise when it comes to the implementation of a respectable mass transit system?  Well this week, you'll have an opportunity to see what the Jacksonville Transportation Authority has planned for our community.  On Thursday, July 26 at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority will unveil its new Consolidated Plan "A Strategic Vision for the Future" to the general public.  There will be two sessions (11a.m.-1p.m. and 4-7p.m.) with a live presentation by JTA Executive Director/CEO Michael Blaylock at 11:30a.m. and 5:30p.m. respectively.

Here, the public will be able to "tour" what JTA plans to bring Jacksonville over the next 30 years and speak with JTA planners, engineers and financial experts.  More importantly, you'll be able to tell JTA your thoughts on what Jacksonville needs for our community that should be reflected in the future plan.

For a sneak peak of JTA's Consolidated Plan: Multimodal Transportation Solutions 2012, click HERE

Article by Ennis Davis

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