Sketch-Level Feasibility Analysis of Commuter Rail Service Between Kannapolis and Charlotte, North Carolina

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



commuter rail ine, North Carolina, ridership, frequency, cost-effectiveness, comparison


This paper presents a sketch-level feasibility study for a proposed 28-mi commuter rail line connecting downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, to its fast-growing suburbs. Full-scale feasibility studies can be expensive, especially for cash-strapped local government agencies. A sketch analysis, such as the one presented here, is a low-cost means of determining whether a project merits further study. Ridership for the line is conservatively estimated at 2,010 in 2015 and 2,574 in 2035. Higher-speed service and a greater frequency of midday trains are shown to significantly increase these numbers. Cost-effectiveness depends largely on the actual cost per mile, but conservative estimates place the proposed route in the middle of the pack of new-start commuter rail lines: more cost-effective than the routes of Minneapolis, Minnesota, or Austin, Texas, but slightly less cost-effective than those of Albuquerque, New Mexico, or Nashville, Tennessee. In view of these results, a more comprehensive study appears to be merited.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.