Streetcar

If you’ve been in Uptown Charlotte lately, you’ve probably seen construction underway for the installation of streetcar tracks! The CityLYNX Gold Line is a 10-mile streetcar system that is an integral part of the 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan. The streetcar will connect Charlotte’s central business district and serve as a critical economic development driver that focuses on growth along key corridors. It will also connect neighborhoods to community interests such as businesses, healthcare facilities, entertainment centers, educational institutions and much more.

The Economic Development Update Study for the CityLYNX Gold Line addresses two key topics:

  • What are the added economic development benefits from the CityLYNX Gold Line Phase 2?
  • What are the potential new fiscal revenues from the Phase 1 and Phase 2 CityLYNX Gold Line projects that could be used to help finance CityLYNX Gold Line Phase 2?

CityLYNX Gold Line Updates

Construction is occurring in phases:

  • Construction for Phase 1 began in December 2012. This phase will provide a 1.5-mile route from the Charlotte Transportation Center on Trade Street to Novant Hospital at Hawthorne Lane and Fifth Street. The 1.5 mile alignment will have six stops, including a connection to the LYNX Blue Line and will begin service in 2015. The estimated costs of Phase 1 is $37 million. Charlotte’s vintage trolley cars will be used during Phase 1, but replaced by modern vehicles (as depicted in the image below) in Phase 2.
  • Phase 2 extends the Phase 1 segment west 2 miles from Charlotte Transportation Center to French Street and east one-half mile along Hawthorne Lane from Presbyterian Hospital to Sunnyside Avenue. Modern streetcar vehicles will replace replica trolleys with the option of purchasing hybrid technology vehicles. CATS anticipates to advance the project as a design, bid, and build project in early 2016. Construction is projected to begin late 2016. Phase 2 service start date is projected in late 2019.
  • At the September 8, 2014 Charlotte City Council meeting, Council members voted 7-4 to approve staff’s request to commit the funds needed to apply for a federal grant that would cover half the cost of Phase 2 of the CityLYNX Gold Line.
  • Construction of the remaining six miles of line has not yet been scheduled.

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Map of the CityLYNX Gold Line Phases 1 and 2

Streetcar Facts

  • Streetcars operate along a fixed rail guideway that is embedded within the surface of a roadway.
  • Streetcars are related to light rail transit. However, there are some differences. Streetcars usually run in the city, rather than from the suburbs to the city. They are also typically lighter, less expensive, run at lower speeds, and usually run in traffic, rather than in exclusive right-of-ways.
  • While streetcars cannot deviate from the path of the guideway, the operator of the streetcar “drives” the vehicle, accelerating and braking to move along with traffic that may also operate in the same lane as the streetcar.
  • Because the tracks are visible, it is easy for potential riders to know where the routes are.
  • Multiple entrances allow streetcars to load faster than buses, which tend to have a single entrance. This, combined with swifter acceleration and braking, lets trams maintain higher overall speeds than buses, if congestion allows.
  • Streetcars can be either historic “trolley” models or modern cars.
  • Streetcars are called trams in many countries.
  • There are currently thirteen historical streetcar systems and two modern streetcar systems in operation in the United States. The two modern systems are located in Portland and Seattle.
  • Twenty-two modern streetcar systems are currently being constructed or are in the planning and design stages in cities all over the country. Such systems are under construction in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas (a second system), Kansas City, Tucson and Washington DC.

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Modern streetcars will run on Charlotte’s roads in Phase 2 of the CityLYNX Gold Line project.

Streetcar Resources

  • Sustain Charlotte produced a comprehensive report on the social, economic, and environmental benefits of streetcars. The report includes projections for Gold Line tax increment finance revenue and municipal service district revenue through 2035, an explanation of how streetcars can reduce pollution by running on clean energy, and how they connect vibrant, healthy communities. Download Go For The Gold: Why Streetcars are a Win for Charlotte.
  • The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) lists a variety of benefits of streetcars.
  • Trams for Bath has an article about the differences between buses and streetcars (called trams in much of the world).
  • The Northern Virginia Streetcar Coalition includes a fact sheet on streetcar systems and a link to a primer explaining the difference between light rail and streetcar.