Charlotte Area Transit System

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Charlotte Area Transit System
Charlotte CATS logo.png
Parent Charlotte-Mecklenburg (Charmeck)
Founded 1999
Headquarters 300 East Trade Street, Charlotte, North Carolina
Locale City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County
Service area Metrolina
Service type Bus and Light Rail (as LYNX)
Routes 50 local, 19 express
Stops 3600
Hubs 4
Stations 10 (LYNX)
45 park and rides
Fleet 501 (total)
Daily ridership 83,100[1]
Fuel type Diesel, Hybrid
Chief executive Carolyn Flowers

The Charlotte Area Transit System, commonly referred to as CATS, is the public transit system in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. It operates bus service around the Charlotte metropolitan area, which includes a Bus Rapid Transit line called the Sprinter, and a light rail system called LYNX, which opened on November 24, 2007.

John Muth is the system's current interim chief executive, after Carolyn Flowers resigned to take a position at the Federal Transit Administration.[2][3] Prior to her arrival in January 2010 and departure in January 2015, Flowers was the Chief Operating Officer of the LACMTA.[4]


Bus transportation was provided by the Charlotte Department of Transportation under the branding known as Charlotte Transit, which was in existence from 1976 to 1999.[5] (Charlotte Transit is not to be confused with Charlotte Area Transit System despite the similarity in name.) Most routes were local, with virtually no express service to outlying areas with the exception of two express routes. Service became inadequate to serve the rapidly growing population, especially in the southern and eastern portions, which began to be built up during 1990s. A referendum was passed in 1998 by Mecklenburg County citizens to approve a 1/2% sales tax to improve public transportation over the next few years. The move created the Metropolitan Transit Commission in 1999 to oversee improvements in Charlotte and nearby suburbs and bordering counties. It eventually led to consolidation of Charlotte Transit and MTC in 2000, forming the new Charlotte Area Transit System.[6] Since then, more express routes were added to the edges of Mecklenburg County and some local bus service was expanded, especially to the fast-growing South Charlotte. On August 19, 2007 the Charlotte Observer revealed that mass transit on Charlotte's existing bus-only system has increased ridership by 66% since 1998, but its operating budget had increased by 170% after adjusting for inflation.[7]


CATS bus service serves Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, with service in Charlotte, Davidson, Huntersville, Cornelius, Matthews, Pineville, and Mint Hill.

CATS operates local routes within the city of Charlotte, with the majority of those multiple-stop routes serving the Charlotte Transportation Center in Uptown. While crosstown service is scarce, other routes that do not serve Uptown mainly connect directly between LYNX rail stations and outlying neighborhoods. The transit system has since built three more transit centers to serve different parts of the city in the mid-2000s: the Eastland Community Transit Center in East Charlotte located near the now-closed Eastland Mall, the SouthPark Community Transit Center in South Charlotte located inside the parking garage of South Park Mall, and the Rosa Parks Community Transit Center in North Charlotte located near Johnson C. Smith University.[8]

Express buses in the CATS system serve Union County, Concord, Gastonia, and Rock Hill, South Carolina.

CATS also operates the Special Transportation Service (STS) which provides transportation to people with disabilities certified as eligible based on the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. STS provides service during the same times and in the same locations as the fixed route bus service.

The CATS system transports over 80,000 weekday riders across all of its services. Ridership for Fiscal Year 2010 reached over 24 million riders, a yearly amount not experienced in Charlotte since the late 1940s.

CATS, in conjunction with NCDOT, operate an HOV lane on the expressway portion of Independence Boulevard. The HOV lane has been in operation since 1998.

Active fleet[edit]

CATS operates with a fleet of 322 buses on 73 bus routes.[9]

Bus Manufacturer Model Year Fleet Numbers Thumbnail Notes
NovaBus LFS 2000 852–914 (AND 799) This is a picture of Charlotte Area Transit System bus 873, on route 4, country club. It was taken on July 27, 2012, and it has an advertisement on the bike rack.jpg Most have been retired. Only 18 remain in active service. NOTE: 799 was actually 870, until it was renumbered for unknown reasons. It's now retired.
MCI D-Series / The American Classic 2001 500–510
Gillig Advantage, or "low floor" 2002 915–930
Gillig Phantom 2003 511–599
Gillig Advantage, or "low floor" 2004 940–960
Gillig Advantage "low floor" Hybrid 2005 2501–2502 First hybrid buses added to fleet.
Gillig BRT 29' 2006 600–690? These buses operate on community shuttles and low-ridership routes.
Gillig BRT 2007 961–968
Gillig BRT 2008 400–410
Gillig BRT Hybrid 2009 2901–2905 Buses assigned to airport "Sprinter" service.
Gillig BRT 2010 1001–1020
Gillig BRT 2011 1021–1043
Gillig BRT 2012 1044–1071
Gillig BRT 2014 1072-1073 These replaced Novabuses 894 and 899.
Gillig BRT Hybrid 2011 2111–2116

