CHARLOTTE -- The Lynx light rail is celebrating five years of carrying passengers in Charlotte. Millions of people have ridden the nearly 10 miles of track between Pineville and Uptown since 2007.
In October, city council approved a proposal that will allow the federal government to pick up half the cost of an extension that will travel northeast to UNC Charlotte. It is expected to start operating in 2016.
"It has been a resounding success," said CEO of C.A.T.S. Carolyn Flowers.
Millions of passengers traveled the nine plus mile long line from Pineville to Uptown over the past five years years.
"It just makes getting to work a lot easier. It takes five minutes to get downtown to work instead of having to walk or park down there. Parking's a pain and it costs so much more,” said passenger Nealesh Wani.
C.A.T.S. initially projected 9,100 people would ride the line every day. The line currently average 15,500 riders on a daily basis.
"Ridership exceeded expectations immediately right after opening and it has continued to demonstrate that," said Flowers.
Rail supporters say the line is not only delivering people, but projects.
"There are seven apartment complex under development representing about $200 million in economic development," said Director of Historic South End for Charlotte Center City Partners Ted Boyd.
Many estimate the line has generated more than $1 billion in development along the line. South End has seen the greatest growth in that time.
"Light rail is like a steroid shot that helped everything grow," said Boyd.
Yet not everyone agrees with the success of the line.
"Anyone stuck driving today on congested roads in Charlotte and the surrounding area must consider this anniversary bittersweet. If money spent on the LYNX line had been devoted instead toward building road capacity, people who live and work in Charlotte would have seen a much greater positive impact on both road congestion and the local economy,” said director of Communications for the John Locke Foundation Mitch Kokai.
To celebrate the anniversary, C.A.T.S. will select one rider this Wednesday to become its 24 millionth rider to ride this line.