Read to the end of this, as I've tucked in a news item.
Is it true only 2 percent of the public in Charlotte rides public transportation?
You'll hear that stat a lot. It counts everyone driving through the region on I-85 or I-77, commercial delivery trucks, tractor-trailers, etc. -- trips transit would never compete for. Nearly 10 percent of the workforce in uptown Charlotte takes public transportation every weekday.
Light rail will never reduce congestion.
In a growing metro region, building mass transit doesn't result in fewer cars on the road than before. However, mass transit will keep congestion from being as bad as it would be without mass transit.
In large and very large urban areas with rail, traffic congestion grows at a 42 percent lower rate than in similarly sized urban areas without rail. That's from a study in 2000 by Mobility Planning Associates of Austin, Texas.
The well-respected Texas Transportation Institute, in its 2005 Urban Mobility Report and Texas Transportation Index, found that in the Charlotte region, people who ride public transportation versus driving alone reduce congestion delays by 6 percent to 12 percent, or more than 2 million hours of congestion delay per year.
Public transportation provides 3.25 times more congestion relief than operations treatments such as signalization, intersection improvements, incident management, etc., according to the TTI study.
In coming months you'll hear a lot of people offering up statistics purported to show that light rail transit is a bad, bad, evil and/or spendthrift idea. Plenty of anti-tax folks just don't like more taxes. Other, libertarian types don't like public governments spending money on big public works projects. Others just like to make political hay.
Be smart. Statistics are like cakes. How they turn out depends on what ingredients you start with. For just about every stat purporting to show CATS is wasting money and poorly run and light rail is "failing" all over the country, you can find other stats -- many of them from groups such as TTI that are neither transit bashers nor transit zealots -- that will show the opposite, or will show a more complex, nuanced reality.
Now news, of a sort:
Transit and city officials are looking at whether part of the South Corridor light rail line -- which they call the Lynx Blue Line -- could open earlier than planned. Target date, CATS chief Ron Tober told me, is Oct. 27. The section that would open, he said, would be from uptown to as far south as they determined they could do it safely.
City Manager Pam Syfert says the City Council will be asked to look at the pros and cons of an early opening.
Betcha they're looking at that Nov. 6 election, when the kill-the-transit-tax measure is likely to be on the ballot. Generating a lot of positive community enthusiasm right before the election surely couldn't hurt. But any glitches, and they're toast.