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orulz

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orulz last won the day on June 9 2013

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    Raleigh, NC
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    transit, biking, running, outdoors, urban development, local politics

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  1. Some thoughts about the Piedmont corridor, not necessarily specific to Charlotte but perhaps of interest: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OMbWdRimol1KSxl3gu5sIrKrPklof6-xlCo-D6yPnd0
  2. We have a winner, looks like that must be Chapel Hill. One of those cranes must be UNC hospital. The elevation works out perfectly for things to be like that. CH is about 15 miles away. away.http://up-bucket-0.s3.amazonaws.com/monthly_2022_03/annotated.jpg.79d39f759ee638f59b3e5912339e9b5a.jpg
  3. At 5 minutes (= a train in either direction every 2.5 minutes) then the crossings will be probably be open more than half the time, and no worse, in practice, than a traffic light. IIRC the Blue Line's signal system was designed to accommodate something like 2 or 3-minute frequency? But once you get that frequent, the grade crossings can become a big issue. Can wind up closed for several minutes at a time, which can be quite a bit worse than a typical downtown traffic light.
  4. Here are some mileposts and station spacings for a NCRR Mecklenburg-Cabarrus-Rowan commuter rail line: 46.5 miles, 13 stations (including Gateway, 14.) From 2.5 to 5 miles (4-8km) between stations for the entire line. With Diesel Multiple Unit trains and level boarding, trains could cover the distance to Spencer in about an hour? 0 Gateway (3.5mi) 3.5 Sugar Creek (3 mi) 6.5 Grier Rd (3.25 mi) 9.75 UNCC (4 mi) 13.75 Harrisburg (4.75 mi) 18.5 NC 49 (3 mi) 21.5 Concord (3 mi) 24.5 I-85 (4 mi) 28.5 Kannapolis (3.5 mi) 32.0 Landis (2.5mi) 34.5 China Grove (5 mi) 39.5 Peeler Rd (4.5 mi) 44.0 Salisbury (2.5mi) 46.5 Spencer Figure about 2 minutes saved for each station cut. Stations that can conceivably be cut: -Grier Rd -NC49 -Landis -Peeler Rd That gets the travel time from Salisbury maybe down to under 50 minutes, but you have to weigh that against the lost ridership from cutting the stations.
  5. I think this is on the right track. I'd probably fit in a few more stations though. Under no circumstances should there be literally more than 5 miles between stations on this line. Concord probably gets 3 stations for example. NC49, Cabarrus Ave, and the bus depot by I-85. That's still at least 3 miles between each station. Maybe fit in another one between Sugar Creek and UNCC, Grier Rd perhaps. Although maybe that is not necessary if you can extend the Blue Line to connect with the commuter rail at Universit City Blvd.
  6. The interlining option does make the most sense TBH. The Blue Line's route through uptown and south end is the sauce that makes the whole light rail line work. It's a fantastic route. Having a LRT rail route like this through a downtown with full preemption, gates and flashers at every crossing, parallel to, and *two measly blocks* removed from the city's main spine on Tryon? I mean that's basically unheard of. Most cities have to build tunnels to get a route that good. In a big way it's it's shame that only one line uses it for now. The grade crossings from 5th to 9th are kind of an issue, but are they *that* big of a problem? Who cares about car traffic capacity through there anyway? And if for some reason it turns out that the grade crossings *will* present a problem if train traffic doubles, then just elevate or trench this several-block stretch and call it a day. Not cheap, but still much less than it would cost to build the (obviously inferior) currently planned silver line route along the Brookshire. The LRT connection to Gateway is a red herring, IMO. Like rail to the airport, a nice feather in the hat, but of peripheral importance (at best!) for actual ridership. If Charlotte ever finally gets around to building commuter rail, the LRT-CRT transfers can happen somewhere else - Like Sugar Creek in the northeast, Archdale or Tyvola in the south, Summit Ave in the west, and so on.
  7. NOW. If we wanted to talk about *moving* Carowinds to the Concord Mills/Speedway area. Right at the 85/485 interchange. That probably makes more sense than the current location, and it comes pre-loaded with the resort-like amenities. Really solidify it as Charlotte's version of I-Drive. Now that I could get behind? Do all the civil engineering, put in all the buildings etc to get it ready, while the old park is still open. Once it's all ready, during the off season, shut it down, and have a 9 month blitz while they disassemble and move the rides across town.