Retired fleet[edit]

Gillig Phantom 1997 700–720 All of these 1997 Gillig Phantoms were retired by February 2010.
NovaBus LFS 1998 800–844 All were retired by July 2012. NOTE: 800 was actually 807 until it was renumbered for unknown reasons. But it's retired now.
NovaBus LFS 1999 845–851 All were retired by November 2011
NovaBus LFS 2000 852-894,898, and 899 852-890, and 898 were retired by August 2012. 894 and 899 were retired in January 2014.891,892 & 893 are also retired as of April 2014

Route designations[edit]

  • 1–89 – local routes in various areas of the city
  • 40X–89X – express routes (specifically designated with an X) from uptown to various park and ride lots
  • 90–99 – Circulator routes in North Mecklenburg and Matthews/Mint Hill that will deviate for pick ups up to 3/4 of a mile from the route with advanced notice.
  • 200–299 – community circulator routes
  • 501 – LYNX Blue Line

Full route list[edit]

  • 1 Mt. Holly Rd.
  • 2 Ashley Park
  • 3 The Plaza
  • 4 Country Club
  • 5 Sprinter-Airport
  • 6 Kings Dr.
  • 7 Beatties Ford
  • 8 Tuckaseegee Road
  • 9 Central Ave.
  • 10 West Blvd.
  • 11 North Tryon
  • 12 South Blvd.
  • 13 Nevin Rd.
  • 14 Providence Rd.
  • 15 Randolph Rd.
  • 16 South Tryon
  • 17 Commonwealth Ave.
  • 19 Park Rd.
  • 20 Sharon Rd. (originally Queens Road)
  • 21 Double Oaks
  • 22 Graham St.
  • 23 Shamrock Dr.
  • 24 Nations Ford Road
  • 25 Clanton Rd./Midtown (originally Clanton Road to CTC)
  • 26 Oaklawn Ave.
  • 27 Monroe Rd.
  • 29 UNCC/Southpark
  • 30 Woodlawn/Scaleybark Crosstown
  • 34 Freedom Dr.
  • 39 Eastway Dr.
  • 40X Lawyers Road Express
  • 41X Steele Creek Express
  • 42 Carowinds (originally 42X a long time ago)
  • 43 Ballantyne
  • 45X Carmel Rd. Express
  • 46X Harrisburg Road Express
  • 47 UNCC Yellow Line (Also known as Nugget)
  • 48X Huntersville Express
  • 49 UNCC Green Line
  • 50 UNCC Red Line
  • 51 Pineville-Matthews Crosstown
  • 52X Idlewild Rd. Express (originally 51X)
  • 53X Northlake Express
  • 54X University Research Park Express
  • 55 Westinghouse
  • 56 Arrowood
  • 57 Archdale/South Park
  • 58 Pineville
  • 60 Tyvola/South Park
  • 61X Arboretum Express
  • 62X Rea Rd. Express
  • 64X Independence Blvd. Express
  • 65X Matthews Express
  • 74X Union County Express Plus
  • 77X North Mecklenberg Express
  • 80X Concord Express Plus
  • 82X Downtown Rock Hill Express Plus
  • 85X Gastonia Express Plus
  • 86 Gold Rush Red Line
  • 88X Mountain Island Express (originally Lincoln County)
  • 97 Cornelius
  • 98 McCoy Rd.
  • 99 Huntersville/CPCC
  • 201 Garden City
  • 204 LaSalle
  • 211 Hidden Valley
  • 221 East Harris/Idlewild Rd.
  • 222 Pence Rd.
  • 232 Grier Heights
  • 235 Jackson Park
  • 501 Light Rail – Lynx Blue Line
  • 590 Airport Connector - Northlake
  • 591 Airport Connector - Archdale

Discontinued routes[edit]

