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Many of you have already heard about the Triangle's regional rail plans. While nothing is 100% guaranteed until it gets delivered, the plans are pretty solid, with very little probability to fail. Assuming everything goes well, there are hopes for additional lines and expansions that will boost the regional rail's image to new heights, while help the effort to urbanize the Triangle even more.

The good news is, more towns want to join this effort and offer transportation options, while they find ways to prevent [excessive] urban sprawl within their own territories. The following article is from the Sunday's News & Observer, and it should create some excitement to all those who want to see the regional rail effort succeed. In the printed vesion, there is a nice map of the proposed route, which shows clearly how much Raleigh (being in the middle) will benefit, while the natural beauty of this area can be preserved by urbanizing areas like Zebulon, Wendell, Knightdale, Clayton, etc. Sure, we are not talking about an overnight metamorphosis, but it is a good start and provides the momentum this area truly needs. For now, I can only share with you the plans and speculations, as stated in the article below. Hope you find within it the same optimism that filled me when I read it.

East commuter rail affordable

Proposed Eastrans would run a U-shaped route from Wilson and Goldsboro to Raleigh

By ELLEN SUNG, Staff Writer

The idea of commuters from Zebulon hopping a train to work in Raleigh may seem far-fetched. But a new study says the idea is not only feasible, but also affordable.

"We have lots of people tell us we're foolish and we're silly and we don't know what we're doing," said Mike Frangos, Knightdale planning director and a champion of a proposed rail system called Eastrans. "We see it as trying to get ahead of the development curve."

Backers say a recent study bolsters their proposal for a two-corridor, U-shaped route running east from Raleigh on existing tracks. A northern leg would reach Wilson, with stops in Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon. A southern leg would reach Goldsboro, with stops in Clayton and Selma.

The study, commissioned by Knightdale officials, concludes that building the 100-mile Eastrans system would cost $126 million -- less than the typical cost of eight miles of urban freeway and two-thirds the cost of the 11-mile U.S. 64 Bypass around Knightdale.

Frangos and officials in other towns along the route see Eastrans as a way to promote economic development, encourage compact growth, and make their communities more attractive to commuters. In Raleigh, it would link to two stations serving the Triangle Transit Authority's planned rail line.

Knightdale, 11 miles east of Raleigh, is centered around clogged U.S. 64. New roads will provide some relief; later this year, drivers will zip around Knightdale on the new U.S. 64 Bypass, and by 2006, the Outer Loop will speed them to work at Research Triangle Park and beyond. But the quick commutes won't last forever. The new, hassle-free highways will be congested within 25 years.

Frangos envisions a downtown where people could live, shop and walk to the train stop -- all without fighting traffic on U.S. 64.

Others are intrigued by the rail idea too: Knightdale officials got the state Department of Transportation and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, a transportation group, to help pay for the $155,000 study by consultants Wilbur Smith Associates of Columbia, S.C.

Towns on the fringe of the Triangle see commuter rail as a possible engine for growth.

Selma Town Manager Jeff White said Eastrans has the potential to boost downtown redevelopment and encourage people to buy homes in the Johnston County town. It currently takes about 45 minutes to drive 30 miles from Selma to Raleigh, thanks to clogged traffic on U.S. 70. The study estimates commuters could make the same trip by train in 37 minutes.

Don't expect to jump a train from Selma to downtown Raleigh anytime soon. At best, it would be a decade before trains run.

The study cited major hurdles, particularly along the northern spur to Wilson. That corridor, owned by the Norfolk Southern freight company and dotted by grade crossings, was designed in the 1900s with twists and turns that make it impossible for commuter trains to accelerate to top speed. Straightening out the kinks would cost tens of millions.

The southern spur to Goldsboro runs along straighter tracks owned by the N.C. Railroad Co. that would require fewer improvements. The state is considering the corridor for passenger rail service to Wilmington.

