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Metropolitan Transit Commission votes on Silver Line route and Charlotte Transit Center design

The future Silver Line will stick to its originally planned route with some changes near Bojangles Coliseum, and the future CTC in Uptown will be underground.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte transportation leaders gave an update on the future Silver Line light rail route and the Charlotte Transit Center during Tuesday's Charlotte Area Transit System meeting. 

Metropolitan Transit Commission votes

The Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) ultimately voted to refine the Silver Line's route near the Bojangles Coliseum in east Charlotte. CATS staff members said the changes will have better traffic flow than the original plan. 

The big debate for some time has been the Silver Line's route in Uptown.

As a reminder, the Silver Line is a 29-mile train system that would connect Belmont to Union County.

The original plan, called the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), was adopted by the MTC in 2019. The route runs alongside Interstate 277 on Uptown's perimeter

However, developers presented two alternative designs in 2022 after running into some challenges with the LPA. The other designs would've been more cost-effective and run directly through Uptown by sharing tracks with either the Blue Line or Gold Line.

CATS is now moving forward with the originally adopted plan for the Silver Line route running on the outskirts of Uptown. Leaders said this would capture more residents and is more reliable, although it's more expensive.

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The total Silver Line project could cost nearly $9 billion. CATS is working to secure the funding.  

The commission also voted Tuesday night on the design of the new Uptown transportation center. Transit leaders said earlier this month the city should move forward with the "concourse" design, which moves the bus terminal below ground. This design also includes street-level rail platforms and could cost around $89 million. 

MTC voted Tuesday to approve the below-ground concourse option of the redeveloped transit center. 

City staff said the underground option will best integrate the rail trail and light rail with the bus hub and will be easier for riders to navigate than the two-level terrace option that was struck down.  

Addressing safety at the transportation center

Some riders and elected officials have expressed safety concerns about putting the bus terminal underground. 

However, CATS planning director Jason Lawrence argued that it's the safest option because it's, "somewhat more easy to maintain security given just the one platform to monitor.” 

Lawrence explained that security staff will be able to focus on monitoring one underground level versus the two levels of bus terminals in the other option.

CATS promises the future hub will have proper lighting and security measures but it's unclear what that will look like. 

Krissy Oechslin, chair of the Transit Services Advisory Committee (TSAC), suggested that CATS could make the underground terminal more secure by requiring a ticket to enter it.

Mayor Vi Lyles said it's important to look at what other cities got right and wrong when it comes to safety in underground transit centers. 

"My daughter lives in Washington D.C. and they have underground, and they’re clean, well lit, [and] secure," Lyles said. 

Charlotte’s underground area will just be for buses, similar to Denver’s Union Station. As reported by WCNC Charlotte's news partner 9News, Union Station's bus terminal has had issues with reported drug-use and crime.

However, the Denver Police Department and transportation officials began cracking down on illegal activity last year.

Construction for Charlotte's new transit center is expected to start in 2025 and the first phase of the Silver Line is expected to start sometime in the 2030s.

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