It’s happened a couple of times: I’ve gone to the kiosk at the East/West Boulevard station to buy a ticket for a LYNX light rail ride, and the machine has been out of service. If just one machine is down, I’ll walk across the tracks and use the kiosk on the opposite side. If both are down, I’ll give up and walk back to my car. I’m too goody-two-shoes-esque to board without paying.

And I’ve wondered whether that’s a mistake. Should I just board anyway as long as I can pay when/if asked? The answer is no.

Here are six mistakes to avoid when riding the light rail:

(1) Do not: See that the kiosk is out of service, and board anyway.

No, it’s not your fault that you couldn’t pay. But Krystel Green, Manager of Public & Community Relations said you should actually contact Customer Service at 704-336-RIDE (7433). They should be able to give you instructions on what to do next.

At this point, I’m still probably just walking back to my car. Or requesting an Uber.

But hey, fun fact: That broken kiosk is technically called a Ticket Vending Machine, or TVM. [Related: How the LYNX light rail got its name.]

(2) Do not: Board the light rail without paying, period.

If you’re asked by security to show your ticket and you’re empty-handed, you could get a $50 citation. (Cue panic attack.)

(3) Do not: Buy a ticket in the morning and save it to use that night.

I admire your plan-ahead attitude, but there are rules. Green said a One Ride pass must be used within 90 minutes of buying the pass. If you purchase a Round Trip ticket, you must begin the first part of your trip within 90 minutes of buying the pass. You have until the end of that day to use your return trip.

If you REALLY want to plan ahead, buy a pass online.

(4) Do not: Treat the Day pass as a 24-hour pass.

The pass must be used in the calendar day you purchased it.

(5) Do not: Try to use a 10-Ride CATS pass on LYNX.

Since it’s a proof-of-payment system, there’s no way to deduct the ride like there is on a CATS bus with a fare box, Green said.

(6) Do not: Assume that your ride will be cheaper based on the miles you travel.

More specifically, if you ride with a One-Ride pass from one station to the very next station, you will be paying the same amount for a One-Ride pass ($2.20 for an adult) that you would pay for riding the rail from start (I-485 station) to finish (7th Street station).

CATS uses a fare policy that is approved by the Metropolitan Transit Commission, which is CATS’ governing board, Green said. LYNX fare matches the local bus fare, which is selected based on reasonable affordability for riders, as well as a share of the costs of operating transit services. A ticket purchase helps fund system operations like trains running on tracks, capital costs like the Blue Line Extension Project, and debt due to loans taken out to help CATS pay for transportation needs.

Happy riding.

Photo: Davie Hinshaw/ Charlotte Observer

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