Forum on light rail outlined benefits to campus community

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When light rail service begins in August 2017, students, faculty and staff will be able to travel from UNC Charlotte to UNC Charlotte Center City in about 20 minutes. Attendees of a Nov. 29 public forum, held in the Cone University Center, Lucas Room, learned how light rail will enhance transportation opportunities for members of the campus community.

Light rail will run 18 hours a day, so that will really open up transportation alternatives between Uptown and campus, said Doug Lape, director of UNC Charlotte Parking and Transportation Services (PaTS). He said the average time from campus to UNC Charlotte Center City will be 22 minutes.

“We want to make it easy for folks to ride,” Lape stated. Currently, the University is working with Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) to confirm a cost that will enable students to receive an all-access pass for unlimited ridership on CATS light rail and buses (excluding express lanes). He added that faculty and staff will have the option to purchase such a pass at a discounted rate. The student pass will be part of a transportation fee.

Also, PaTS and CATS are working to incorporate a tap-and-go system that students will use to ride light rail and buses.

“We want to make it easy to ride,” said Lape. “You will have the ability to exchange your current University ID card for a new one with a RFID (radio frequency identification) chip that allows touchless card technology.”

Two stations will provide service to the University, UNC Charlotte Main and J.W. Clay/UNC Charlotte. Along the Blue Line Extension, there will be a number of parking decks for riders; the largest will be University City Boulevard parking deck at that road’s intersection with North Tryon Street.

CATS representative Hillary Ryan DeLong, who provided an overview of the light rail extension project, noted, “The University City Boulevard parking deck has about 1,500 parking spots. There will be bus space and active-use spaces that could be retail or coffee shops. This will also include a pedestrian bridge from the parking lot to the station in the middle of the road.”

Student Body President Fahn Darkor said UNC Charlotte students have supported the light rail extension since 2012. “Use of the light rail by students will be key to its success,” he stated.

In addition to listening to presentations by campus and CATS officials, forum attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns.

Testing for the CATS Blue Line Extension will begin in the spring; passenger service is expected to begin in August 2017.

More information about the University and light rail is on the web.