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Gas prices increase Charlotte light-rail ridership

On average, 13,000 people step on board the LYNX Blue Line everyday, which is 4,000 more than expected.

By Melissa Martin

Published on WCNC on Wednesday, June 4, 2008.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, people are looking for any way to save a buck; the perfect boost to put Charlotte's 6-month-old light rail line on the fast track.

On average, 13,000 people step on board the LYNX Blue Line everyday, which is 4,000 more than expected, according to officials with the Charlotte Area Transit System.

We talked with several riders who say gas prices and convenience have prompted them to give light rail a try, opting to pay $2.60 for a round trip ticket, rather than a gas guzzling trip to work.

"I did an analysis of it and I save $150 a month, not have to pay to park and drive my SUV uptown," said Tim Gray, who has been riding light rail since its launch in November.

"I think I'm saving $75 to $100 a month. Tt really adds up," said Bernice Parenti, who started riding a month ago.

Statistics show ridership in the first five months has fluctuated, peaking in February and March when the three basketball tournaments were in town. CATS says special events, like the Keith Urban/Carrie Underwood concert have also boosted ridership. While May numbers are not finalized, CATS expects the numbers to be high because of gas prices.

CATS is still working out some kinks. A machine at the Woodlawn Road stop did not accept coins or give change Wednesday morning, and parking at some locations is tight.

"I have to have my wife drop me off here because I know I can't find a parking place," said John Thomas, who gets on at the Sharon Road West stop.

The I-485/South Boulevard deck was full by 8:25 Wednesday morning, forcing some to park elsewhere and walk.

"I don't mind the walk at all, but if the weather's inclement then it can be a problem," said Gray.

"It's great in one respect and it's kind of scary in another," said David McDonald, transit planning manager, of the parking situation.

"At 485, we're looking at several items. One of the things we're doing is looking at some available land we have, looking and trying to expand the lot. We're also looking at the possibility of expanding the deck. That's a longer term issue," said McDonald.

Options at Sharon Road West are more limited because CATS does not own the land around the parking lot.

In the six months of operation, ridership on the LYNX Blue Line has surpassed 1.9 million riders. Larger numbers of people are now riding on the weekends, prompting CATS to run trains every 15 minutes during the midday service on Saturdays and Sundays.

Ridership numbers so far are:

LYNX Blue Line Ridership by Month
Month Ridership
December 2007 356,000
January 2008 328,248
February 2008 387,023
March 2008 402,604
April 2008 344,251

May numbers will be available mid-June.