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Concord-Kannapolis bus route could connect to rail extension in Charlotte

KANNAPOLIS — The City Council on Monday approved a proposal that would connect the CK Rider bus service to a light rail extension in Charlotte.

The proposal would lead to the elimination of a bus route to uptown Charlotte and the creation of another route with more frequent trips to a light rail extension site. It would also fulfill C.K. Rider’s No. 1 request — all-day service to Charlotte, said Transit Manager L.J. Weslowski.

CK Rider is the bus service that operates in the Concord and Kannapolis areas.

If all goes according to plan, the change would occur at the same time Charlotte’s light rail extension opens — projected to be in March — Weslowski said.

The cost of the change will require a 50/50 split of $184,414 by Concord and Kannapolis, resulting in $92,207 paid by each city.

After receiving a presentation, members of the Kannapolis City Council asked a few questions but didn’t discuss the matter extensively before unanimously voting in favor of Weslowski’s proposal.

Next, the proposal needs support from the Concord City Council and Charlotte.

The bus route set for elimination is known as the 80x route, which has stops at Big Lots on U.S. 29 in Concord, Charlotte Motor Speedway and several sites in Charlotte. The newly approved route would eliminate the Charlotte Motor Speedway stop and operate on a loop that uses Interstate 85.

The new route would include 14 total trips on weekdays and 11 total trips on weekends. Meanwhile, the existing route provides four one-way trips to Charlotte in the morning and four one-way trips out of Charlotte in the afternoon.

As an example of the service, Weslowski said, a family could ride to the light rail extension near the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, take the train to a stop that’s two blocks from the Carolina Panthers’ stadium and take the same route back after the game.

He said that plan would probably work only with an early afternoon game because of the route’s hours.

A rider on Salisbury’s or Rowan County’s transit services could take advantage of the new route by transferring at the Kannapolis train station, Weslowski said.

As part of approving the proposal, the Kannapolis City Council also signed off on a regional fare of $2.20. That amount includes a free transfer onto the Charlotte Area Transit Service.

“Riders could basically get all the way to the South Carolina border for $2.20,” he said.

Some details about the proposal remain undecided until it receives all the necessary approvals. Later this week, Weslowski said, he will speak with the Concord City Council. Later this month, he’ll speak with Charlotte officials.

During Monday’s presentation, he raised the possibility that the proposal could increase ridership because of demand for regularly scheduled service to Charlotte. Currently, the 80x route totals about 3,000 passenger trips per month, but that number was once 10,000, he said.

Contact associate editor Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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