New tool shows where the city intends to make mobility investments

This week, the Transportation, Planning and Development Committee held their April meeting. They discussed CATS updates, Mobility Planning, and the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Couldn’t make the meeting? Here’s a recap!

Key takeaways 

  • Since this time last year, CATS ridership has increased by 18%.
  • The interim CATS CEO confirmed that “We are far better off today than we were a year ago when it comes to [staff] vacancies.”
  • The public can explore potential mobility projects through this information-packed Story Map.
  • City Council members discussed various ways to fund the mobility investment plan, including a new one-cent for mobility sales tax and the existing hospitality tax.
  • Planning Director Alyson Craig gave an update on staff’s work related to a referral by the city council last year. Her proposed recommendations focused on Quantity, Quality, and Location to “right size intensity” for development in N1 zoning districts.

Highlights from CATS


Interim CEO Brent Cagle started his report with some good news: year-to-date ridership across all CATS operations has increased by 18%. The only exception is the Gold Line, the streetcar that goes through Uptown and ends in Plaza Midwood and the West End. However, the Gold Line still had its moment to shine: frequencies for the streetcar were restored on March 30 to 20 minutes from the 30 minute schedule it had for the past several months. This increase in frequency will make it easier and more convenient for transit riders to use the streetcar.

CATS Budget

Cagle then shared that CATS staff have conducted the first-ever budget workshops in February and March with their governing board, the Metropolitan Transit Commissions (MTC). The total budget will go before the MTC one more time for recommendations before going to Charlotte City Council for a decision.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Reviews

The FTA has completed the two CATS reports it started working on last fall. One is focused on financial oversight and the other on operational systems. The reports have not been released to CATS yet, but CATS staff will inform the City Council and the MTC as soon as they are available.

Bridge inspections

CATS staff is nearly done with the bridge inspections. There are only six outstanding bridges, but they will be complete as soon as the inspectors can schedule time with the railroad flagging crew, since these bridges are in railroad right of ways. All bridge inspections will be compiled into a comprehensive report and available to elected officials in the summer.

Light Rail Truck Maintenance

Cagle reported that five sets of light rail trucks (the set of wheels that light rail cars are built upon) have returned from maintenance in California and Florida, been tested by CATS staff, and are approved for use in the fleet. Another set is being tested here in Charlotte and two sets are still being repaired.


Since frequencies are increasing on the Gold Line, Committee Chair Ed Driggs asked if staffing is improving. Over the past year, elected officials have heard that high levels of staff vacancies have been the main barrier to more frequent bus and rail service. Cagle confirmed that “We are far better off today than we were a year ago when it comes to vacancies.” This is tremendous news, and we look forward to seeing frequency and reliability of CATS services improve as a result.

Mobility update

Strategic Investment Areas

Special Assistant to the City Manager for Mobility Ed McKinney presented the Strategic Investment Areas (SIAs) approach, or “bundling strategy”, to the committee. McKinney has joined meetings for this committee and City Council several times to discuss this strategy, always emphasizing scalability and adaptability. In short, CDOT has identified several areas in the city where already-identified transportation and infrastructure projects can be packaged into bundles. This way, a whole block or neighborhood can receive infrastructure improvements at once instead of piecemeal.

The public can learn more about this strategy and find a list of potential projects in this information-packed Story Map.

Responses from the Committee

Graham: This is a great strategy but we need to have a way to pay for it. We “need to be grounded in reality.”

Johnson: This approach is a direct response to our infrastructure needs and it would be good for other city departments to follow suit. She requests that staff look for “last mile” (i.e., infrastructure that allows people to walk or bike short distances before or after a transit trip) solutions in the University City area.

Driggs: In order to complete this work, we need a major new funding source. As staff and City Council explore more details of the Strategic Investment Areas, Driggs recommends that staff make the distinction between which projects can be completed with current funding and which will need additional funding. The current CIP budget has very little capacity to add new projects. He then asked if there are any of the 2,000 identified projects that are not represented in the SIA strategy, and McKinney responded that there are likely 1,000 to 1,500 other projects outside of the SIAs.

Molina: Are our peer cities finding success with this strategy? McKinney confirmed that several other cities are using this strategy, and Charlotte is in close collaboration with them.

Johnson: Can the City use money from the tourism tax to complete mobility projects like Asheville does? Both Driggs and Graham expressed concern that Charlotte’s hospitality tax is a lot more complicated than it may seem and Charlotte may not have the authority to change the way those funds are currently used.  Driggs also pointed out that taking money from the hospitality tax and using it for mobility will not solve the larger mobility needs of the city. A new mobility tax is the only way to secure sufficient funds for our needs. Watlington requested that this discussion continue.

Planning update

The city’s planning director Alyson Craig provided an update on the active referral that city council requested last year. The director presented her recommendations, which were categorized into three areas to enhance development in N1 zoning districts: QuantityQuality, and Location.

The key changes (shown in bold) proposed were:

  • Triplexes limited to corner lots in N1-A to N1-D
  • Quadraplex (Stacked) allowed on corners and arterials for N1-A to N1-C and then to be allowed everywhere for N1-D to N1-F
  • Townhouses, which are defined as five or units to be allowed in both N1-E and N1-F
  • Small multi-family units increased beyond 15 for N1-F
  • A new type of subdivision, called a Compact Development, was proposed. Details: potential sites would be 2+ acres and would need to be located within one mile of centers or high-frequency transportation corridors OR can be located in most other locations if it is an affordable housing project.

Key Changes Proposed

To learn more about these proposed changes, click here.

You can watch the meeting recording here and view the agenda here.

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