Charlotte commuter train on track to open Nov. 24

Charlotte Area Transit System recently began testing its light-rail trains on the full length of the 9.6-mile line, which runs from I-485 and South Boulevard to 7th Street in uptown Charlotte.

Commuting time will be between 25 and 26 minutes.

CATS chief executive Ron Tober and others inside CATS are increasingly optimistic they'll open during the weekend of Nov. 24-26. There will be free service Saturday and Sunday -- when the Bobcats and Panthers both have home games -- with revenue service starting Monday morning.

Now that CATS is running light rail on the length of the line, the system is taking shape.

Rush hour trains will arrive every 7.5 minutes. CATS said it has the ability to run trains every 5 minutes if there is enough demand. Each car has 68 seats and room for 230 passengers.

One limitation to the LYNX Blue Line is that CATS can't expand its trains by adding a third car because its platforms aren't long enough. They were shrunk to save money when the line was designed.

CATS could spend more money later to lengthen the platforms. Denver's transit agency is currently doing that to handle more riders.

Self-service kiosks have been installed at most of the line's stations, and CATS hopes that a mechanical glitch has been fixed. The manufacturer believed it was due to excessive heat.

The machines currently only take cash, and CATS is hoping additional machines that accept debit and credit cards will be ready by the opening.

"If we don't have enough time to test them, we may hold off until early 2008 to make sure they are good to go for the customer," said CATS spokeswoman Jean Leier. "We want them to work smoothly."