When cities apply for federal funding for new transit projects, ridership is perhaps the most important criteria. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) wants to know: How much will a new rail line cost, and how many people will ride it?
The Charlotte Area Transit System knows what the feds want, having built three major rail projects in the last 15 years. Which is why Monday’s City Council transportation committee meeting was so strange.
CATS staff presented three routes for the east-west Silver Line light rail to pass through uptown. It didn’t provide detailed ridership estimates once during the entire 30-minute presentation.
Shannon Binns of Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit that advocates for sustainability and public transit, e-mailed CATS to express his disappointment with the city’s apparent focus on the potential for new skyscrapers over new riders.
“With ridership not being part of the discussion, the potential to generate new development and property tax revenue and least amount of disruption to businesses emerged as the most important goals of the project,” Binns wrote. “As you know, we believe that as a transit project, development potential is important but ridership and the experience of riders should be the priority.”