Would you pay to ride Charlotte’s new streetcar?

CHARLOTTE — The city of Charlotte is allowing riders to use the streetcar for free for the rest of the year.

The four-mile route runs from Plaza Midwood to Biddlewood. The city is planning to start charging for the service in January. A public hearing on the fare increase Wednesday drew only one attendee.

The Charlotte Area Transit Authority plans to charge $2.20 for a regular ticket.

“It doesn’t strike me as fair that the fare, itself, should be the same as a bus, which operates on a fixed schedule,” said Colin Stifler, an Elizabeth resident.

The streetcar now is supposed to run every 20 minutes but at times, has been running every 40 minutes due to the labor shortage.

Stifler is returning to work in uptown next week and plans to try the streetcar out for the next few months while it is free. But if it ends up being unpredictable, he said he’ll find another mode of transportation.

[PAST COVERAGE: After years of delays, missed deadlines, Charlotte’s streetcar is officially open]

“I am just worried that if it doesn’t prove to be as useful as a user experience as I hope it will once the fares kick in January, I wonder if it might cause me to reassess whether I would like to take it,” he said.

All indications are that CATS is moving forward with the charge.

A fare-equity study by CATS found people who are low-income make up 12.1% of the population along the Gold Line. The study stated that is close to 4% lower than the percentage for the entire CATS service area.

The city anticipates 1.2 million people will ride the streetcar every year under normal conditions. The projection was adjusted because of COVID-19, which is much lower at 365,000.

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Uptown commuter Jamal Davis said he isn’t surprised the city wants riders to pay.

“It’s Charlotte, bro,” he said. “Charlotte will try to make money off of anybody.”

Davis said the $2.20 fare doesn’t bother him because it is the same as the bus.

[’Modern, chic, new’: Testing of Charlotte’s new Gold Line streetcars underway]

CATS officials said they are in talks with the three schools on the line- Johnson C. Smith University, Johnson and Wales and Central Piedmont Community College about offering students All Access Passes so students can ride the streetcar as much as they want. The cost would be built into student fees. UNC Charlotte has something similar in place for the light rail.

CATS is working on an app to show when rides will arrive in real time. It’s unclear when it will be ready.

(Watch the video below: CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar route)