Charlotte Area Transit System’s (CATS) CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar re-opened for service on Aug. 30, with a second-phase expansion and new Siemens streetcars; it will be fare-free until January 2022.
Phase 2 of the Gold Line project is now complete. It added extensions totaling 2.5 miles at each end of the 1.5-mile Phase 1, which opened in mid-2015 with Gomaco Trolley Co. Birney-replica streetcars. The extensions run west from the Charlotte Transportation Center to French Street and the campus of Johnson C. Smith University, and north along Hawthorne Lane from Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center to Sunnyside Avenue (see map below).
The Gold Line now offers 17 stops and connects the Historic West End through Center City Charlotte to the Elizabeth neighborhood. It operates every 20 minutes from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week with a fleet of six Siemens Mobility S700 streetcars, which were ordered in 2016. Designed with Siemens hybrid technology featuring a battery storage system, the vehicles run off-wire through the heart of uptown, according to CATS. The new streetcars join CATS’s current Blue Line light rail fleet of 42 S70 LRVs, bringing the total number of Siemens Mobility vehicles operated in Charlotte to 48. They also replace the Gomaco trolleys that had been in operation on the Phase 1 line segment.
Each S700 streetcar can run both on- and off-wire via an Onboard Energy Storage System (OESS), according to Siemens. “The OESS includes an expandable and modular design that can be updated as battery technology evolves,” the company explained. “The battery-storage and energy-saving technology was first demonstrated in San Diego and allows the battery to recharge when the vehicle is connected to the overhead catenary system. The vehicles operate at speeds up to 25 mph and are capable of carrying nearly 195 passengers.”
CityLYNX Gold Line streetcars were replaced with CityLYNX Connector bus service from June 3, 2019, until Aug. 30, 2021, during Phase 2 construction that also involved a Phase 1 infrastructure upgrade to accommodate level boarding of the new Siemens streetcars.
The Gold Line will eventually be extended to 10 miles (with a total of 37 stops), as part of a third and final phase under Charlotte’s 2030 transit plan, according to CATS. The full line will connect all current and future rail lines, including the LYNX Blue Line light rail, LYNX Silver Line light rail and LYNX Red Line commuter rail, and provide a critical connection to the future Charlotte Gateway District and Multimodal Station.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte streetcars debuted Jan. 1, 1887. Fewer than five years later, the horses and mules pulling the cars were replaced by electric trolley cars. Service ended in 1938.
For more on streetcars, see Railway Age Contributing Editor David Peter Alan’s “Rebirth of the Streetcar.”