Security on Charlotte city buses increases amid ridership growth

CHARLOTTE — Violence onboard Charlotte city buses puts both drivers and passengers at risk.

As ridership on Charlotte Area Transit System buses increases, the City of Charlotte is working to step up security.

Quentin Parker says because he relies on CATS often, he was thrilled to hear what’s to come.

“I use CATS often,” he said. “I usually come down here to catch the train to the south side where I work.”

During Monday night’s Charlotte City Council meeting, CATS interim CEO Brent Cagle updated leaders on the two new security companies that provide officers on board. They started last fall and riders says this is long overdue.

“We need security because the city is growing,” Parker said. “And there’s different people moving in from all different kinds of places.”

“It’s definitely been a lot of violence against the CATS bus drivers, so I’m all for security,” another rider added.

In recent years, Channel 9 has covered multiple violent incidents on CATS buses, including stabbings and shootings.

Parker said he’s seen firsthand how drivers are put in dangerous situations.

“For the last three or four years, bus drivers -- like some bus drivers want to have the gun on the bus like the bus driver himself -- don’t feel comfortable driving,” he said.

Despite challenges, CATS ridership continues to increase, with ridership up 18% year over year. However, it’s still 34% below pre-pandemic levels.

Over the weekend, the CATS Gold Line started picking up passengers at each stop every 20 minutes instead of every 30.

Officials hope this will lead to more riders, and passengers hope this will tackle long wait times.

“The city is growing and it can get packed and congested out here sometimes with the traffic, too,” Parker said. “So especially around 5 o’clock, 4 o’clock. You don’t want to be on the go.”

CATS officials said they still need to analyze the impact those two security companies have had on crime aboard buses.

They’re also adding staff at the transportation center to help riders with questions, and launched a program to connect people in crisis to community resources.

(WATCH BELOW: ‘A lot faster’: CATS passengers ready for unused bus lanes to open on East Independence)

Almiya White

Almiya White, wsoctv.com

Almiya White is a reporter for WSOC-TV