In three years, the N.C. Railroad Co. already has spent $25 million to improve tracks between Raleigh and Morehead City, said president Scott Saylor. It plans an additional $16 million in improvements between Raleigh and Goldsboro in the next year and a half.

The N.C. Railroad Co. projects could cut the final price tag for Eastrans. Even so, the Eastrans project would likely cost upwards of $100 million for improving tracks, installing signals and buying locomotives and rail cars. Operating the system would cost $4.7 million a year.

The Eastrans study does not address in detail how the project would be funded. Researchers said 1,350 people would have to ride the train each day to make it competitive for federal money.

"You can get 75 or 80 percent federal funding for a road project," said Patrick Simmons, director of the rail division for the state Department of Transportation. "You can get -- at best, after a struggle -- 50 percent funding for a commuter rail program."

The rest would come from state and local government, said White, the Selma town manager. Passenger fares would not cover all the costs.

"We don't expect highways to break even," White said. "We understand that bus systems in most cities don't break even, so why should we look at rail any differently? ... It really comes down to, 'Is it a good use of public money?' "

So far, the Eastrans movement has been led by officials in towns along the rail lines, and they say they will need help to get the trains running. Frangos, the Knightdale planning director, said their study will gather dust on a shelf unless regional or state transportation officials take on Eastrans as a cause.

"We're really about at the end of what we can do as far as our first and last gasp in terms of getting this going," Frangos said.

One possibility stirring interest is another, more detailed study of who would ride the train. N.C. Railroad Co. would chip in one-sixth of the $250,000 cost, if towns such as Goldsboro and Wilson find the rest, Saylor said.

"We are interested in what the true market may be," Saylor said. "There is no data. All we see are strings of traffic on Highway 70 and Highway 64."

Staff writer Ellen Sung can be reached at 829-4565 or [email protected]

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I'm not so sure it will pass, How large is Raliegh?Is it even Large enough to make a profit from light rail...I hope it passes, But LightRail has failed in much larger cities even when it looked like it would pass. Some of those cities which it failed were Kansas City and Cincinatti(it's probably spelled wrong). But I hope it passes!...

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Your concerns are on the target. Raleigh MSA is about 850,000 and the Triangle (CSA) is about 1.4 million. First of all, they are talking about using existing rails, not creating a light-rail system from the scratch. Just like TTA's regional rail system (planned to be functional around 2007-2008), Eastrans will not be created from the scratch and will most likely connect the largest of the towns. There are a lot of people who would benefit from such a rail system, especially when it connects to TTA's regional rail. In 10 years, given the present growth rate, this area will be large enough to justify a unified commuter rail system. How profitable it will be is unknown, but most likely won't be losing money the way other similar systems are. But that is my own speculation...

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I didn't know Raliegh was already that large! Maybe it will pass, but i think it wouldn't pass for at least 5 more years. I think LightRail may pass when it comes up for vote in KC again shortly...

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Raleigh, by itself, is currently around 320,000, but the entire metro is much larger. Not urbanized, at all, but the regional rail is slowly creating the momentum for proper rezoning and more mixed-use proposals near the rail stations. Neither TTA's regional rail, nor Eastrans are light rail. In fact, they are [relatively speaking] much larger. The financial viability cannot be predicted, but we all know how much money such systems lose every day. Our goal is to minimize the operating costs, while promoting ridership. The key is to create destinations around the stations and increase/improve connectivity with the denser areas.

How about Kansas City? What is the city/MSA/CSA population these days? Why did previous efforts in KC fail? What was the justification? I would assume that the city leadership did not want to take the risk of risking so much money for something that would most likely drain the city of financial resources. In this area, the regional rail found a lot of skeptics in its path, but people have warmed up to the idea and so have several developers. We are at the last stages of the design, but the new vision (Eastrans) will definitely strengthen the entire effort to connect the Triangle's cities and towns. For an area as spread as we are, it makes a lot of sense. Better to plan this now than 30 years later.

