Applicant Information

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Urban Circulator Systems Grant

Applicant Information

The applicant is the City of Charlotte

The City’s FTA recipient ID #1111
Contact information:

Name: John Mrzygod, PE

Title: Project Manager

Number: 704.336.2245

Fax: 704.336.6586

Email Address:

Organization: City of Charlotte – Engineering & Property Management

Address: 600 E. Fourth Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

The City of Charlotte, located in Mecklenburg County, is the largest municipality in North Carolina. The city covers 299 square miles and is the heart of the Charlotte Metro region serving more than 1,725,000 people.
The City of Charlotte’s Engineering & Property Management (E&PM) department will manage the design and construction of the Streetcar Starter Project. E&PM also manages the design and construction of City facilities and infrastructure projects. These include neighborhood improvements, storm water services and water quality, transit, roadway improvements and other projects such as the building of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Bobcats Arena.  For the period FY2010-14, E&PM will handle more than 200 City capital improvement projects valued at $533 million. E&PM staff also manages real property, enables sustainability, manages facilities and provides regulatory services.   The breadth of projects and services provided by E&PM positively impact the quality of life for more than 716,800 Charlotte citizens, every day.

The City of Charlotte’s Charlotte Area Transportation System (CATS) department will operate and maintain the streetcar once constructed. CATS is the regional transit provider for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg North Carolina regional and currently operates and maintains the bus and LYNX light rail systems.

In the event an Urban Circulator Systems Grant of $24.99 million is awarded to the City of Charlotte, City Council is prepared to provide the necessary matching funds. On January 25, 2010, Charlotte City Council approved the Urban Circulator Grant application and endorsed a funding plan setting aside $12.0 million in previously appropriated capital investment funds as the City’s share of the $36.99 million Streetcar Starter Project.  The $12.0 million City contribution would be comprised of existing capital appropriations from various sources, including City debt capacity of $5.5 million and $6.5 million funded from the City’s Pay-As-You-Go capital fund.  The Pay-As-You-Go fund is supported by a portion of the City’s property tax, sales tax, and auto tax revenues.
For FY 2009, the City maintained its AAA bond rating from all three major rating agencies.
The City’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the year ending June 30, 2009 can be viewed using the link on Page 25.

Project Information

The City of Charlotte’s application for Urban Circulator funds consists of the construction of the first mile and half of a proposed 10- mile streetcar project in the City’s urban core known as Center City. The main terminus for the project is the Charlotte Transportation Center (CTC), which is the facility that houses the Charlotte Area Transit Systems (CATS) primary transfer location between its bus system and its existing LYNX light rail service. The streetcar alignment will extend along Trade Street and Elizabeth Avenue to Hawthorne Street utilizing the half mile of existing track that was recently installed as part of a streetscape project along Elizabeth Avenue. The other terminus of the project will be on Hawthorne Avenue adjacent to Presbyterian Hospital, one of two major hospitals serving the Charlotte area. The Streetcar segment from CTC to Hawthorne Lane will connect downtown Charlotte, which includes the Time-Warner Cable Arena, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte uptown campus, to the campus of Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), Presbyterian Hospital, Presbyterian School of Nursing and the shops and restaurants along Elizabeth Avenue.

Charlotte’s Streetcar Plan

In 2006, the City of Charlotte completed a feasibility analysis, 10 percent design and concept plans for the full streetcar alignment. Currently, the 10 mile project is being advanced to a 30 percent design level. In the event the City is awarded the grant, we are prepared to advance the Streetcar Starter Project through final design and into construction. The Urban Circulator Systems Grant affords the City the opportunity to implement the 1.5 mile segment and take advantage of two recent transit investments:

  1. As part of a recently completed streetscape construction project on Elizabeth Avenue, the City embedded rails on .4 miles of the segment to be funded under this program. The streetscape project also included the installation of catenary poles for this portion of the proposed streetcar alignment. This was achieved through a joint public / private venture between four city departments, Central Piedmont Community College, and Grubb Properties, a local developer.

  2. CATS has three replica trolleys that can be used for service on the proposed starter alignment.

Charlotte’s Streetcar Plan – Proposed Streetcar Starter Alignment


Alignment and length: The project entails the construction of 1.42 miles of double-tracked in-street rail on segments of Trade Street, Elizabeth Avenue and Hawthorne Lane and a small section of non-revenue track on Caldwell Street and 5th Street.

Number of vehicles: The City of Charlotte proposes to use 3 Gomaco Vintage Trolleys that have already been acquired with a peak requirement of 2 vehicles and 1 spare.

Number of stops: There are 6 stop locations along this alignment: three median platform stops and three curbside stops.

Frequency of service: Proposed peak hour service is two vehicles with 10-15 minute headways with 20 minute headways during off peak service.

Hours of operation: 6 AM to 11 PM Monday through Thursday, 6 AM to 12 AM on Friday, 8 AM to 12 AM on Saturday and 9 AM to 7 PM on Sunday

Location of

maintenance facility: The vehicles will be maintained at the existing CATS light rail maintenance facility on South Boulevard.

Intermodal connections

and transfer centers: The streetcar will connect to the Charlotte Transportation Center as well as the northern terminus of the LYNX light rail line. Both connections occur at the western terminus of the streetcar on Trade Street in the central business district of Charlotte.

Charlotte Residents Strongly Support Transit

Charlotte and Mecklenburg County voters approved and later reaffirmed their support (70%) for a ½ cent sales tax to support comprehensive transit development including over 60 miles of rail transit. The City opened its first section of rail based transit in November 2007 with the LYNX Blue Line, a 9.6 mile, 15-station light rail system that is already approaching 2020 ridership projections.

