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jthomas's Achievements


Whistle-Stop (3/14)



  1. That's a nice mountain range in the background - I hadn't noticed that on my previous visits to Raleigh...
  2. Thanks for the info! What I am wondering, though, is if advances in autonomous driving technology in the future could allow for the implementation of automatic train operation without the need to upgrade infrastructure through grade separation, platform screens etc. I am skeptical that we will see fully autonomous cars in urban areas anytime soon. However, an LRT line, even with at-grade vehicle and pedestrian crossings, is a less complex environment than a busy downtown street. Could the technology currently being developed for cars be applied to trains to allow a far broader implementation of automatic operation?
  3. I wonder if at some point, the technology that is being developed for autonomous cars will be useful for a transit application such as the Blue Line? Driverless train operation is already a thing, but only on systems which are fully grade separated and have devices such as platform screen doors to seal people off from the guideway. An LRT line is a much more complex environment due to the many grade and pedestrian crossings, but at the same time I'd have to think it is a more predictable environment than a car operating on city streets. Automatic train operation would eliminate driver shortage as a barrier to increased frequency.
  4. "Emergent Tokyo" is a fascinating book - I learned a lot from it. I think there are a lot of lessons that can be applied to our cities, even if the end result doesn't look like Tokyo. One thing that stood out to me was how small so many of the building parcels are there. They have minimal regulations on lot size, setbacks, and lot frontage. Many plots of land have been subdivided over and over again, resulting in an incredibly fine grain of pedestrian-oriented alleys and buildings. It's a stark contrast to how much land is wasted in American cities on pointless setbacks and buffers. I actually think that subdivision could be a great model for densifying our cities. What if, instead of building bigger buildings, we built a bunch of small buildings on the leftover spaces in our cities? New networks of rear lanes and alleys could provide the access for development of underutilized backyards, without the dramatic change to existing streetscapes in the current paradigm of teardowns.
  5. No, I am not confused about the distinction between LRT and streetcar. What you are describing are different types of service patterns - local urban service and rapid, longer-distance regional service. I am in agreement with you about the need for both. You are right that the rapid regional service needs to have a fully, or nearly so, grade-separated route. My point is that route already exists *right now*, it serves basically the same destinations as the proposed Silver Line, and it could be acquired for far less cost than the proposed solution of building a redundant and incompatible LRT line. There is no technical reason why you couldn't run trains every 15 minutes or less on mainline rail. It is done all over the world. A new LRT alignment should serve areas that currently do not have access to a rail line.
  6. You had lunch with your wife for the first time in years?
  7. I'm no expert on the freight railroads, but CSX does have a recent track record of selling lines outright to governments. You don't have to look any further than Virginia, which bought 223 miles of track and 384 miles of right of way from CSX last year for $525 million. https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/csx-starts-sale-for-virginias-3-7b-rail-initiative/ The line through Charlotte may have decent traffic, but it is a secondary part of their network, and besides I'm sure that any deal would involve them retaining trackage rights.
  8. Yes, rapid east-west rail is needed. But a 26 mile LRT system is not the way to do it. There are existing tracks that already go from downtown Matthews to the airport, via Gateway Station. As in, you could literally run a train on that routing today. The LRT mode is better suited for a more local service pattern anyway - its strong suits are the ability to have street running and fairly minimal stations that fit well in an urban environment. I'll keep banging this drum - express regional service should be mainline rail. Buy out CSX from Monroe to Bostic, build dedicated passenger tracks alongside NS from Gateway to CLT (bonus: these could be used to extend the Piedmonts to the airport), and truncate Silver Line LRT to be focused on local urban service that doesn't duplicate existing rail rights of way. All of that could likely be done for less money than the cost of the current plan.
