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Friday, November 12, 2010

Charlotte CATS Receives $28M Federal Funds For What?? More Gov't Waste!


Charlotte, N.C., November 3, 2010 -

The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) just received two additional federal grants that will help save money and protect the environment.

“We are constantly seeking grants and other revenue sources to leverage the investment Mecklenburg County citizens make to Public Transit through the dedicated sales tax,” said Carolyn Flowers, CATS CEO. “These two grants will assist us in reducing operational expenses.” CATS has been awarded over $28.5 million this year in state and Federal Grants.

Click here to learn how this money is being put to use to improve your transit system.

The Bus Canopy Solar PVS/Charging Project is part of the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER II) program. The $1.0 million award will be used at the CATS South Tryon Bus Facility which includes nine bus canopies in the middle of the lot that provide shade for the vehicles and allow the buses to cool quicker when going into service.

These canopies will be the site of 2,268 solar PV panels which could generate up to 50.5 megawatt hours of power each month and approximately 12 percent of the annual electric use at this facility.

CATS also received $421,580 for the Clean Fuels Bus and Bus Facilities Program. This grant award will be used to purchase more efficient and light weight Special Transportation Service (STS) vehicles as identified as part of CATS’ 2007-2012 Countywide Transit Services Plan.

CATS will replace five older, less efficient STS vehicles in the fleet with five new vehicles that emit 56 percent less carbon dioxide, get more miles per gallon, only require preventative maintenance every 10,000 miles and have an increased lifespan up to 7 years and 200,000 miles.

To learn more about CATS and its services, call 704-336-RIDE or visit us on the web at

Charlotte City Council Narrowly Approves Federal Streetcar Money

The Charlotte City Council narrowly agreed Monday night to take $25 million in federal money to begin the first 1.5 miles of its planned streetcar route.

The 6-5 council vote came after more than three hours of passionate debate from residents and the council. It also survived a last-minute effort to defer the issue until a later meeting.

Supporters said the streetcar would spur development along its eventual 10 miles and would provide another transportation option.

But opponents argued the city can't afford the project now, and that the streetcar would eat up money that could be used on other community needs.

Voting in favor of accepting the federal grant were Democrats Jason Burgess, Patrick Cannon, Nancy Carter, David Howard, Patsy Kinsey and James Mitchell.

Voting no were Republicans Warren Cooksey, Andy Dulin and Edwin Peacock, plus Democrats Michael Barnes and Warren Turner.

The first $37 million, 1.5-mile segment would run from Time Warner Cable Arena in uptown to Presbyterian Hospital in the Elizabeth area, with six stops or stations along the way. Construction will start within 18 months, and the city wants to have the streetcar up and running by 2014.

In addition to the federal money, the city will spend $12 million from three of its capital funds for the streetcar.

But that only covers construction. The first leg is also expected to carry a $1.5 million annual operating bill.

The Charlotte Area Transit System has said it can't cover the tab, pushing the costs to the city. Officials there haven't said how they would pay for the operating costs, only that the money would likely come from the city's general fund.

The lack of operating money fueled some of Monday's opposition to the streetcar. Many speakers said the community has more pressing needs, including crime-fighting and schools.

"Just because ... you vote against accepting that grant, it doesn't mean you don't believe in mass transportation," said Tariq Bokhari. "It just might mean that this expenditure doesn't make sense with our current priorities."

But other speakers said investing in the streetcar will pave the way for more development in the future, particularly in east and west Charlotte.

The city has proposed building a 10-mile streetcar line from the Rosa Parks Transit Center on Beatties Ford Road near Interstate 85 to Eastland Mall, via Trade Street uptown.

Malcolm Graham, a special assistant to the president of Johnson C. Smith University and a state senator, urged the council to "not make a decision for today, but to make a decision for tomorrow."

"Invest in our community the same way many on council who sat in those chairs before invested in our community," he said.

Comments from council largely mirrored that of citizens who packed the chamber.

Many council members who voted against the grant money lamented that the city had not identified a way to pay for the operating costs.

They also worried that moving ahead with the streetcar meant the city was pushing aside previously announced plans to extend the Lynx light rail line to the University City area, as well as commuter rail to the northern Mecklenburg towns.

Other council members argued they weren't sidestepping those projects but were taking advantage of federal money that's become available.

Under the Bush administration, federal transit money wasn't available for streetcars. That changed under the Obama administration, and earlier this month, Charlotte was among the cities awarded $130 million in streetcar grants.

Leaders have said they plan to keep looking for more money to help pay for the rest of the project, though they said they likely would only be able to build 2- or 3-mile segments at a time.

The entire 10-mile stretch could cost about $500 million.

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Sources: McClatchy Newspapers, WCNC, Wikipedia, Google Maps

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