Can Charlotte keep Blue Line trains on time?

WBTV took out the timer to see if commuters could count on the light rail showing up when it’s supposed to.
WBTV took out the timer to see if commuters could count on the light rail showing up when it’s supposed to.
Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 6:09 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte’s light rail is facing an increasingly challenging series of problems and the solutions to fix the issues come with their own consequences. A WBTV Investigation found that while on average LYNX trains are departing stations on-time, some rush hour trains are between five to eight minutes late.

State regulators have floated the possibility of CATS cutting back on its service on numerous occasions because of mandated action plans implemented by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

- Eight light rail vehicles have been taken off the tracks and will soon be leaving for a “truck overhaul” maintenance.

- Blue Line trains are now limited to no more than 35mph.

- CATS rail operations control center is short staffed and NCDOT is requiring at least two controllers on shift or either the Blue or Gold Line cease operation.

With all of these stipulations, WBTV asked CATS Interim-CEO Brent Cagle if the light rail could continue to be reliable or if LYNX would need to cut back on service.

“Do you really think that CATS will be able to maintain the level of service right now throughout this entire process?” a WBTV reporter asked Cagle.

“Right now we do believe that, yes,” Cagle said.

Cagle said 20 light rail vehicles are needed for daily service, and another four are required on standby. CATS has a fleet of 42 but not all of them are available.

“Eight are out for service, some are out for regular (preventative maintenance),” Cagle said.

“We’d like to have all of those vehicles available to make service but today we feel comfortable with where we’re at, with the restrictions we have, making service,” Cagle said.

WBTV went out to time the light rail to see if the Blue Line was showing up on-time.

During peak hours, which is weekdays between 7:00-9:00 a.m. and 4:00-6:00 p.m., a train is supposed to arrive every 15 minutes to a station. Non-peak hours headways are every 20 miuntes.

At Scaleybark Station, WBTV timed three afternoon trains. It took just 13:42 between departures for one north bound train and 15:49 until the next. There were 18:29 between the southbound trains, a little late for peak hours.

At the 1-485 Station, the wait-time for morning commuters was less consistent. More than 22 minutes passed between the first two train departures. For five trains the average time was 15:19 but included more than 19 minutes between two trains and one that departed just 9 minutes after the last one left the station.

Even though the train mostly ran on-time, the schedule through Google Maps claimed one train was running 12 minutes late but then showed up on time.

WBTV requested information from CATS showing how many trains were showing up late but the agency has not produced any records.

CATS has been tweeting delays. Since March 1st CATS has tweeted out 22 delays on the Blue Line and 29 delays for the Gold Line.

If you have any issues with the light rail or streetcar make sure to let me know. Our email is