  9. This is a very interesting design from an architectural perspective. It looks very "urban" and designed to be a part of a cityscape, rather than the typical convention of the stadium as a stand-alone sculptural object. I really like it from the design point of view. That said, I think it is a disgrace that this project is proceeding. First, the existing stadium is less than 25 years old. To tear it down is incredibly wasteful of the materials and resources that went into its construction. Stadiums can easily last 100+ years if properly maintained and periodically modernized - just look at many of the classic college stadiums. Second, although the Titans are putting in $800 million towards a new stadium, that still leaves the governments on the hook for $1.4 billion plus. That is a shockingly large sum of money to spend on a venue that, even in a wildly optimistic scenario, would be dormant more frequently than it would host an event. This, in a fast-growing region that just rejected a transit referendum, ostensibly over cost concerns. It's a shameful reflection of political priorities. I hope Charlotte doesn't go down the same path. Bank of America Stadium is a modern classic IMO, and could easily stay in service for a long time. More importantly, the region should be using its limited resources on projects that bring a daily benefit to all of its citizens, rather than subsidizing a billionaire's vanity project.
  10. I agree - it perfectly captures my entire life experience living in a thoroughly suburbanized city. A very poignant description of the social capital that has been squandered and destroyed for generations of Americans.
  11. Parking podiums like this are like the mom jeans of architecture: Why would you choose to draw attention to an unflattering area instead of hiding it? But then again, mom jeans are inexplicably in style right now, just like these accentuated parking podiums. Coincidence??? But in all seriousness, that Raleigh project is really nice, and a good use of an irregular and relatively small site.
  12. I'll admit that I made that claim off the cuff, but I do think that math can back it up. A single freeway lane has a maximum capacity of about 2200-2300 vehicles per hour. If we generously assume an average of 2 occupants per vehicle (I would guess that a more accurate number is 1.25-1.5), that means a single freeway lane moves around 4500 people per hour at maximum capacity. For the purpose of this discussion, I think it's fair to consider the maximum theoretical capacity of a rail line, rather than a more realistic assumption of what level of service would actually be run. I'd imagine a using a railcar similar to the Silverliner V used by SEPTA in Philly and RTD in Denver for their electrified regional rail operations. Wikipedia lists the capacity for each 25 meter railcar as around 100 people. So an 8-car train (which admittedly is on the long side, but that's one of the advantages of trains - you can easily increase capacity by adding cars) would hold 800 people. Running a train every 5 minutes (12 tph) would therefore move 9600 people per hour, or at least 2 freeway lanes' worth. And that's not the maximum capacity of the railway - you could run even longer trains, you could run more trains (could probably manage up to 20-24 tph per direction on a dedicated 2-track railway), plus the crush load capacity of the train is probably at least 1.5x the listed capacity. So, I don't think it's unrealistic to say that a 2-track railway could move as many people at peak capacity as an 8-lane freeway, on a footprint that is at most 1/3 of the width of the freeway. And yes, a Rock Hill regional rail service would not look like what I described above. But that doesn't change the geometric and mathematic realities that make railways superior at moving large volumes of people. 75 years of auto-oriented land use and transportation planning, plus American ignorance of global best practices in railways, means that Rock Hill regional rail would have a much lower ceiling. That still doesn't mean that freeway widening solves any problems - it just pushes the inevitable reckoning out by another generation.
  13. Thank you - this is the context that is usually missing when people have sticker shock over transit projects. The alternatives are not free. And you’re right - for the the same price, Charlotte can have: - a project that perpetuates auto dependence, fuels exurban sprawl (and not even in NC - it would be SC seeing the growth!), and would end up every bit as congested as the current facility within 10 years of opening, OR - a project that would facilitate additional, more walkable development in areas that can leverage existing infrastructure, and that could move a greater number of people overall when operated at maximum capacity. So tell me again, why is this even a question?
  14. Agree 100% - let the LRT serve the densest areas with a high frequency, and don't waste billions building miles of rail parallel to existing rail corridors (CSX would probably part with their line for less than what it would cost to build the Silver line out to Matthews). This would open up the opportunity for the Silver Line to serve the terminal at CLT directly. I just flew from CLT-SLC yesterday. SLC's new terminal complex is stunning, and the LRT stop is integrated very nicely (the station is immediately next to the terminal building - closer than the pick-up lanes for rideshare and private vehicles). Charlotte should look at doing the same.
  15. Population growth through annexation is a net negative IMO. The low density development at the fringes usually adds more in maintenance and service liabilities for the city than it adds in new tax revenue. The city should get serious about directing growth to the areas already within the city limits in order to leverage existing infrastructure and services.
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