Multiple times a month, Charlotte’s streetcar is delayed or must change its operations because a car is parked in its way.
- Cyclists know this is a problem. They’ve always had drivers obstructing their routes. The fine for parking in a bike lane and blocking the Gold Line is the same: $25.
Why it matters: Public transportation is supposed to be dependable so riders can reach work and other daily obligations on time. But riders won’t take the train if it’s regularly off schedule.
- For bikers, it’s a safety risk. It’s dangerous to swerve around parked cars, sometimes into traffic.
- Charlotte leaders want billions invested into the city’s transit system, most of which would be for a new east-west light rail.
Part of the reason the problem has persisted may be that the immediate repercussions aren’t too severe, although there are $191 in court costs associated with the Gold Line citation, according to CMPD.
“$25 is not much of a punishment. That’s less than fare evasion,” says Krissy Oechslin, the city’s Transit Services Advisory Committee chair.
Of note: Riding the light rail without a ticket could result in a $50 fine and a Class 3 misdemeanor charge, according to the city of Charlotte website.
By the numbers: Just over 100 tickets have been given out for parking illegally in the Gold Line corridor since 2021, CATS tells Axios.
- CATS will also call a private towing company to move parked cars, the agency said. But sometimes drivers move their cars before a tow truck arrives.
- “The ultimate goal is to have the tracks clear so that the CityLYNX Gold Line can safely pass,” CATS communications’ team said in an email to Axios.
Driving the news: Interim CATS CEO Brent Cagle said during a recent council meeting that the transit agency is looking to enter into agreements with private towing companies to tow vehicles blocking the Gold Line. But there was no mention of increasing fines.
- CATS did not respond to a question about increasing fines.
What’s happening: Illegally parked cars have been a recurring problem since the Gold Line was in testing. Over the past two years, the city hasn’t gotten a handle on how to prevent this.
The CityLYNX Gold Line is experiencing minimal eastbound delays due to a vehicle parked on the tracks. The vehicle has been removed and we are working to resume normal service. Thank you for your patience. pic.twitter.com/eyPglxokTJ
— Charlotte Area Transit System (@CATSRideTransit) March 15, 2023
- CATS tweets when cars are blocking the train to let riders know service is disrupted. Reports of mechanical issues and unexplained incidents cause delays on the Gold Line and Blue Line as well.
- The city is evaluating creating dedicated lanes for the Gold Line as part of its third phase, which includes extending it along Central Avenue and Beatties Ford Road to a total of 10 miles.
Flashback: In 2019, after the city opened new protected bike lanes in Uptown along 5th and 6th streets, cars routinely parked on or even drove in the lanes.
- The city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee sent a resolution to council that year asking for an increase in the fine to $50, according to minutes.
It’s still an issue that comes up with the committee. They discussed it last month.
- BAC chair Angela Stoyanovitch says the committee wants bicycle reporting added to the city’s service request app, CLT+. Cyclists could report parked cars or other hazards, like rubble on the road.
What they’re saying: “The parking can be deterred through design, but ultimately the enforcement has to follow that,” says Shannon Binns, founder of advocacy nonprofit Sustain Charlotte. “It’s not enough to do one or the other. You really have to have both.”
- Some bike lanes in Charlotte have physical barriers to deter the driver from entering the lines.
TSAC has raised concerns about parked cars disrupting streetcar service multiple times over the past few years, chair Oechslin tells me.
- “It seems to be a matter of political will, not an actual inability to take action against drivers who negligently park their cars so as to block the Gold Line. Same goes for drivers parking their vehicles in bike lanes,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be political will to protect the meager bike infrastructure we do have.”