Light-rail commuters will get good news in 2018: Trains will run more frequently.

Thursday, 23 November 2017, 04:57:43 AM. The Lynx Blue Line will operate more frequently during rush hour next year, with rush-hour trains operating every 7.5 minutes instead of every 10 minutes.

The Lynx Blue Line will operate more frequently during rush hour next year, with rush-hour trains operating every 7.5 minutes instead of every 10 minutes.

When the Lynx extension to University City opens in March, the Charlotte Area Transit System plans to add more trains at rush hour. CATS said it doesn’t know how long that rush hour window will be, but today CATS considers rush hour from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“When we open the expansion, we can run more frequent trains,” said CATS chief executive John Lewis in an interview this week.

When the Lynx opened 10 years ago, rush-hour trains operated every 7.5 minutes. But in 2009, during the recession, CATS reduced service to every 10 minutes during rush hour to save money. The 10-minute headways have been in place ever since.

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For the rest of the day, the train operates every 15 minutes.

CATS said it’s still studying how frequently the train will operate during non-peak times.

From 3-6 p.m. and from 6 to 9 a.m. the train operates every 10 minutes. During other parts of the day it comes every 15 minutes.

The 9.3-mile, $1.1 billion extension is scheduled to open in March. The platforms at the new stations are built long enough to handle three-car trains, and CATS originally planned to operate three-car trains on the entire 20-mile line. That would have relieved rush-hour crowding.

CATS has been lengthening the length of station platforms on the existing Lynx line so they could handle three-car trains. The city spent roughly $17 million lengthening four stations – Seventh Street, Stonewall, Woodlawn and I-485/South Boulevard. That left 11 station platforms that needed to be lengthened.

But in January, CATS told the Federal Transit Administration that it was, for now, opting out of a program to increase capacity on the line. CATS said it hoped to resume work by 2024.

Though three-car trains will not operate for several years, having more frequent service during rush-hour could make trains less crowded.

The main contractor for the extension, Balfour Beatty, is preparing to turn the project over to CATS. After that, CATS has several months of its own testing to make sure the train is safe for riders.

Lewis said earlier this month he’s confident the train will open in March.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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