CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A piece of electrical equipment connected to a Lynx light-rail train was snagged by a wire and fell to the ground Sunday morning, shutting down a large section of the light-rail service for hours.
No one was injured. While the line was down, the transit system operated a bus bridge, shuttling people onto buses at the stations closest to uptown.
The trains began running again at 3 p.m. and will run on a normal schedule on Monday.
But for the city’s light-rail service, it was a case of bad timing – a high-profile snag just days before the system is expected to be inundated with heavy crowds for Food Lion Speed Street, the NASCAR-themed festival.
Sunday’s problems stemmed from a broken pantograph, an apparatus on the top of the car that the train uses to draw power from an overhead wire, said Olaf Kinard, a Charlotte Area Transit System spokesman.
Photos snapped by a passerby showed a mangled piece of what appears to be a pantograph lying on the tracks. But crews also had to check the wire and the pole it was connected to, to ensure there was no structural damage.
Sunday is one of the slowest days for the light rail service – about 8,000 people take the train. That nearly doubles on Mondays, when 15,000 people ride. And on Thursday, the first day of the festival, as many as 30,000 people are expected to ride, Kinard said.
This year, organizers have tinkered with the layout of the festival to allow easier access to the light rail. At a press conference announcing festival plans, city leaders pushed the light-rail line as a good bet. The park-and-ride lots connected to the Lynx are free and typically a good alternative to increased parking fees connected to uptown festivals.
Kinard said the system should run smoothly, even if something unexpected happened.
“We are prepared for those type of situations,” he said Sunday. “There shouldn’t be any issues.”
As evidence, Kinard pointed to an incident in April 2008, when the Lynx had been running for just a few months.
A silo being dismantled for a new condo development near Remount Road collapsed next to Charlotte’s light-rail line on a Friday afternoon, pouring debris across the tracks and bending the southbound rails.
On top of that, thousands were expected to use the new light-rail service to get to a Keith Urban/Carrie Underwood concert at Time Warner Cable Arena that night.
CATS officials used a bus bridge to get people to the concert, and the light rail was able to reopen the next day.