CATS Budget Includes Better Bus Service

Better bus service is coming! This week CATS’ governing board met to discuss their capital budget, which includes vehicles, facilities, and transit stops. We’ve highlighted key details about the budget and service changes coming in June, as well as upcoming opportunities to attend virtual and in-person public meetings about the Red Line rail and Gold Line streetcar projects.

CATS’ main funding source is projected to increase this year

58% of CATS’ budget comes from the countywide 1/2 cent sales tax. Sales tax income of $165 Million dollars is predicted for this fiscal year, which is a 4.3% increase over last year’s revenues.

This is great news because it will allow CATS to have a more ambitious budget than would be possible if sales tax revenues were flat or declining! But for the longer term, CATS still needs a major new local funding source in order to make significant improvements to the bus and rail system.

Towards the end of the meeting, Interim CEO Brent Cagle clarified that without this new revenue source, any development of future rail systems will not be possible. The current half-cent sales tax will only support current operations. Without local dollars, CATS is losing out on the opportunity for an approximately 50/50 match of federal funding — that’s approximately $350 Million in federal money slipping through our fingers each year!

Updates on bus and rail frequency

During peak a.m. and p.m. service hours, 4 bus routes run at 15-20 minute frequency, 1 route (#9, Central Ave) is at 15 minutes, but the majority are in the 30-60 minute frequency range. The Blue Line light rail runs at 15 minute frequency, and the Gold Line streetcar’s frequency has increased to 20 minutes as of TODAY, March 30th.

CATS is seeing month-over-month increases in ridership. The express routes have recovered most since the peak of the pandemic.

Service reliability is at a 2-year high with a goal of zero missed trips. CATS is monitoring on-time performance, addressing staffing issues, and procuring new vehicles to address system reliability as a whole.

Construction is underway on the Independence Blvd Busway and it is planned to be open for service later this year. CATS is exploring options for increasing the speed of travel on the Busway, including coordination with CDOT on traffic signal prioritization.

June service changes

CATS adjusts transit schedules a few times a year. Routes 11 and 21 in Uptown will see some slight routing changes. Signage in Uptown will be revamped to improve the customer experience. CATS will continue to monitor on-time performance of routes, and will adjust service as needed.

One of the more significant service changes in June will be a “clean up” of the routing for express buses in Uptown to accommodate riders more efficiently in light of construction and some tenant changes in office buildings. Some outbound buses that currently use Tryon St will be shifted to College St or Church St, which will help to keep these routes more consistent during the frequent closures of Tryon St during special events.

New signage for riders

CATS will pilot QR codes on high-volume stops in Uptown that will allow riders to see arrival and departure information by scanning the code. The signs will include a text option for riders without access to a smart phone.

Both the Red Line and Gold Line Extension design processes are moving forward, including public meetings



Phase 3 of the Gold Line streetcar is underway in the design phase

Bus stop improvements are coming soon

CATS recently used an objective process to determine which stops are most in need of improvements. These stops are in Charlotte and throughout the CATS bus network in Mecklenburg County. The improvements will be rolled out in several phases.

Public meetings for the Better Bus Plan will happen throughout the county in May, so stay tuned for dates!

New buses are on order

CATS has ordered 71 buses and 55 STS (Special Transportation Services) vehicles. This effort will help to ensure that all vehicles are operational and reliable.

Watch the full March 27th MTC meeting here on YouTube. MTC meetings are usually held at 5:30pm on the 4th Wednesday of each month in Room 267 of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center.