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Charlotte, NC's first light-rail line opened for business over the weekend, and the initial reviews are good. The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) gave reporters ...
by | November 19, 2007

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Charlotte, NC's first light-rail line opened for business over the weekend, and the initial reviews are good.

The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) gave reporters a sneak preview of its Lynx Blue Line last week. Charlotte Observer reporter Tommy Tomlinson wrote up his first impressions in Sunday's newspaper:

"One-minute review: comfortable seats, although a few are a tight squeeze. Smooth ride. Friendly voice announcing the stops. Ticket machines are easy to figure out. Stations are open-air, so it's hard to get warm on a cold day. The one thing I didn't expect: a bike hook so you can hang your bike inside the train car."

But looking out the train's big windows, Tomlinson said he was most struck by the glimpse he caught of Charlotte's future. "Light rail sucks up a lot of money for a long time, and it will only cost more from here on out," he wrote. "It also irrigates the land along the lines, sprouting condos and shops and whole neighborhoods where you can live a decent life without a car. Most of that is far into the future. But one ride is all you need to see the future coming."

That assessment had to please Debra D. Campbell, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County planning director whose work on transit issues, particularly the light-rail system, is one reason Governing recently named her a Public Official of the Year. Campbell told Governing's Zach Patton that the key to the whole $5 billion rail project is the neighborhoods that will develop around each LYNX stop. "Transit is a means; it's not the end," she said. "The end is high-quality development and a way for us to promote better development to make sure we're better stewards of our community and the environment."

A video from the preview ride shot by Todd Sumlin of the Charlotte Observer gives a little sense of what Campbell and Tomlinson are talking about. In one shot, out the window of the zipping Blue Line train, you see a sign for the Light Rail Family Restaurant, formerly the Flamingo Family Restaurant, which changed its name last year because of its location on South Boulevard, near the Arrowood and Sharon Road West stations. A lot of other businesses in Charlotte are betting on LYNX's future too.

(Photo credit: Charlotte Area Transit System)

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