Improves Transit Service in the Highest Demand Corridors

The overall streetcar corridor has the highest combined bus boardings of any corridor in the Charlotte transit system. Routes 1, 7, 9, 39 and Gold Rush Red Line all have their highest volumes on Beatties Ford, Trade Street, Elizabeth Avenue or Central Avenue. Although the starter project is a small segment of the overall streetcar plan, this service will help enhance CATS existing system.
Peak volumes for Route 9 occur in the midday and PM peak hours and usually occur near Central Piedmont Community College at Kings Drive and Elizabeth Avenue. The proposed starter project will improve service on this high volume segment between CPCC and the Charlotte Transportation Center.

Enhances Mobility

Charlotte Transportation Center at Trade Street
T he project is needed to enhance mobility in the project corridor. As the focal point of employment and transportation within the region, Charlotte’s Center City must have a modern transit system to support its growing mobility needs. The streetcar is part of a system plan with five major transportation corridors emanating out from Center City. The major transportation corridors are the focus of future development and redevelopment. According to the 2030 Transit System Corridor Plan, “The Center City improvements are designed not only to serve travel within the CBD (Central Business District), but also to provide and enhance transit connectivity between the corridors. These improvements will benefit the entire region by enabling the individual corridors and local services to function as an integrated system.” The streetcar establishes an east-west transit spine that links all five rapid transit corridors in downtown Charlotte.

Enhanced mobility provided through the efficiency and convenience of the streetcar and accessibility to key destinations will also enhance the walkability of Center City. According to the 2030 Transit System Corridor Plan, “Operation of the streetcar along Trade Street would further enhance this street as a pedestrian/transit way. The streetcar project would provide a new and unique mode of transportation, facilitating travel and improving transit access for residents and businesses along the corridor.

The starter project will also enhance mobility in neighborhoods of diverse income and ethnic composition. Demographic analyses of the initial segment of the streetcar indicates that several existing single-family and multi-family neighborhoods are comprised of low-income and minority households. The starter project will enhance the quality of transit service to these neighborhoods thereby improving mobility among transit dependent populations, linking them to employment, education, medical services, and other modes of transportation. A demographic analysis shows that the one half-mile streetcar rider capture area would provide access to high-quality transit service for an additional 2,849 low income and 4,410 minority persons along the 1.5 mile alignment.

Serves Projected Population and Employment Growth

The streetcar is one component of an overall transit system that is needed to keep pace with projected population and employment growth. As one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, the population and employment rates within Charlotte are projected to continue the rapid growth trend. In addition, increased interest in living in an urban setting and the desire to live close to work has created a growing demand for residential development in the project corridor. Numerous development activities are planned or are under construction within the project vicinity. The proposed streetcar would provide existing and future residents with an efficient and attractive transit option for traveling to and from work and between other destinations served by CATS’ transit system.

Much of the projected growth in population and employment will be experienced in the streetcar corridor. The number of urban core residents within one-half mile of the streetcar alignment will increase by over 16,000 persons between now and 2030. This constitutes a 160% increase in population. Employment numbers are growing as well. The initial segment of the streetcar will be serving 119,000 employees by 2030, an increase of 44%.

Improves Connectivity Between Activity Centers

EpiCentre and view of downtown along Trade Street
T he streetcar provides high-quality transit service connecting key destinations along the proposed segment. Major activity centers within the corridor include the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, the Charlotte Transportation Center, Time Warner Cable Arena (home of NBA Charlotte Bobcats), EpiCentre, Central Piedmont Community College - Central Campus, and Presbyterian Hospital. Shopping, medical offices and services, and key offices for federal, state, and regional agencies and community services are also located along the proposed alignment.

The streetcar would directly serve Central Piedmont Community College – Central Campus, which enrolls between 16,000 and 17,000 students, all of which live off campus and commute to the college. The Central Campus hosts special events such as art exhibits, theatrical performances and conferences. Two other educational institutions, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Uptown Campus and Kings College are also within walking distance of the alignment.

Elizabeth Avenue

Presbyterian Hospital’s main campus and school of nursing is located at the eastern terminus of the proposed streetcar segment and is the region’s second largest medical complex. The hospital employs over 10,000 people.

Serves Existing and Planned Development

The City of Charlotte is growing in population and is proactively working to implement transit improvements that will support livable urban communities by promoting economic development, increased development density, and mixed income residential development. The streetcar will provide mobility enhancement to diverse residential areas and housing types. The project would serve existing single-family and multi-family neighborhoods throughout the corridor as well as promote pedestrian and transit-oriented residential infill development characterized as multi-family, mixed-use development with new urbanism design elements. Such elements include streetscape features that serve pedestrians by providing them with distinctive and human-scale spaces. There are four development and expansion projects under construction within the project study area. These and other developments planned for the corridor support the streetcar project by increasing pedestrian-oriented activity throughout the corridor, which will promote transit and result in increased use of the system. Likewise, the streetcar would support the development activities by enhancing mobility and providing high quality transit service to developing and redeveloping areas of Charlotte.

Encourage and/or Accelerate New Development

Trade Street and Elizabeth Avenue will generate substantial development interest and potential over the next few years. Current redevelopment trends demonstrate high-density projects with a mix of commercial and residential uses, particularly on parcels fronting the corridors. These development opportunities become more attractive and could potentially be accelerated by the implementation of the streetcar starter project.

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