CHARLOTTE, N.C (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A week after the Charlotte City Council was surprised to hear of a Blue Line derailment that occurred 10 months prior, Mayor Vi Lyles says steps are being taken to improve the Charlotte Area Transit System.
In addition to her mayoral role, Lyles this year is the chair of the Metrolina Transit Commission, the CATS policy board. In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, she said “significant progress” has been made to the organization, but there is still work to be done.
On March 13, CATS officials revealed that last May a train derailed because of a bearing that’s present on all 42 of the light rail fleet’s cars. In October, CEO John Lewis resigned, and Assistant City Manager Brent Cagle was appointed as interim CEO.
“The City Manager and his team, along with Mr. Cagle, face a critical challenge: to elevate CATS to meet the community’s expectations for safety, reliability and service,” Lyles’ statement reads. “While there will be difficult conversations and tough decisions, we are committed to moving forward. We have already taken steps in the right direction. Changes in CATS’ senior leadership, such as the turnover of the Chief Executive Officer, the Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Operations Officer, have brought clarity to the need for change. We have also seen improvements in CATS’ culture, and Mr. Cagle is working to change the culture of the organization for the better.”
She noted how some of the challenges that CATS faces are a result of the original acquisition of the system as well as the 20-plus-year-old MTC Interlocal Agreement. All Mecklenburg County municipalities are involved in the agreement.
“As the Management Partners review found, one of the most significant challenges facing CATS is the governance and reporting structure in which CATS is a city department but serves a regional role and has two major policy bodies which leads ‘to confusion about decision making authority’ and ‘needs real change,’” she said. “The City of Charlotte, Charlotte City Council, and the MTC share oversight and accountability to the community for the performance of CATS. Both the MTC and the City of Charlotte have a part in the management of the CATS CEO and in budgeting and operational policy making.”
Finally, Lyles suggests expanding the scope of CATS’ governance.
“While this agreement outlines the roles and responsibilities of the MTC, the City of Charlotte and the Charlotte City Council, there is overlap and a lack of clarity,” she said. “We’ve grown beyond our current county-wide effort, and perhaps it’s time to look at a regional authority with more direct responsibility.
“It takes commitment and focus to deliver a community-wide service and as both the Mayor of Charlotte and the Chair of the MTC, I am committed to ensuring the CATS delivers the services that our community expects and requires.”