When thinking about public transportation in Charlotte, what comes to mind? Confusing routes? Yes. Poorly planned arrival and departure times? Sure. An oftentimes dangerous Transportation Center? Yep. Weird “bus people?” Definitely.
But fear not, students, because there is a train coming to town. Well, OK, it won’t be completed until 2016, but even for those of us who will have graduated (or dropped out) by then, the Lynx Blue Line extension will have a major impact on our campus and the surrounding area.
For those of you who are new to the area, the Lynx is Charlotte’s light rail system. The current line runs from Seventh Street in Uptown Charlotte all the way to I-485, paralleling South Boulevard.
When the Blue Line extension is complete, the light rail will reach all the way to UNC Charlotte. The construction plans to call for the line to run along North Tryon Street until it reaches Barton Creek Drive, which is about 400 yards past the west entrance to campus by the football field.
The tracks will then turn right, cutting across what is now a wooded area, and end at a station that will be built across from Wallis Hall on Cameron Boulevard. A one-way trip from UNC Charlotte to the Uptown Transportation Center will take about 22 minutes.
So what does all of this mean for you? Well, according to some students, it’s going to be a major headache.
John Douglas, a new transfer student from Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), is definitely not looking forward to the construction. “I can’t even begin to imagine what the traffic is going to be like,” Douglas said. “That side of campus is just going to be one big construction area.”
Jessica Boyd, also a transfer student from CPCC, is concerned about the effect it will have on commuters. “I live in an apartment off of North Tryon, and I use [the west entrance] every day,” Boyd said. “If I have to drive all the way around to [the east entrance], it’s going to add another 15 minutes to my commute.”
According to the Charlotte Area Transit System, work is already underway along Tryon Street and on campus to lay the groundwork for the line. Crews are currently clearing and grading land along the outbound side of the street. Workers have also been seen installing retaining walls near businesses like Showmars, so they won’t have to be torn down to make way for the train.
While work on the Blue Line extension is going to make getting to and around campus difficult, the long-term benefits to both the city and the university will make the suffering worthwhile. For those of you who plan to make Charlotte your home after graduation, the addition of this vital rail link will be transformative for UNC Charlotte and the entire North Tryon corridor.
Before the original Lynx line was built, South Boulevard was a nasty, crime-ridden place, much like North Tryon is today. But as the train arrived, new condos were built along the tracks, and with condos came restaurants and businesses. Southend was brought back to life by the sound of a train whistle. The northern spur should have the same effect.
Also, for future 49ers, the availability of safe, speedy and direct travel to and from Uptown’s bars and clubs is projected to dramatically reduce drunk driving.
So as the months go by, and orange is seen in more places on campus than green and gold, have some patience and hope that construction doesn’t go off the rails.