There are plenty of options for getting around Charlotte , from public transportation and taxis to walking and biking. In Uptown, there is almost never a reason to drive. Outside the center of the city, a car is essential to ensure easy access to sights, restaurants, and accommodations.
The extensive network of public transportation options in Charlotte includes light rail, buses, and trolleys that are operated by the Charlotte Area Transit System, or CATS (704/336-7433, www.charmeck.org/departments/CATS ).
Compared to other cities of its size, Charlotte’s has a much smaller network of transit routes and a less-efficient public transportation system. Despite the flaws, buses and trains often run on time and can transport you to most major areas of the city with limited hassle. Outside the center of the city, buses are the only option for public transportation.
The farther away from Uptown you travel, the more likely you are to have to transfer buses several times, which results in confusing routes and lengthy travel times. The CATS website has a trip planner that lets you enter departure and arrival information to receive detailed instructions for getting from point A to point B.
Buses, light rail, and trolleys run through Uptown for quick and easy access to most major sights in the center of the city.
CATS operates more than 40 bus routes throughout the county with service from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. Bus stops are located throughout the city. The fare is $1.50 each way for regular service and $2 each way for express routes. Students (K–12) ride for $0.75 each way and children under five ride free.
The latest addition to the public transit offerings is LYNX Light Rail (704/336-7433, www.charmeck.org/departments/CATS/LYNX ). The blue line is the first phase of a the new rail line, which is expected to include routes to Mooresville , Matthews, NoDa, and University City by 2030. The current line is 10 miles and has a total of 15 stops between Uptown and South End. Service is offered between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m. Fares are $1.50 each way for adults and $0.75 for students (K-12). Children under five ride free.
In Uptown, the Gold Rush trolleys resemble historic streetcars and offer free service along Trade and Tryon Streets and through the historic Fourth Ward district . The trolleys stop at marked bus stops every seven minutes 7 a.m.–10 p.m.
The Charlotte Trolley  (704/375-0850, www.charlottetrolley.org ) shares the light rail tracks and runs a two-mile loop from Uptown to South End. While it is a means to go from point A to point B, the trolley was designed to present a narrated account of Charlotte’s rise as an industrial and financial heavyweight. It only runs on Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Fares are $1.50 each way; children under five ride free.
Every CATS bus and LYNX train is equipped with ramps, lifts, and low floors to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Priority seating is available on buses and trains. On buses, drivers will help secure wheelchairs and scooters. Buses have push strips to request the operator to stop and deploy the lift. All LYNX trains, stations, and park and ride lots are accessible with either ramps or elevators. All platforms have at least two ticket vending machines that have Braille and audio instructions and are accessible to riders using mobility aids. Service animals are permitted on both buses and trains.
CATS also offers a Special Transportation Service (STS) for riders who are unable to use fixed-route buses and trains (704/336-2637, www.charmeck.org/departments/CATS ). The STS fleet is equipped with electric lifts to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters. The door-to-door transit service is available within Charlotte and operates Monday to Saturday from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 5:15 a.m. to 2 a.m. In order to access the service, riders must submit an application and go through an interview process. Fares for STS are $2.40 each way.
Drivers cannot accept cash so riders must have an STS ticket or monthly pass. Books of 10 tickets ($24) and monthly passes ($96) can be purchased at the Charlotte Transportation Center Information Center (310 E. Trade St., 704/336-3159).
Charlotte  has none of the driving and parking hassles associated with big cities. You’re most apt to deal with traffic in Uptown. Even so, even during rush hour it never takes more than a few minutes to drive from one side of Uptown to the other.
In Uptown, the streets are organized in a grid pattern that makes navigating simple. Outside of the city center, the streets are a little more confusing. It’s not uncommon for streets with the same names to intersect each other. At intersections like that of Queens Road, Queens Road, and Queens Road, one wrong turn can take drivers in a new—and unintended—direction.
Use a GPS, take a map, or stop and ask for directions if it’s unclear whether to turn left or right at the intersection of Sharon and Sharon.
It’s possible to find free parking spaces in most areas of Charlotte, including a few in Uptown. Street parking outside of Uptown is often free (though there might still be restrictions on how long you can park and during which hours parking is permitted; be sure to check the signs).
In Uptown, the best bet for parking is at one of the paid parking lots. The website www.aboutparking.com  lists all of the parking lots in Uptown. The “parking search” feature allows you to enter a street address in Uptown and map the locations of nearby parking lots.
In addition to paid parking lots, there are parking meters and smart meters located along the streets in Uptown. In the heart of Uptown, metered spaces cost $0.25 for each 15 minutes. Parking meters on the perimeter of Uptown cost $0.50 per hour. Meters are monitored Monday–Friday 7 a.m.–6 p.m., excluding holidays. Smart meters accept coins and debit/credit cards.
In Uptown it’s possible to hail a taxi on most major streets, but the best bet for catching a ride is to venture to the nearest hotel where taxis are often waiting for passengers. Outside of Uptown, it’s best to call a taxi and head outside when it arrives. It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes for the taxi to arrive.
Rides are metered, with the exception of the $25 flat fee charged from Uptown to the airport. Like other U.S. cities, fares are regulated and the taxi driver should run the meter during your ride. The fare is based on the distance traveled, with small increases during traffic.
Prevention magazine named Charlotte  the best walking city in North Carolina—which comes as a shock to those who live here and struggle to get around on foot. Uptown is the best neighborhood for walking; the compactness of the area and extensive sidewalks make it possible to explore without a car. Outside of Uptown, there are a few areas—including South End, NoDa, and parts of Dilworth—where it’s possible to walk from one attraction, restaurant, or shop to another. Elsewhere, the lack of sidewalks and long distances between destinations are not conducive to walking.
Bicycle commuting in Charlotte is a dangerous proposition. Helmets are not mandatory for riders over the age of 16 and the lack of bike lanes means that cyclists either ride on the sidewalk or must squeeze to the right side of the road as vehicles speed past. There are a few bike racks in Uptown, but elsewhere in Charlotte it can be difficult to find a place to safely lock up your ride. Though bicycle commuters will find it difficult to get around in Charlotte, recreational cyclists have plenty of options.