Exploring Charlotte on Public Transportation

Traveling to Charlotte without a Car

Travel guide for visitors to Charlotte, North Carolina using public transit.

Visiting a new city is almost always a daunting task. Go there without your own vehicle and it can be even more intimidating. Taxi cabs and car rentals can prove to be very expensive.

Charlotte Area Transit System

Charlotte, North Carolina has a fantastic transit system called CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System). It is comprised of a light-rail line, called the Lynx, which is a sleek and modern one or two-car train which travels just short of ten miles in a North-South direction, accompanied by a bus system with over sixty different routes. The routes go throughout and around Charlotte; some routes even travel into South Carolina.

Major attractions such as the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Time Warner Cable Arena, Blumenthal Performing Arts, Discovery Place, the Charlotte Convention Center, along with many museums are easily accessible by public transit. Convenient for travelers arriving by air, the bus system does provide a route that picks up from the Charlotte Douglas Airport, and brings passengers right into downtown (or as locals say, “Uptown”) Charlotte to the main Transit Terminal.

Transit Fare and Transfers

Transit fare, as of October 2010, is $1.75 for a one-way trip. You can get a transfer from one bus to another, or use your bus transfer as proof-of-purchase to use on the Lynx rail line. You can also use your Lynx ticket to board a bus. Each transfer does have an expiration time, which is generally an hour and a half after purchase. There are special rates (85 cents one way) for Disabled and Senior-age passengers. If you choose an express bus (one that goes into neighboring counties) the fare will be either $2 or $3 one way.

Fines for Fare Evasion

Make sure to always have a valid ticket on the Lynx. They work with the “honor system” – meaning you don’t go through a turnstile to the transit platform. If you are caught without a ticket (a receipt will not do!), you are stuck with a $50 ticket. How would anyone ever know? The light-rail is patrolled by Fare Inspectors. There are those times when you can ride and no Fare Inspector is present, however, I wouldn’t take my chances!

The buses and trains are both ADA accessible to make transit simpler for those with disabilities and other restrictions.

Free Trolley

In addition to the rail and bus lines, there is the Gold Rush Trolley system, which is an abbreviated mode of transportation – but it’s free. This is a streetcar fashioned after the classic San Francisco vessels. There are two routes here – one that runs North and South Tryon Streets, and the other that travels East and West Trade Streets, which intersect Tryon Street. The Gold Rush picks up at normal bus stops every six to seven minutes. This service ends at 6:00 PM and runs Monday through Friday only.

Bicycle Rental

For those so inclined, there is also the option of bicycle rental. There are not many companies around that offer this service, but they do exist and can be found online. This may sound fun, but be prepared to pay for it. A three-day rental can cost anywhere from $100 to $150, plus paying for liability insurance.

Welcome to Charlotte and Enjoy your stay!


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