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Charlotte's streetcar is averaging a third of the projected average riders in its 1st month

 The second phase of the Gold Line streetcar opened Monday.
The second phase of the Gold Line streetcar opened Monday.

Charlotte’s Gold Line streetcar averaged carrying a little more than 1,200 passengers per day during its first full month of operation in September. Before the pandemic, the Charlotte Area Transit System projected the four-mile streetcar would carry 4,100 passengers on the average weekday.

But CATS chief executive John Lewis has said it may take two years to reach that goal because so many people are still working from home. CATS opened a $150 million Gold Line extension at the end of the August.

For CATS, the good news is that ridership on the Lynx Blue Line and express buses to uptown are up compared to a year ago, as workers trickle back to the office.

But fewer people rode local buses last month than in September 2020. And overall transit ridership is still less than half of what it was in September 2019.

The Gold Line is free for the rest of 2021, but CATS is likely to charge the standard bus and train one-way fare of $2.20 starting in January. It’s unclear how a paid fare will impact ridership.

The streetcar replaces the free Gold Rush shuttle bus that ran along much of the same route last decade. CATS ended the shuttle in 2017.

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