  8. If every land use decision is to be made at the smallest-scale level possible, it is quite possible that an alternate use might generate more direct revenue or profits. However, given the obvious benefit (since you seem to be a real estate guy, in terms of INCREASED PROPERTY VALUES region-wide) that the presence of an amenity like Carowinds brings, I would hope the regional government would even go so far as to consider some degree of subsidy, such as property tax abatement for the park itself, if it ever came down to it, in order to prevent something like another damn office park and Amazon warehouse from taking over. If perhaps you haven't been since the Paramount days, I can see why you might be thinking that it's getting long in the tooth. But I think Cedar Fair has done a pretty good job with it. And while I appload Cedar Fair for focusing their work on the park itself, I think they should do more with the undeveloped land between the park and the interstate. Give people a reason to stick around overnight and spend more money. The season is nine months long, which is not too bad by itself - but think bigger: get some year-round amenities in place and turn it into a resort! The nicest hotel they have is a Spring Hill Suites at the back of the parking lot. Beyond that, it's the Comfort Inn and the Motel 6. I mean - come on! If the Speedway/Concord Mills area can pull it off, so can Carowinds. My family drives to Great Wolf Lodge from Raleigh all the time. We *love* Carowinds too, but we don't go as much, because the three hour drive puts it on the edge of day trip territory, and just booking a boring old hotel nearby doesn't really have the same magic. We'd go so much more often (and spend so much more money!) if we could stay on-premesis in something that's actually integrated with the park, and where you can get to the park entrance without the hassle of paying to park and trudging in from the parking lot. They have plenty of undeveloped land to do something really great. Time to get crackin'! If we're looking for more industrial land in this vicinity, what about this instead?
  9. Charlotte begs to differ; I'd say it's a possibility. 25k is an odd size for a grocer though. There's Aldi, Lidl, and TJ's, who typically like stores in the 10-20k range, while Publix/HT etc very seldom go below 30k. So 25k is kind of a no man's land. Will be interesting to see how this pans out.
  10. The rendering seems to show that this is at the NW corner, not the SW corner. GIS show it as built in 1945, it doesn't show up on a 1925 Sanborn map. So, it's 75 years old. Yeah, that's getting up there these days. I am not disappointed that this building is being saved. I'm not overjoyed, but it's a fine outcome. This building is not really a storefront (which one might expect on a corner such as this) but is nevertheless a decent looking building. Like a lot of stuff in DTCH, It seems like it's trying to evoke the 18th century, but mostly just winds up reminding me of Kannapolis. Which - okay, Kannapolis is a perfectly fine town. But not really an architectural powerhouse. So I'm not, like, super psyched about the historic preservation aspect, but I can definitely get behind the sustainability side of not needlessly demolishing serviceable structures.
  11. Grew up going to that Fudd's on Kids-Eat-Free day. Glad to see it go though. Next redevelop the old Ingles site that burned down like 25 years ago
  12. I hope that the "external action" is them deciding to coordinate with NCDOT's purchase of new trains, and rethink the design to go for high platforms. Level boarding at mid-line stations is likely the lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to speeding up Piedmont service.
  13. Hourly Piedmont trains, to Gateway Station, stopping also in Harrisburg, Lexington, and Hillsborough (in addition to all existing stops) with a trip time fast enough to enable a train to complete its run, be serviced, and turn around ready to head the other way, in 3 hours - is the right vision. Throw in an extension to CLT (while still maintaining maintaining 3 hour trip + turnaround) would be an added bonus. A stop in the RTP/RDU/I-540 area would be icing on the cake. So: -Increase frequency to hourly! -Up to 5 more stops -slightly longer journey (to CLT instead of Gateway) -but still shortening the overall overall journey time -faster turnaround for better equipment utilization Figure out what it would take to make this happen... and do it! How do you make a train trip take less time, while adding more stops and making it longer? -Higher top speeds -Better dependability so less schedule padding is needed -Speed up slow zones -Spend less time stopped by shortening station dwell times -Electrification would obviously be great, but I don't think it would be necessary in order to do the above in 3 hours.
