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Charlotte leaders demand fixes from CATS after WBTV Investigations reveal safety, reliability concerns

In February, WBTV revealed that CATS buses were sometimes not showing up at all, forcing people who rely on them to find another way to work.
In February, WBTV revealed that CATS buses were sometimes not showing up at all, forcing people who rely on them to find another way to work.
Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 3:08 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 11, 2022 at 7:18 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte leaders are demanding better from the Charlotte Area Transit System after a series of WBTV Investigations raised concerns about safety and reliability.

In February, WBTV revealed that CATS buses were sometimes not showing up at all, forcing people who rely on them to find another way to work. Thursday, our investigation found a lack of security officers at some of CATS main transit centers.

In February, we followed along with Brian Williams on day as he used the bus to get from the hotel where he lives to his job at Southpark Mall.

Since January 1, Williams says he’s had to find a different way to work at least half a dozen times because the bus simply hasn’t shown up.

“When I have to tak an uber I’m pissed off. Because I’m trying to save money and get myself out of this situation,” Williams said.

Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt has been one of the biggest advocates for expanding and improving CATS bus service and said Williams deserbes better.

“If the bus says it’s going to be there, it needs to be there and I think that’s a pretty fundamental problem,” Eiselt said.

On top of the reliability issue, Eiselt said that CATS app needs to improve so riders know for certain whether the bus will arrive on time.

“If it’s going to be late, it should be on that app saying it’s been delayed, and sometimes that happens, but not always,” Eiselt said.

But it’s more than just the reliability problems. A WBTV Investigation on Thursday revealed there were no security officers at three of Charlotte’s transit centers, even after the shooting of driver Ethan Rivera.

“No one in our city should be afraid to be at work and to go to work,” Councilmember Dimple Ajmera said.

“They (drivers) are not sure whether they’re going to be able to make it home, back to their loved ones and I look to CATS leadership team to address the safety concerns.”

Ajmera is also calling on CATS leadership, including CEO John Lewis, to find fixes to these problems.

In an interview in February, Lewis told WBTV that some solutions could only come from the transformational mobility network plan, which would require the legislature and Mecklenburg County voters to approve a one cent sales tax.

“This is a labor related issue in the short term. The long term is about more frequency and that requires more buses, more funding, more operators, and more mechanics,” Lewis said.

But Ajmera and Eiselt say reliability of the bus system needs to get better before they would even dare to ask voters to approve a new sales tax.

“We need to earn residents trust before we even go to sales tax referendum,” Ajmera said.

“The reliability is an issue right now and we need to address that before we ask for more money.”

“In the meantime, until we get there, we have the opportunity to fix it and build trust in the system,” Eiselt said.

WBTV requested CATS data on its on time performance since the beginning of the pandemic. That would provide a better understanding of how often buses are showing up on time or not at all. The information was requested one month ago but has still not been provided.

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