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Everything posted by orulz

  1. If by commuter rail, you mean the red line - that platform has always been planned to be on the west side of the freight tracks, no? Same for the hypothetical connection from the P&N. Here is from the 2002 feasibility study. That said, what is built here differs significantly from what was apparently planned in 2002 so it is hard to say what has and hasn't changed.
  2. I went to a few of their meetings more than 15 years ago when I was in my early 20s and I was certainly the youngest attendee by more than a factor of 2.
  3. Where did you get the info that Mayor Baldwin has appointed herself to the GoTriangle board? I live in the Triangle and follow this pretty closely, and this is the first I've heard of it.
  4. Did I miss discussion here of the ACWR's "passenger train venue" in NoDa that was announced back in September? https://www.wcnc.com/article/travel/train-noda-charlotte-aberdeen-carolina-western-railway-company-acwr/275-3386d0c5-926f-451f-9618-da1aeb3d522e https://www.acwr.com/passenger-train I'm wondering whether this train is a static venue, or whether you can book it and go for a ride along the tracks.
  5. Some thoughts about the Piedmont corridor, not necessarily specific to Charlotte but perhaps of interest: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OMbWdRimol1KSxl3gu5sIrKrPklof6-xlCo-D6yPnd0
  6. 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
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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?
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. Cheaper alternative: further reconfiguration of the Belk's interchanges, freeing up one of the three to four "channels" currently used for car traffic, to use as a light rail line instead. If you're going to go to the expense of decking over the Belk, why not do it with a park instead of a boulevard? I still like the Trade Street tunnel option better, though. Tunnels are actually pretty cheap; it's stations that are the budget busters. So, simplify it by having only one or two underground stations. The CATS transportation center obviously needs an underground station. Gateway might, but it might also be possible to curve south and get it above ground along the currently planned Silver Line alignment. The streetcar (which should have dedicated lanes, FFS, I mean come on!) can handle local circulation in the corridor. Sent from my SM-S515DL using Tapatalk
  21. The loops between Old Fort and Black Mountain are actually pretty scenic. But the route is very, very slow as well. There is currently no through freight over this line, only locals serving Asheville-area industries - so if there ever were a time that it made sense to give passenger service a go, then this is it.
  22. I am sort of expecting them NCDOT to announce a joint procurement with Amtrak. Siemens has an off the shelf design that's already in service which certainly gives them a leg up. That said, Stadler seems pretty competent, and Alstom just won a big order in Chicago, too..
  23. I am going to seem like Debbie Downer but I am frustrated that NCDOT is not doing more to coordinate this (as well as the platform/overpass project at Kannapolis) with their purchase of new trains for the Piedmont. Hear me out. The lowest hanging fruit for making the journey time on the Piedmont faster is station dwell times. Those trains can stay stopped at stations for a frustratingly long time. On a busy day, dozens or even a hundred passengers can board and disembark at a station. Subways can handle crowds this big, or bigger, in 30 seconds or less, with ease. But the Piedmont can't, for two reasons. While subways have platforms that are the same height as the train floors, and open every door at every station, the Piedmont makes passengers haul their luggage up steep, narrow stairs through just one or two doors that are opened by the conductors. Now, Raleigh - and soon Charlotte - have high platforms, but they did that by putting their platforms on sidings, which is expensive. Plus, those stations actually don't matter as much because they are at the end of the line for the Piedmont (and in Charlotte's case, the Carolinian too.) So it doesn't really matter as much if passengers take a while to get on board there: the train can still leave on time. But for these mid-line stations, it's pretty important to get the trains in and out of there as quickly as possible. It could cost hundreds of millions of dollars to straighten curves enough and raise speeds to save three minutes on a schedule, whereas getting the train in and out of Salisbury three minutes faster is a much, much easier problem. The traditional reason they haven't done this is that oversize freight trains can't operate next to high platforms, and this line does occasionally carry oversize freight. A new development, however, is train-mounted retractable gap fillers, which extend from the door to create a bridge for passengers to walk over. These allow the platform to be set back from the tracks, leaving enough space for oversize freight. Brightline in Florida introduced this technology to the US market. NC has $157m in grant money awarded over the last two years to spend on new passenger equipment. Amtrak is also in the process of procuring new trains to replace their aging Amfleet equipment. If Amtrak and NCDOT made it a priority, they could coordinate the purchase of these trains with these platform upgrade projects and trim some time from the schedule. But it doesn't seem to be. US Passenger Rail just seems to suffer from a frustrating case of inability to connect the dots. So we wind up spending millions, or billions, of dollars - but stop short of doing what it takes to have a really optimized, first rate passenger rail system. Sigh.
  24. CLT should look to Minneapolis and the DC Metro for hints of what to do here. As far as where to put the airport station - just do what the Silver Line extension does at Dulles: wind its way to within walking distance of the terminal, and then back out the other side to serve stations on the far side of the airport. And then the Light Rail can *become* the people mover between the intercity/commuter station and the airport terminal. It already uses proof of payment to verify fares, so just declare that segment as free, and then don't inspect tickets. If you need better frequency, then put in turnback tracks and run short(er?) trains in the schedule gaps. 24 hour service? Sure, why not! Minneapolis does basically all of the above, with their Light rail between their two airport terminals. It's pretty effective- just copy them!
  25. Freight trains that do not stop, roughly match the average speed of a passenger train that stops every few miles. If you have a passenger train that tops out at 60mph but makes a stop every 2 or 3 miles, its average speed might wind up as 30 or 35mph. Places that are competent at operating trains take advantage of this quite often, even in the context of passenger trains running on a frequent clockface schedule. Saw it all the time on the Sanyo Main Line when I lived in Hiroshima, which has 15 minute mid-day frequency. JR East even does this through Shinjuku, the busiest train station in the world (by passenger count), on a double-track line with no bypass tracks or sidings. They don't do this at rush hour (when the schedule has over 20 passenger trains per hour) but they do manage to thread them through in the 5-6 minute gaps during the midday period when they are running 12 trains per hour. The video below shows a four-track line - but it's actually operated as two independent two-track lines: The Yamanote Line (which is a dedicated, passenger-only loop line) and the Yamanote Freight Line (which is the one I'm talking about, which shares its tracks with the Saikyo and Shonan-Shinjuku passenger lines). Now doing this requires upgraded infrastructure such as very short signal blocks and electrification so the passenger trains can accelerate quickly, as well as years of work optimizing and refining schedules and operating procedures. But what's needed on the O-line is nowhere near the level of precision necessary to thread freight trains into 5 minute gaps between passenger trains. The idea that dedicated tracks are needed in order to allow freight operations to continue on a potentially double-tracked O-line in spite of the interference caused by a passenger train running every half-hour or so is just positively laughable.
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