The countdown is on to the March 16th opening of the Blue Line Extension (BLE) light rail. What you may not have heard about is some major changes coming to the Charlotte Area Transit Service (CATS) bus network at the same time.
As the first stage of the Envision My Ride initiative, CATS will be making service changes to over 20 routes. More than 700 bus stops will be discontinued, added, or changed. These changes will give more people access to the full bus and rail network.
CATS is studying how bus route structure and frequency changes can improve the efficiency of the system to better meet the needs of current bus riders, as well as attract people who don’t currently ride transit. Offering better connection opportunities will be critical to leveraging the public investment in the BLE by allowing easy transfers between rail and bus.
Research shows that the keys to increasing transit ridership are: speed of service, frequency, reliability, walkability and accessibility. More on that in TransitCenter’s Who’s On Board 2016 report.
CATS staff Pamela White (2nd from L) and Larry Kopf (far R) explain bus route changes to riders at a recent Envision My Ride public workshop.
We’re excited about the improved connections to the new BLE stations, but we also encourage increased frequency for the connecting bus routes. CATS will be working on improving and fine-tuning connection times for those routes in the coming months so riders will have a more seamless transfer between rail and bus.
Walkability and accessibility will be key to boosting ridership of both bus and rail. Most of the new BLE stations don’t have parking decks. Completed and planned improvements are addressing safety, connectivity, and accessibility needs for pedestrians and cyclists. We’re drawing attention to areas of need through our Walk2Transit project and we’ve partnered with residents to advocate for a road diet on Parkwood Ave that will be built in 2020.
Don’t live or work near a Blue Line station? There are more transit network improvements being planned across Mecklenburg County! Look for a blog post coming soon with more details about how the next phase of Envision My Ride will dramatically increase the percent of county residents who can walk to a transit stop and take transit to their jobs.