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Cornelius News

Commuter rail or bus rapid transit? CATS paws at both

Oct. 19. By Dave Vieser. The Charlotte Area Transit System​’s​ (CATS) fresh look at rapid transit opportunities ​in the North Mecklenburg corridor ​will include ideas for both rail and bus rapid transit​, not just​ ​a commuter train​.

“The study is not limited to just rail​,​” said CATS spokeswoman Juliann Sheldon​.​ “CATS will be exploring all transit options based on the wants and needs of the community combined with current and future land-use.”​

Cornelius Commissioner Dave Gilroy, who has long been a proponent of bus rapid transit​, applauded CATS’ effort to consider all options. ​A proposed Red Line extension from Charlotte never even got out of the station in the face of opposition from not just business leaders but Norfolk Southern, owner of the railroad tracks running mostly along Hwy. 115.

More than 100 people came to Cornelius Town Hall for the CATS meeting on local transit options—​a major topic of discussion with more and more unpredictable backups on I-77 and tolls more and more likely just around the corner.​

The rail line options under consideration include the use of the Norfolk ​Southern freight line right of way which winds its way through the North Corridor, or new tracks to be built either east or west of I-77. However, Norfolk Southern has thus far opposed any use of their right of way, and building a completely new rail line ​c​ould be prohibitively expensive.

Residents interviewed by Cornelius Today at the forum seemed to favor a rail line over bus improvements. “If federal funds are available, I would like to see the rail line built​,​” said Laura Ferren of Cornelius. Regina Shea, also of Cornelius, agreed​,​ but also said she would support enhancements to the bus system if the rail line option became impossible.

Bus enhancement options could include expansion of the existing express bus routes which use I-77, or new bus rapid transit routes and equipment.

The study area stretches approximately 25 miles from Uptown Charlotte and includes Huntersville, Davidson and Mooresville, as well as Cornelius.

​A​t the conclusion of the study in December 2018, CATS will present its findings to the Metropolitan Transit Commission, which has responsibility for reviewing and recommending all long-range public transportation plans for the region.