Uptown Charlotte’s free Gold Rush bus service on Tryon Street should be suspended in July because federal funding for it will end, according to a recommendation by Center City Partners.
The Gold Rush Orange line, which carried 300,769 riders last fiscal year, is a favorite of uptown workers who park at the edge of uptown and take the trolley-like buses to their offices.
But two federal grants worth a total $393,361 expire at the end of June, and private contributions have also declined, according to a presentation by Center City Partners.
The City Council was scheduled to discuss the proposal Monday night but didn’t have time for the agenda item during its dinner meeting.
Olaf Kinard, a marketing manager for the Charlotte Area Transit System, said the weak economy has made it harder to secure grants and donations from businesses.
“This is the same story that’s been happening for everyone,” Kinard said.
Monday’s PowerPoint presentation, prepared by Center City Partners, said that CATS and Center City Partners recommended suspending the Orange Line. CATS said Tuesday it hasn’t made a formal decision on the line’s fate.
Under the proposal, the Gold Rush Red Line – which runs along Trade Street – would remain. The Red Line made 643,340 passenger trips last year. The city is planning to build a streetcar along Trade Street that would replace the Gold Rush.
Lines cost $1.5 million
The two free lines cost $1.5 million to operate annually. The Charlotte Area Transit System contributes $380,000 and the state pays $356,290. Private contributions from Bank of America, Johnson C. Smith University and Central Piedmont Community College and others total $380,000.
Center City Partners, an uptown booster and think tank, helps raise money from the private contributors. Center City Partners is mostly funded by a special property tax levied on property owners inside Interstate 277 and South End.
The group said it spent $62,325 this year on the Gold Rush.
Center City Partners spokesperson Moira Quinn said, “We are not set up to solely fund transportation projects at the expense of other projects in our program of work.”
The city and Center City Partners have hired a consultant, Nelson/Nygaard, to study the Gold Rush and see how it can be improved.
The Red Line along Trade Street carries a little more than 60 passengers for each hour the Gold Rush operates. The Orange Line carries a little less than 40 riders per hour, according to the presentation.
The CATS system average is about 25 passengers per revenue-hour of service.
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