After declining during the recession, ridership on Charlotte’s Lynx Blue Line has returned to levels from the second half of 2008, when gas prices hit record highs.
In the last six months of 2014, there were 16,186 trips on the average weekday – eclipsing for the first time the peak from the last six months of 2008.
“I have ridden it since it opened up,” said Candy Congelli who takes the train uptown. “I used to do 77, the white-knuckle commute. I am thankful (for the Lynx).”
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The train is still ahead of ridership projections, which are supposed to be 18,100 trips by 2025. First-year ridership in 2007-08 was projected at 9,700 weekday trips.
“We find that when people make that initial determination to get on and start riding they love it,” said Krystel Green, a Charlotte Area Transit System spokesperson. “… They are seeing the on-time performance is phenomenal.”
However, the train’s seven years have shown that it’s been difficult for CATS to get new riders, even as uptown employment has grown significantly and thousands of new apartments have been built along the line in uptown and the South End. Many of the apartments were built because of the proximity to the train.
Former UNC Charlotte transportation consultant David Hartgen, a transportation consultant, said ridership suggests light rail is losing market share in the commuting corridor along South Boulevard, Interstate 77 and Park Road.
“The fundamental assumption is that the Lynx traffic would increase as the region got denser,” he said. “That hasn’t happened.”
Staff photographer Jeff Siner contributed.