There is a new StreetCar line from the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS). The line just opened this week after many delays. It runs from Johnson C. Smith University to Plaza Midwood and extends the line running that already connected Elizabeth to Uptown. Streetcars will run every 20 minutes from 5am to 2am every day. Rides are free until January, then will be $2.20 which is the standard local fare.
This new extension of the Gold Line adds 11 stops and changes the streetcars to a fleet of hybrid vehicles. The line now runs from French Street on the west side, through Uptown and over to Sunnyside Avenue in Plaza Midwood. There are 4 miles of stops so far, with an additional 6 miles of stops planned for a future expansion that is not funded yet. The future plans would connect from Rosa Parks Community Transit Center in the west to the Eastland Community Transit Center in the east.
The original Gold Line opened in 2015 and the extension began construction in 2017. Funding of $150 million was split 50/50 between the city and the federal government. The original opening date was supposed to be August 2020, but was pushed back numerous times and the end of August 2021 was the final completion date due to a federal deadline.
Delays included the Republican National Convention, contractor error ordering the incorrect girders for the Hawthorne Lane Bridge, testing issues, and Covid. These delays pushed the project all the way to the federal deadline set up in the federal funding grant. But it is up and running as of this week so the delays are finally over.
The delays are not the only thing that has stalled the project. There have been many critics of the program arguing that expanding the current bus system would have been more beneficial and less costly. Proponents cite the economic boom from the Blue Line and foresee a similar increase in business along the Gold Line as well. Whatever the case, CATS and the City of Charlotte hope that the line helps spur more foot traffic and walkable areas of the city.
The idea behind the streetcar is to spur economic development and improve public transit. As the city becomes more dense with population, the existing roads can’t handle the influx of traffic so public transportation needs to become more robust to handle what the roads can’t. Urban density also allows for many more people not to have cars which can lead to more density as new residential projects don’t need to have as much parking on site.
The Gold Line streetcar is a throwback to when Charlotte was young and had a horse-drawn streetcar. Dilworth and Washington Heights were some of the first streetcar suburbs, showing that even back then, streetcars spurred growth in housing and essential businesses to service the people living in the new suburbs. In the 1930’s, most of the streetcar lines were converted to bus lines, so the new streetcar is a throwback.
At this time, it is a pretty sure bet to invest in a property near any of the mass transit stops in the city, from the Blue Line, to the Gold Line, to the proposed but not yet built Red Line. Properties in areas near the stops are likely to have a lot of foot traffic so there will likely be many small shops, restaurants, fitness studios, coffee shops and the like. Neighborhoods that will benefit from these new businesses are sure to appreciate in value as well.
To read more about the project, see the City of Charlotte website or Axios Charlotte.