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What are the rules for cars near Charlotte’s new streetcar?

Charlotte Area Transit System officials test the CityLynx Gold Line streetcar in April. The streetcar traveled along Caldwell Street to Trade Street, operating alongside uptown traffic.
Charlotte Area Transit System officials test the CityLynx Gold Line streetcar in April. The streetcar traveled along Caldwell Street to Trade Street, operating alongside uptown traffic. Charlotte

The streetcar, which starts service Tuesday, will share Trade Street and Elizabeth Avenue with vehicles.

If you are driving and see a streetcar in your rear-view mirror, you don’t need to change how you drive. You don’t have to pull over and let the streetcar pass.

The streetcar will stop when you stop, but CATS has a warning: The streetcars can’t stop quickly, taking almost 100 feet to stop at 16 mph.

There is one place where cars have to be aware of the trolleys: The intersection of Hawthorne Lane and Elizabeth Avenue.

If you are turning right from Hawthorne Lane onto Elizabeth Avenue, heading toward uptown, the streetcar will be in the middle of the street, to your left. It will have priority to make its right turn onto Elizabeth Avenue before you.

About the cars

CATS eventually wants modern streetcars that would be similar to the cars that operate on the light-rail line. For now, CATS will use three replica cars.

Don’t worry, the cars have air conditioning.

The cars are powered by electrical wires, a catenary, that now is a canopy over Trade Street and Elizabeth Avenue.

There also is a small link from the streetcar line to the Lynx Blue Line rails alongside the arena. That will allow CATS to bring the streetcars on the light-rail line so they can be stored at the vehicle maintenance yard near South End.

The streetcars are handicapped accessible.

Construction costs

The federal government awarded Charlotte a $25 million grant, which paid for most of the streetcar’s $37 million construction.

Despite a three-month delay by the contractor, a joint venture between Balfour Beatty and Blythe Development, CATS said the project is within its budget.

The city of Charlotte will spend $1.6 million operating the streetcar for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Opening ceremony

The Charlotte Area Transit System will hold an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the plaza at Time Warner Cable Arena. Dignitaries will include U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who, as Charlotte mayor, was a champion of the project, even amid skepticism.

The public can attend. Streetcar service starts at 1 p.m.

Free ride

The streetcar is free, with no ticket needed. If the city is able to build its second phase, scheduled to open in 2019, CATS will likely charge the equivalent of a local bus fare, which is now $2.20.

Hours

The streetcar runs 6 a.m.-11 p.m. weekdays, except Friday when it ends at midnight.

Service is 8 a.m.-midnight Saturdays and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays.

Schedule

There is no published schedule. The streetcar operates alongside other vehicles and is subject to the same traffic signals and congestion as motorists. A streetcar arrives at each of six stations every 15 minutes during peak times on weekdays, 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. The streetcar runs every 20 minutes at other times. A one-way trip should take 10 to 12 minutes.

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