The South Corridor project for the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) Light Rail system provides alternative transit to a significant portion of Charlotte's metropolitan area. Sasaki provided planning, landscape architecture, civil engineering, architecture, construction documentation, and construction administration services. Sasaki planned each LRT station area to establish surrounding land development patterns. This work has guided the growth and development of their immediate areas—helping jumpstart a process of regional renewal. Since its opening day, ridership is 65% over initial projections. By 2010, the roughly $475 million investment in the South Corridor has spurred nearly $1.9 billion in public and private spin-off investment in real estate along the LRT corridor. CATS has also received federal approval to expand the system.
The project establishes 13 light rail stations along the length of the 9.8-mile corridor. During the EIS and final design process, Sasaki developed a series of station and shelter designs and participated in the successful public participation process. The selected shelter design reflects a strong image for the city while having the potential of relating to each of the four districts through which the system passes. The planning of the various stations included the site, architecture design, and public art coordination for each station site.
The Charlotte Transportation Center (CTC) Arena Station is the system's central station. Located adjacent to an arena, a bus terminal, and an upcoming entertainment center, the transit station is the centerpiece of a major hub of public activity that sits at the seam of the uptown and downtown city districts. Its connection to other forms of transit at the downtown segment of the corridor makes the CTC station one of the few intermodal exchange nodes along the system.
The CTC station is conceived of as a light beam bridging over Trade Street, wrapping around a former trolley system street bridge while sheltering the newly created space of the station platforms above. The asymmetrical design of the canopy frames views of the city skyline to the north. An elevated platform provides view of the ample cityscape to the south, echoing the asymmetrical section of the street on either side of the bridge. The structure contains all supporting infrastructure for the station's catenaries, signage, lighting, and communication systems.
A portion of the structure is partially covered by a translucent canopy over that mitigates direct sunlight while providing 360 degrees viewing to the surroundings. The canopy is glazed with a system of ETFE panels that provides a lightweight membrane cover that combines transparency and active shading as part of a unified cladding system. The membrane's interlayer features a dot pattern screen that adapts to various intensities of sun radiation affecting the canopy.
LED lighting throughout the canopy changes colors and designs according to a programming sequence that, at night, transforms the station into a beacon for sporting events, holidays, or simply to alert passengers of train arrival. The color display, in conjunction with the movement of people, cars, and trains, provides an urban spectacle for a vibrant section of Charlotte's downtown.