CATS Connector bus to fill in during Blue Line light rail shutdowns

Commuters wait at the CTC/Arena Station to ride the Lynx Blue Line light rail on Wednesday, January 21, 2015.
Commuters wait at the CTC/Arena Station to ride the Lynx Blue Line light rail on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

With light rail service on the Lynx Blue Line shutting down for the next two weekends, you’ve still got an option for public transit. But you’ll need to plan more travel time to stay on schedule.

Lynx trains will be out of service April 30-May 1 and May 7-8 for construction on the Blue Line and Blue Line extension and for other maintenance, according to Charlotte Area Transit System.

That other option for travelers: the Lynx Connector bus. It will operate between the Charlotte Transportation Center and the Interstate 485/South Boulevard Station while the light rail system is closed. There will be no bus service at Seventh Street.

Connector buses will run every 20 minutes, said Krystel Green, a spokesperson for CATS. The route will be mostly along South Boulevard, with some travel time on Old Pineville Road near Tyvola and Woodlawn roads, Green said.

Traveling by bus in traffic will be slower than moving along light rail’s tracks, Green said. The ride from uptown to I-485 on the Connector is expected to take about 50 minutes, compared with about 25 minutes on a Lynx train.

Riders can buy tickets for the Connector at Lynx stations, with an adult fare priced at $2.20 for a one-way ride. Transfers, passes and exact change also can be used.

Signs will be posted at rail stations to direct riders to the nearest Connector stop. Headway signs on buses will identify Connector vehicles.

The bus will mostly use existing stops on South Boulevard as well as others that will be added. At Woodlawn, the Connector will stop at the bus bay.

“We tried to use as many existing bus stops as possible,” Green said. “There may be a couple of times where we could not do that.”

Route information is available on the CATS website, through electronic riders alerts, and on printed alerts on buses. Riders also can call CATS customer service at 704-336-7433.

CATS has had weekend rail service interruptions or partial closures 18 times during the past 16 months. Crews are extending platforms and making other improvements on the existing stretch of the Blue Line as construction moves forward at the same time on the new northern rail leg to UNC Charlotte.

Shutting down the system for the next two weekends should allow CATS to avoid similar disruptions in spring and summer, when more events and activities are scheduled in the center city and other areas, a notice from CATS said.

While the rail system is shut down, crews will do maintenance and repair work on the grade crossing panel used by southbound trains at South Boulevard and Clanton Road.

Crews on existing and new tracks will work on the overhead catenary system, which is a 750-volt line that provides power for light rail cars. Other improvements also are planned.

Karen Sullivan: 704-358-5532, @Sullivan_kms