I’ve heard stories that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. In this particular case, and for the purposes of this story, the shortest distance between two points is a straight BLUE line. The Lynx BLUE Line to be precise.
On July 18, 2013 members of the Charlotte business community joined local and state officials in breaking ground for the Lynx BLUE Line Northeast Corridor Extension. Boy, that’s a mouthful. This extension, when completed, will carry the Charlotte Area Transit System’s light rail from its current dead-end at 7th Street, all the way to the heart of UNC Charlotte’s campus. As the train leaves 7th Street Station the proposed new stops will be as follows: 9th Street, Parkwood, 25th Street, 36th Street, Sugar Creek, Old Concord Road, Tom Hunter, University City Blvd, McCullough, JW Clay, and UNC Charlotte. It appears from the looks of the map that the BLUE Line will run parallel to North Davidson Street as it heads out of Uptown Charlotte and utilize the right-of-way currently in place for the Norfolk Southern Rail Line. As rail cars leave the station at 36th Street, which will apparently be sandwiched between North Davidson Street and North Tryon Street, the line cuts east a bit coming out of the NoDa Arts District. The line appears to continue to follow the Norfolk Southern right-of-way until the stop at Old Concord Road where it will split from the existing space and take up its own space as it runs northbound up the middle of North Tryon Street. The BLUE Line will then run northbound straight up the middle of North Tryon Street until Highway 49 splits from Highway 29 at City Blvd. At the 49/29 split, the line will continue up North Tryon Street (Highway 29 only at this point) until the second to last stop at JW Clay when the rail line will actually cross over onto UNC Charlotte’s campus. From what I can tell by the photo (I’ve added one above for your review) it appears the line will enter UNC Charlotte’s campus just north of Jerry Richardson Stadium and run behind where the current football practice fields sit.
So what does all this mean for University City, UNC Charlotte, and most of all alumni and fans of Charlotte Athletics? Well, the economic impact for University City is obvious. This extension will essentially connect the south end of Mecklenburg County with the north end. Live on Sharon Rd West and feel like shopping at IKEA? Take the light rail from the Sharon Rd West Station to the new City Blvd Station for $4.00 round trip. For less than the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee, you will be able to ride the light rail from South Blvd/I-485 right into the heart of UNC Charlotte’s campus and back again if you like. Live in South End and want to take classes at UNC Charlotte but don’t have a car? Hop the light rail. I’ve ridden many times. It’s cleaner and safer than riding the bus. It’s quicker than the bus because it obviously doesn’t have to stop for arbitrary things like traffic lights or stop signs. Best of all, you can ride it during rush hour and avoid that daily parking lot that has become Interstate 85. I’m merely scratching the surface with the seemingly endless benefits of this extension. What if you live in University City and want to grab dinner uptown but down feel like paying $15.00 to park at the Epicenter? Hop the BLUE Line extension for $4.00 roundtrip and take the light rail from the JW Clay Station to the Arena/Transit Center Station then take the walkway to the Epicenter. For those that don’t know, every single Park & Ride lot operated by CATS is free. There is no charge to park in surface lots or parking decks adjacent to Light Rail Stations. So when I say it’s $4.00 for a round trip, it’s really $4.00 for a round trip.