Head of CATS identifies why bus ridership has declined and how we can reverse the trend

CATS CEO John Lewis presented at Wednesday's monthly Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) meeting on ridership and fare trends. He acknowledged that bus ridership has declined and stated at both the beginning and end of his presentation that he believes it's largely due to CATS not fully meeting the mobility needs of its current and potential riders.

"Many people spend an inordinate amount of time getting to and from work each day...We will bring back to the MTC a series of proposals that will get us to a targeted level of average trips [trip duration]. So if we accept that if an average trip is 90 minutes, what will it take to get it to 60? What will it take, from an investment standpoint, to get it to 45 or 30? And that will be a decision for the MTC to make. As ridership on our buses continues to drop, I think that is a result of us not meeting the needs of the community and mobility needs of our customers, and I believe that Envision My Ride will go a long way towards solving that," said Lewis.

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What we learned at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference

Over the past 15 years the New Partners for Smart Growth has become the largest and most comprehensive sustainable communities conference in the nation. Two of our staff, Meg Fencil (Program Director) and Branyn Calegar (Community Outreach Coordinator) traveled to St. Louis for the 3-day conference and learned a lot about sustainable growth!

Here are some key principles that we think Charlotte would benefit from:

Demonstration projects are powerful!

We arrived just in time to visit the final hour of a demonstration protected bike lane hosted by St. Louis' local sustainable transportation advocacy organization Trailnet. Charlotte should continue to invest in demo events like Open Streets 704 and protected bike lane demos because these are powerful tools that allow the public to really experience how our streets could be used differently to benefit all people. Of course, it's important to not let the demonstration become and end in and of itself. A good demo project is a step towards building public support for a more permanent solution.

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Trailnet's demo bike lane used simple, colorful materials to provide cyclists with separation from cars.
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Parkwood/Plaza Road Diet Discussed by Transportation Committee

Safety and budget concerns steered the conversation at the City’s Transportation and Planning Committee meeting on Monday. On the agenda?  CDOT staff responded to City Council questions about the draft Transportation Action Plan and our city’s first ever pedestrian plan, called Charlotte Walks. A draft of an updated bike plan, called Charlotte Bikes, was also shared.  

CDOT’s Norm Steinman spoke about the new aspirational goals included in the draft Transportation Action Plan including Vision Zero, becoming an 8-80 City and increasing the percent of residents who walk, bicycle, or take transit to work (see images below from Norm's presentation).

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Sustain Charlotte Asks Charlotte City Council to Take Urgent Action Regarding the Safety of Parkwood Ave. and The Plaza

Dear Mayor and Members of Council:

In solidarity with the Villa Heights, Plaza Midwood and Belmont neighborhood associations, and consistent with existing city policies, Sustain Charlotte respectfully requests immediate safety improvements to Parkwood Avenue and The Plaza (from Davidson Street to Matheson Avenue) as requested in the petition that was presented to you at your meeting on November 23, 2015.  

In addition, due to the clear and present risk of death or serious injury for residents who travel by foot, bicycle, and car along this corridor and the fact that fifteen months have now passed since this petition was presented to you, we ask that you allocate funding for construction in the city’s budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, and the improvements be completed no later than December 31, 2017. 

Further delay will result in additional loss of life and/or serious injuries to our citizens.   

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Residents ask City Council for full road diet of Parkwood Ave & The Plaza

Your voice is making a difference! With guidance and technical support from Sustain Charlotte, many residents of Belmont, Villa Heights, and Plaza Midwood have advocated for more than a year to make their neighborhood streets safer. As a result, some BIG changes are proposed for Parkwood Avenue! Yet we share the residents' concerns that not enough will be done to protect residents, cyclists, transit riders, and pedestrians along The Plaza.

At the January 9 meeting of City Council's Transportation and Planning Committee, the Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT) shared their preliminary recommendations for Parkwood and The Plaza. Click here to view the presentation that the Transportation and Planning Committee saw.

A map of pedestrian and cyclist crashes with cars highlights the importance of acting quickly to make these streets safer for everyone who uses them. With the coming Cross Charlotte Trail and the CATS Blue Line Extension's Parkwood and 25th Street stations opening this August, even more people will be traveling along Parkwood Ave and The Plaza on foot and bicycle.

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18 people have been hit by cars while walking or biking here in just five years. Two of them died.

The great news:

Following resident advocacy in fall of 2015, Charlotte City Council and CDOT acted quickly to begin a corridor study to take a technical look at the challenges and possible solutions in this area. CDOT conducted an extensive public engagement process including walking tours and workshops.

For Parkwood Ave, CDOT recommends a road diet with buffered bike lanes, new crossings and signals, and enhancing existing crossings. The project is estimated to cost approximately $2.5 million.

We're so encouraged by the Transportation and Planning Committee's desire to find a way to fund the road diet so it can be built quickly, rather than having to wait for the next bond package! The safety threats facing pedestrians and people on bikes are clearly too urgent to postpone the road diet.

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Volunteers prepare to embark on partnership with Lincoln Heights neighborhood

Are you looking for a way to not only better understand the sustainability needs of neighborhoods throughout Charlotte, but also partner with residents in a very hands-on way in support of their goals?

If so, the Sustain Charlotte Community Corps (SCCC) wants to meet you! 

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The SCCC connects like-minded volunteers who support Charlotte neighborhoods!

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New CDOT study shows Charlotteans want transportation choices

It's that time we've all been waiting for: the release of CDOT's biennial 2016 Transportation Survey! 406 residents were asked their opinions on driving conditions, possible solutions and funding sources, priorities, safety, and travel for pedestrians and cyclists.

You can click here to view it, or check out the highlights we've pulled out.

  • 86% want to see roads designed for everyone, not just those who drive cars.

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How do the 12% who don't want roads designed for all users think that people who cannot (or choose not to) drive cars should get around? We can only speculate.

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City Council to soon hear from public on key transportation plans

Mark your calendar for the evening of Monday, January 23! That's when you'll have a chance to tell Charlotte City Council your thoughts on the updated draft Transportation Action Plan (TAP) and the first ever Charlotte WALKS pedestrian plan.

At their December 12 meeting, Council's Transportation and Planning committee voted unanimously to recommend the TAP and Charlotte WALKS to the full Council for public comment. This means YOU will be able to let your elected officials know that you support investment in Charlotte's future.

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Missing and inadequate sidewalks abound in Charlotte. (from p.13 of Charlotte WALKS plan)

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New study shows area cyclists worry about safety

This November, the Urban Land Institute published "Living in Charlotte 2016: Views on Housing, Transportation, and Community". Click here to download the report.

As an organization advocating for smart growth and sustainable transportation, we're excited about this report because it captures the housing and transportation preferences of 2,984 people living in the Charlotte metro area (Mecklenburg County plus the seven contiguous counties).

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iBikeCLT Update: Charlotteans strongly support Uptown protected bike lanes

You've spoken up for safer bicycle facilities in Charlotte, and your voice is making a difference! More than 4,000 area residents have signed either our paper or online #iBikeCLT petition that we presented to City Council in July.

At the November 14 City Council Transportation and Planning Committee meeting, we heard an update from CDOT on the Uptown Urban Trails Connection Study. 

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The Uptown Connects Study is analyzing options for protected bike lane locations.

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