CATS ends Mooresville bus service

A.C. Shull drove 10 miles from his home in Sherrills Ford each weekday to catch the 83X CATS bus to work in Charlotte.

On the way home, the city of Charlotte employee shopped at the Lowes grocery on Williamson Road and Super Target on N.C. 150. Now he must find another way to get to work and other places.

Shull said he got the second half of a "double whammy" Friday in his pursuit to help the environment by keeping his car off Interstate 77.

That was the day Mooresville's contract with the Charlotte Area Transit System for three 83X bus routes expired. Shull previously rode the 88X Denver bus until Lincoln County commissioners voted in March to quit funding their share of the service, and the contract expired this summer.

In October, Mayor Chris Montgomery broke a 3-3 tie vote among Mooresville commissioners and voted against a new $25,208 six-month contract with CATS that would have begun Saturday.

Montgomery has said he doesn't think it's fair that all Mooresville taxpayers foot the bill for so few riders: 61 regular round-trip passengers in one count last year.

Montgomery, however, met with a CATS official in mid-December to gather more information about the service and has invited loyal 83X rider Karen Brown to an as-yet unscheduled follow-up meeting with CATS representatives.

Brown said she has presented several cost-saving ideas to Montgomery, including reducing the number of buses, changing the route schedule and eliminating Friday service. "I do intend to pursue our cause," Brown said.

CATS, meanwhile, was scheduled to open a new park-and-ride lot at Lake Cornelius Boulevard and Davidson Gateway Drive in Davidson on Saturday to accommodate more passengers from the 83X. The 77X North Meck bus will be rerouted to serve the new lot during morning and evening peak trips, CATS officials said.

Some 83X passengers already had begun using the 77X before last week. Many of the 83X riders I met with one evening last week at the CATS lot on Williamson Road told me they'll use the 77X or the lot further south, off I-77 Exit 25 in Huntersville.

None of the dozen or so riders interviewed were happy about losing the bus, from Shull to the women who'd become close friends riding one of the routes, which included Rosalie High, Marissa Parrish and Mara Kensinger.

Debora McCormack, 53, of Mooresville rode the bus because she doesn't know how to drive. She said she never needed to learn because she lived in New York City, where many people rely solely on mass transit.

McCormack works at Flowers Plus in the Wells Fargo building uptown and enjoyed riding the 83X with her sister, Kathy Maggio, 64, who owns a postal contract station in the Bank of America building.

Brian Hatcher, 35, rode the 83X since he learned about it this summer. Hatcher, who works for Bank of America uptown, previously worked in Chicago, where he used mass transit daily.

In a Nov. 29 e-mail to Montgomery, Hatcher said it was unfair for town officials to expect 83X riders to justify the bus.

"Mass transportation is essential for all communities for multiple reasons," Hatcher wrote. "I would put this back on you and ask why didn't you promote the bus to increase ridership."

Hatcher said mass transit, including eventual CATS rail service, could be a selling point for prospective homebuyers and retailers.

Efforts by the Observer to reach Montgomery were unsuccessful last week.

In a reply e-mail to Hatcher, the mayor said Hatcher had raised valid points. "Your examples of economic development are well founded and ones I will consider," Montgomery wrote.