Parking vs. light rail vs. Uber and Lyft: Your guide to the most cost-effective way to get around Charlotte

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Photo by Alex Cason Photography

When it comes to mapping out a budget, transportation is one of the easiest major costs to underestimate. As city dwellers, we’re constantly getting where we need to be in all sorts of fashions — walking, bussing, driving, riding — and it’s inevitable we’ll put down a good chunk of cash every month getting from A to B.

But if you’re looking to save money, what’s the most cost-effective way to get around town? How much are all of those $5 Uber rides really adding up? Is it better to drive your own car or to invest in a LYNX Blue Line light rail pass? I did the math to find out.

[Related: How I got hooked on riding the bus even though I have a car]

Parking

Believe it or not, driving and parking your car isn’t a terrible idea — even if you plan on staying a while. While parking garages do get pricey quickly, if you’re able to snag a spot in a lot, the cost isn’t too crazy. The downside: You’ll have to actually drive there and find a parking spot. Once you find one, you may have to walk a few blocks from the spot, costing you extra in time and gas money. Alas, here are a couple of Uptown parking options if you must bring your car:

Phifer Avenue and N. Tryon Street parking lot

616 N. Tryon Street
Daily rate: $8
Monthly rate: $110

6th and N. Brevard streets parking lot

300 N. Brevard Street
Daily max: $9
Monthly rate: $115

4th and Poplar streets

124 S. Poplar Street
Daily rate: $11
Monthly rate: $145
After 4 p.m. and on weekends: $7

International Trade Center parking garage

200 N. College Street
Hourly rate: $6
Daily rate: $16
Monthly rate: $130

Uber

Photo via Uber

Uber’s pretty cheap, too. This popular ride-hailing service will generally cost you fewer than $10 from most neighborhoods surrounding Uptown. Of course, if it’s raining out or there’s a popular game or concert that night, demand pushes up the price. Plus, if you’re a generous passenger, there’s the tip to account for. Here’s how much an Uber ride will run, depending on where you’re coming from:

From Belmont: $7 and up
From Dilworth: $8 and up
From LoSo: $8 and up
From Midtown: $7 and up
From Myers Park: $9 and up
From NoDa: $8 and up

Lyft

Photo via Lyft

Lyft is a bit of a mixed bag. Oddly enough, Lyft rides range generally from a few dollars cheaper than an Uber to significantly more expensive. If you’re already a devout Lyft rider, it probably won’t cost you too much more to stick with it, but coming to and from some neighborhoods it will add up.

From Belmont: $18-$21
From Dilworth: $6-$8
From LoSo: $9-$12
From Midtown: $4-$6
From Myers Park: $8-$10
From NoDa: $8-$10

LYNX Blue Line light rail

Photo via charlottesgotalot.com

Along with the CATS bus system, Charlotte’s 19-mile-long LYNX Blue Line light rail, which opened its route extension this year, is by far the most cost-efficient mode of transportation around the city. It’s just $4.40 per round trip from any station in or around the city, and the light rail’s Blue Line runs right through Uptown from neighborhoods all over the city and outside of it. Your ticket can be used on either light rail or bus — or both. Here are the ticket and pass options for Charlotte’s Blue Line:

One-way ticket: $2.20
Round-trip ticket: $4.40
One-day unlimited rides: $6.60
Weekly unlimited rides: $30.80
Monthly unlimited rides: $88

To figure out which station is closest to you — and there are plenty of stops to, from and throughout the city — check out the light rail map.

[Related: The best stops for food along Charlotte’s new light rail extension]

So, in a nutshell: Sure, taking a late-night Uber or two isn’t going to break the bank, but think twice before pulling up the app every day to get to the office — it’s probably costing you more than you realize.

*Rates are subject to change.

4 COMMENTS

  1. You should also factor in ride share bikes and scooters vs buying your own bike, helmet and a decent lock. Those scooter rides add up fast and are not in the same place twice.

  2. The Uber/Lyft estimates are high from South End / Dilworth unless they include the tip. Regardless the cost is not materially different than paying for a parking spot uptown especially when factoring in other costs and Uber/Lyft is a door to door service. Private auto is not.

    As others have mentioned, you also can factor in time into the equation. From South End / Dilworth, Myers Park, Plaza Midwood (eg anywhere within 4 mi of work) – my experience:

    Door to Door from quickest to slowest
    Bike (My own)
    Uber / Lyft
    Scooter
    Run
    Private Auto
    Lite Rail
    Walk
    CATS Bus

    The vast majority of my commutes are Personal Bike, Uber/Lyft (AM) Run/Walk (PM). Occasionally I Lite Rail (PM).

    Obviously modes that involve some walking (Private Auto, Lite Rail, Bus, Walk) are going to add commute time.

    The private auto is the only mode that adds both commute time and additional expense.

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