  • 18 Selwyn Ave. (Low ridership, replaced with 6 and 20)
  • 28 McAlway Road (Crosstown?)(Divested between 27 and 15)
  • 31 Southside Crosstown (probably low ridership, replaced with 30)
  • 32 CPCC Southwest Shuttle (discontinued in the early 2000s)
  • 33 North Meck Connector (Replaced by 77X North Mecklenburg Express Saturday service; 77X Saturday service discontinued in 2009.)
  • 36 Midtown (Low ridership; replaced with 25)
  • 44 Fort Mill (Low ridership; replaced with 42)
  • 59 Scaleybark/Marsh (First Ward Shuttle) (Low ridership)
  • 66X Sharon Road Express (replaced to 20)
  • 74 Uni-Park (Discontinued in early 2003 due to ridership strains, replaced to 81x and later 22 and 54x)[10]
  • 78X Celanese Rock Hill Express (Financial constraints)
  • 79X Concord Mills Express Plus (Saturday Service) (Financial constraints and low ridership)
  • 81X Wachovia Express (Financial contraints)
  • 83X Mooresville Express (Financial constraints)
  • 84 Gold Rush Orange Line (Possibly Low ridership; replaced by 2, 5 and 86)
  • 87 Gold Rush Blue Line (Low ridership)
  • 89 South End Shuttle (Low ridership)
  • 94 Mint Hill-Matthews Shuttle (Low ridership; replaced by 51)
  • 95 Northside Shuttle (??? (possibly financial constraints), Divested between 7N and 22)
  • 96 Village Rider-Davidson (Low ridership; replaced by 97)
  • 102 Arrowood Dial -A-Ride (Replaced by LYNX Feeder routes 24, 56 and 57)
  • 200 Trinity Park (Low ridership; replaced by 7N)
  • 202 Washington Heights (Low ridership)
  • 203 University Park (Low ridership)
  • 220 Windsor Park (Replaced by 9 and 232)
  • 231 Druid Hills/Double Oaks (Replaced by 21 and 26)
  • 233 CPCC Northeast Campus (originally to Tryon Hills/Orr Road) (Replaced by 3)
  • 234 Cityview (Low ridership, replaced by 34, 235 and partially 1)
  • 236 Revolution Park (Low ridership, replaced by 16 and 25)
  • 238 Paw Creek (Low ridership; replaced by 1)
  • 249 UNCC / JW Clay (Replaced by UNCC Gold Rush lines 49, Nugget and 50)
  • 251 Wachovia CIC Shuttle (Discontinued in early 2004(?) due to ridership strains, replaced to 29 and 54x)[11]
  • MOBIE Southpark Shuttle (Discontinued in the early 2000s, replaced to 19, 20, 29, 30, 57 and 60)


Charlotte Trolley[edit]

Main article: Charlotte Trolley

Charlotte Trolley operated within Uptown Charlotte from August 30, 1996 to June 28, 2010. The heritage trolley used vintage replica trolleys, serving 11 stations from Atherton Mill to 9th Street. Its operation was shared between the City of Charlotte and Charlotte Trolley Inc., a non-profit organization. The successes of the trolley led to the LYNX Blue Line light rail being constructed on the same right-of-way.

LYNX Rapid Transit Services[edit]

On February 22, 2006, the Charlotte Area Transit System announced that its rapid rail lines will be called the "Lynx." The name fits in with the city’s cat theme (the NFL team is the Carolina Panthers and the NBA team was known as the Charlotte Bobcats when the name was chosen); also, "Lynx" is a homophone of "links", and was mainly chosen because the light rail is about "connectivity."

The rapid rail cars are black, silver and blue, the colors of the Carolina Panthers. Gold will appear around the "Lynx" logo to tie in the history of the Charlotte region being home to the first major U.S. Gold Rush.

The light rail system, developed by Michael Kozak of the state's Department of Transportation, is the only commuter rail system in the two Carolinas.

On November 24, 2007, first light rail line opened, called the LYNX Blue Line. It runs 9.6 miles (15.5 km) between Uptown Charlotte and stops short of Pineville, using a railroad right-of-way paralleling South Boulevard in its entirety. The line has 15 stations.


Subsequently expected to open is a light rail extension to the northeast. It will run from the current terminus at 7th street in Uptown to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The corridor will be 9.4 miles (14.4 km) long, with 11 additional stations.

A commuter rail line is also planned. It will go from Uptown to the northern suburbs of Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, and Mooresville.

A 9.9-mile modern Streetcar route is also planned, running from Rosa Parks Community Transit Center, through Uptown Charlotte, down Central Avenue and terminating at Eastland Community Transit Center. A Federal Urban Circulator Grant was awarded in July 2010, allowing construction of the first 1.5-mile segment between the Charlotte Transportation Center in Uptown and Presbyterian Hospital on Elizabeth Avenue.

Future service[edit]

Bus rapid transit is also being examined by CATS for corridors. It was originally slated to be on the Southeast Corridor to Matthews and the West Corridor to the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport; however, the SE Corridor may be a light rail line. The West Corridor along Wilkinson Blvd to the airport is currently served by a BRT line called the Sprinter.[12]

2002–2010 financial and ridership data[edit]

Year Passenger trips
2010 24,355,191
2009 26,034,078
2008 23,199,350
2007 19,757,737
2006 19,156,590
2005 17,773,753
2004 20,875,635
2003 18,888,550
2002 16,587,199
  • 1997–2005: Service Consumption Versus Costs: (costs adjusted for inflation at 3.5% per year)
    Ridership(unlinked trips): +52%
    Operational cost per passenger trip: +66%
    Operational cost per vehicle mile: +6%
    Operational cost per vehicle hour: +16%

Source: CATS 2010 Annual Report, National Transit Database'


External links[edit]