Carolyn Flowers leaving CATS for federal appointment

CATS chief executive Carolyn Flowers will leave the transit system in January to serve as a senior adviser to the Federal Transit Administration in Washington, D.C., the city of Charlotte announced Monday.

Flowers joined CATS in January 2010, replacing former transit chief Keith Parker.

Flowers’ tenure was marked by the transit system grappling with having less revenue than projected due to the aftermath of the recession. She also successfully helped launch the 9.3-mile Blue Line extension to University City, which is set to open in 2017.

The light-rail extension had long been planned, but Flowers helped the $1.1 billion line move forward and secure federal funding. But CATS also had to cut costs for the project, stopping the line at UNC Charlotte instead of going all the way to a planned park-and-ride lot at Interstate 485.

CATS also is working to advance a streetcar line through center city. The city of Charlotte has been responsible for the first phase of the streetcar, from Time Warner Cable Arena to Elizabeth, but CATS has been working to secure federal funding for the next 2.5-mile segment.

City Manager Ron Carlee will consult with the Metropolitan Transit Commission before naming an interim transit leader.

Flowers is the third CATS chief executive since voters approved a half-cent sales tax for transit in 1998. She follows Ron Tober and Parker.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer