by Jeff Taylor
We finally have some numbers to go with the Southeast/Independence Blvd. transit line. And, yes, rail is way more expensive than buses.
CATS says it will be $585 million for a 12.7 mile light rail line and $325 million for a 13.5 mille bus line. The buses would run little further into Uptown, to the $16 million mutli-modal transit palace — which should tell you right there which option CATS prefers.
For those keeping track (ha-ha!) this estimate projects the Independence line would cost $46 million per mile compared to $44.5 million per mile for the South Blvd. line. That should tell you right there how accurate this projection might be — the Independence line is a much more involved project.
In any event, we now have the full-throated opposition to bus rapid transit out in the open. Much of that opposition seems to be dictated by fashion — that buses just are not as hip as choo-choos. Well, too bad. Mass transit is supposed to move people around, not make them feel fashionable — although the way lifestyle gets tied up with development and transportation issues is sometimes hard to tell.
I also sometimes wonder if the bus opposition isn’t really just code for the belief that white people from the ‘burbs will not ride buses, but they will flock to rail. Nevermind that perception is disproven everyday in many cities, it still seems to float around the edges of the bus-rail debate. The truth is riders — black, white, green, or blue — only flock to transit solutions that make sense for them. Period.
But it gets better. City councilwoman Nancy Carter and Matthews Mayor Lee Myers seem to be staking out a position which says they want light rail or no transit at all. Now that is downright bizarre.
Either a transit line is a good idea on the merits or it is not. From there the question becomes what is the most cost-effective way to build a line — assuming it can even be cost-effective. All available evidence says that bus rapid transit would make the most sense — and I add the stipulation that adequate lane improvements must be made to Hwy. 74 and Independence Pointe Parkway for the thing to begin to be a net improvement for Charlotte’s transportation grid.
Given all the flux, however, I would not be surprised to see approval for bus option that stops short of Matthews proper at a large North Sardis park-and-ride lot. Mayor Myers evidently wants to use his town’s new willingness to raise $20 million by taxing residents cars to put towards a transit line to get CATS to back rail. Doubt that works, but we soon will see.