  14. You are so right about integrated planning. It's easy to get lost in the weeds on this, and I am not a professional (what I know I learned mostly from reading blogs) but: The way to do this, is to *start* by drawing up the timetable you want to run. Work backwards from there to figure out the infrastructure needed to make it work. If you do it right (meaning you have a willing and cooperative freight operator), by step 6 (2h 30m run time), you would have a system where passenger trains and freight trains never have to overtake each other in the same direction because they all run the same average speed: about 60mph. Freights would go a steady 60mph. Passenger trains going 90 would start to catch up with the freights ahead of them, but then fall back behind as they slow down, stop at a station, and then accelerate back up to speed. No same-direction overtakes are needed at all, meaning a two-track railroad is perfectly adequate. Actually I think that, perhaps with 90mph top speeds, trains that can accelerate a bit faster, and high platforms for shorter dwells, there would be enough space in the schedule for the new stops that are planned (Hillsborough, Lexington, and Harrisburg) while still maintaining the magic freight-compatible speed of about 60mph. On the freight infrastructure side, you would need to be sure that anywhere freight trains need to slow down to enter a yard or service an industrial siding, that there is space off the mainline for them to do so, or otherwise that they only do so overnight when passenger trains are not running. Norfolk Southern has demanded dedicated tracks wherever passenger trains are expected to go faster than 90. It turns out that this isn't because of safety concerns, nor because of simple unwillingness to cooperate - it's a very reasonable requirement, grounded in the realities of operating a railroad. Raising top speeds to 110 or 125mph, and/or the much faster acceleration of electric trains, will make intercity passenger schedules (even including stops) faster than freight trains can reasonably be expected to operate, which means that passenger trains will have to overtake freights moving in the same direction. Without extra tracks to accomplish those overtakes, it starts to reduce the efficiency and capacity of the line as a whole. Think: overtaking a slow-moving vehicle on a two-lane country road where there is a dashed yellow line. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a great example. The system works fine when traffic is light, but during peak season when traffic is heavy, either the slow car has to pull over at an overlook, or (if they're stubborn) you just never get the opportunity to pass them. The Northeast Corridor gets away with fast passenger trains and freights sharing the corridor because it is a largely 3- and 4- tracked, and it is a passenger-first corridor where freight explicitly plays second fiddle. On the other hand, the NCRR, especially between Greensboro and Charlotte, is certainly busy and valuable enough as a freight corridor, that maintaining efficiency of freight operation is an imperative consideration. With electrification, *regional* trains stopping every few miles (rather than every 20 miles) could hypothetically intermingle with freights operating in the range of 50-60mph, and indeed that is what they do in places like Switzerland and Japan. Japan manages to slot freights into <10 minute gaps beween regional passenger trains. We're a long way off from that level of operational precision and proficiency, you need shorter, lighter, and better powered freights, and you also have to design the infrastructure specifically to accommodate it, but we have to understand that it *is* possible, and start planning for it on day one/step one, as we plan the timetable.
  15. Back in the late 80s or early 90s, Governor Jim Hunt articulated a vision for hourly trains and a 2 hour trip time between Raleigh and Charlotte. We need to reawaken some of that ambition. A Brightline-scale effort is about what it would take. 1. Raise the corridor-wide speed limit to 90 mph - (~10min?) 2. Get DEMU trains with distributed traction (for better acceleration - the Amtrak Siemens order doesn't have this) and retractable gap fillers (to make it easier to build high platforms) (~10min?) 3. Complete double tracking between Raleigh and Greensboro (no speedup but enables hourly service?) 4. Rebuild every platform as high level, with a setback from the main line to avoid freight interference, which will shorten station dwell times (~10min?) 5. More grade separations, probably focusing on problematic urban areas like Cary, Durham, Mebane, and Thomasville, where there are clusters of busy grade crossings in close proximity (no speedup but still badly needed for safety) 6. Curve straightening (~5min?) 7. Build some sections of 125mph dedicated passenger-only 3rd track, including full grade separation, in locations between stations where tracks are relatively straight or can be straightened further (~10 min) 8. Electrify the corridor (~20min) That brings the NCRR up to near-Northeast Corridor standards, which should about do it. How much would this cost, and how long would it take? Items 1 and 2 cost essentially nothing in terms of capital (the signals are already done- the track just needs to be maintained for 90mph, and NCDOT already plans to buy new trains) and could easily be completed by 2025. Items 3-6 (complete double track, high platforms, more grade separations, and some curve realignments) combined are probably an ARRA scale effort, so $500-750m, and using the time it took to complete the "Piedmont Improvement Program," this could be completed, through scoping, environmental analysis, planning, engineering, and construction - by 2030. Item 7 (125mph dedicated tracks) is perhaps another $500-750m. Item 8 (electrification) is another $1-1.5b. These could be done at the same time as 3-6 if the project is fully funded on day one, but if not, an incremental program could add the 125mph dedicated tracks by 2035 and electrification by 2040. So my order of magnitude estimate: ~$2-$3b and 10~20 years. Now, that's a lot of money, don't get me wrong, but we drop sums like that on highway projects *all* *the* *time* with nary so much as a batted eyelash. It's time to get with the program and ditch the timid incrementalism. Set a *meaningful* goal and plan a course to achieve it. That would basically be the endgame for conventional intercity rail in the NC Piedmont. The next phase would be dropping $10+ billion on 200 mph TGV-style high speed trains and *1* hour trip times between Raleigh and Charlotte. Which would be awesome, but we shouldn't just skip the conventional upgrades, because service to intermediate cities that a NC TGV would skip (Burlington, High Point, Salisbury) is definitely important.
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