CHARLOTTE, NC (Steve Harrison/The Charlotte Observer) - The Charlotte Area Transit System is partnering with the ride-share company Lyft to make it easier for Lynx Blue Line passengers to start and finish their trip.
For passengers starting or ending their trips at the Parkwood and JW Clay/UNC Charlotte light-rail stations, CATS will give people a $4 discount on their Lyft trip.
CATS has set up a virtual fence around the stations that determines what qualifies as an eligible ride.
The passenger's journey on Lyft must either start or end at the two rail stations. The trip on Lyft also can't go beyond the virtual fence.
At the Parkwood station, Lyft passengers can use the discount if their trip covers an area bounded by Interstate 277, Interstate 85 and Atando Avenue.
At the JW Clay station, the boundaries include W.T. Harris Boulevard, Mallard Creek Road and Ridge Road.
CATS chief executive John Lewis said those stations were chosen because there isn't extensive bus service.
"Doing the program in uptown wouldn't make sense, " Lewis said. "We want to go in areas without frequent bus service. This is a win-win."
There are two ways to take advantage of the pilot program.
You can buy a CATS monthly pass and have a Lyft account. CATS will provide up to 40 trips per month per person from the two stations, and will contribute the first $4 of each trip inside the virtual boundary. The monthly pass must be bought through the CATS mobile app.
You can also have a CATS pass — either a weekly or a daily pass — and enter the unique station code displayed at the two stations into the Lyft app. CATS will make a $4 contribution to their trip, but will only do that for two trips a month.
CATS doesn't know yet how much the program will cost.
Lewis said the pilot program will last about nine months. CATS might expand it to other rail stations or bus stops if it's successful.
"We want to crawl before we walk," Lewis said.
CATS, like other transit systems nationwide, has seen ridership decline in the last several years. One theory is that more passengers are using ride-share companies instead of taking transit.