Want to go for a joy ride along the Blue Line light rail extension? You could do that soon. Here are 12 things to know about the extension:
(1) The day it will open: After months of construction delays, the line will finally open Friday, March 16. Incidentally, this is the same day the Spectrum Center hosts the NCAA basketball tournament. This opening will come after about two months of testing. And more than 10 years after the light rail first opened, in Nov. 2007.
(2) Distance the extension covers: 9.3 miles. (Total, the Blue Line will stretch for just under 19 miles.)
(3) Number of stations along the extension: 11
(4) Length of ride: With the extension, it should take a passenger 45 minutes to ride the light rail from the first stop (at Interstate 485 in south Charlotte) to the final stop (UNC Charlotte).
(5) How this will affect CATs as a whole: Due to the opening of the extension, CATS will implement other changes in the transit system as a whole, such as tweaking some bus routes to connect with new light-rail stations.
(6) Operation time: Once the extension opens, CATS should operate trains every 7.5 minutes during rush hour. (Right now, the trains operate every 10 minutes during rush hour on weekdays and every 15 minutes otherwise.)
(7) New views to catch as you ride: Passengers riding the extension will get to see an 820-foot-foot long bridge over Toby Creek Greenway at UNCC, plus tunnels. There will be a 1,100-foot tunnel to move the train under North Tryon Street to get to UNC Charlotte. There will also be a 340-foot tunnel the train will move through when traveling north, following a descent underground for 780 feet — this is where you’ll be able to see retaining walls with floral design art by Denver, Colo. artist Carolyn Braaskma.
(9) Remember what to do if a ticket kiosk is broken: Call customer service at 704-336-RIDE (7433). They should be able to give you instructions on what to do next. Although, CATS did say it plans to replace all ticket-vending machines in the first quarter of this year. (Here are 5 more mistakes to avoid making when you ride the light rail.)
(10) The cost of the extension: $1.1 billion
(11) There are plenty of places to park and ride: You will be able to find four park-and-ride stations along the extension with 3,100 spaces total. Opt for the Old Concord Road park-and-ride lot (free), the Sugar Creek deck (free), the JW Clay Boulevard deck (for a fee) and the University Boulevard deck (for a fee).
(12) Extension construction has already boosted NoDa development: While critics say pedestrian-friendly development is being “thwarted” by certain projects along the Blue Line (like a car vending machine), the extension is still bright with development to bring in and benefit residents along the line. NoDa developments include an eight-unit condominium project at 37th and North Davidson streets called NoDa Terrace, plans for hundreds of new apartments in a project called Alta Purl II and the Tompkins Hall project (the renovation and redevelopment of a former textile mill into a food court, shops and office space).
Sit back and enjoy the ride.
Photo: Diedra Laird