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monsoon, for an accurate map, draw a line that starts from Goldsboro, passes through Smithfield/Selma, Clayton, Raleigh, Knightdale, Wendell, Zebulon and ends in Wilson. That U-shaped line will definitely be a relief for many people who live around the aforementioned towns and work in Raleigh, or even Durham. It would have been nice to do this without any Federal support, but I doubt it very seriously. Mass transit is a money pit, if not for all cases at least for most of them. There is no way the Triangle can pull this without extra help. The Feds have been very supportive and cooperative to TTA's idea, but we do need to scale down a few things in order to make this work without breaking the bank. TTA has a few nice ideas for the regional rail, but not all of them are feasible and I agree with the Feds on this. Besides, if we didn't receive any pressure, some of the things TTA fixed would have proven to be costly mistakes in the future. If the Feds abandon TTA's effort altogether, then I will be pissed.

Even if the Triangle fails, Charlotte's plan has a great chance to succeed big time. With population that far exceeds the Triangle's, Charlotte metro can prove to be a better "experiment". If I am not mistaken, the Feds have already approved funding for Charlotte's light rail system (please correct me if I am wrong; I am under the impression that it is a done deal).

The positive news is that more areas, outside Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill are jumping on board and wish to join the commuter rail effort. There are speculations that Apex may do so in the future, but we'll have to wait and see. Apex residents were not as warm to the idea of regional rail and I am not sure whether they will learn from the municipalities and towns East of Raleigh. I surely hope they will.

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Sorry, I didn't mean full funding for Charlotte's rail system, but merely for part of phase I. I remember a thread (possibly in SSP) when the funding of several systems was discussed and I was under the impression that Charlotte got what it was looking for. TTA needed much more than Charlotte, so naturally there was a lot more doubt concerning our system, but the Feds seemed to be certain about the Triangle, as long as TTA was able to trim the fat here and there. Actually, the Feds were right in TTA's case, so I can't blame them. The biggest challenge for us will be the skeptics, be that residents, developers or politicians. Supporters and opponents come from both parties, so this isn't a partisan issue (at least in the Triangle). However, we all know that TTA stands to lose money on the regional rail. How much is yet to be determined.

I don't remember what the other cities were, but the Feds approved 5 new systems and expansions. One of them was Phoenix, which I think makes sense, as that city is sprawled a lot but has the population to support a bolder mass transit plan. The fear that I have about Triangle's proposal is that we aim too high for the existing population. I can't speak for Charlotte, as I know that the Queen City has almost twice the population of Raleigh, but in both cases, there will always be people who will complain that there aren't enough lines and stops, or that the frequency is not the expected one, and many other reasons. I am no expert, but I would think that the regional rail needs to cover a large territory (which in TTA's case isn't an issue), have frequent and precise service, and several useful stops. The Feds didn't see the commitment on behalf of the developers and naturally question the viability of a regional rail in the Triangle. I can't blame them, as much as I would love to see the commuter rail materialize. If it fails, it will provide opponents of mass transit with the ammunition they need to stop future expansions and updates. Lately, more and more developers recognize the need to stand behind TTA's efforts, but it is a bit late to show the Feds that the commitment is there :( I think we'll make it.

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That's sad... Let's hope that Charlotte finds a way to get this project going. Of course, I would hate to see the city throwing a lot of money on this project and not get most of it back through ridership. Sadly, we are a society attached to our cars, with only a few transportation options (except for the truly large metropolitan areas), which makes it hard to convince all levels of government about our needs. When I see people taking their cars, just because they don't want to walk for 5 minutes, it saddens me to think that TTA may spend hundrends of millions of dollars and never get it back because of some lazy people :(

I will keep my eyes open for updates on Charlotte's light rail system. How is the trolley doing these days? Have the people of Charlotte embraced this means of transportation? It would make a nice case to the Feds about how willing the people are to use mass transit. Maybe then the Federal Government will not be as reluctant to provide all the funds for transportation options in cities like Charlotte and Raleigh. It will take hard work, but we'll prevail at the end.

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I saw the #'s for the first week of service but does anyone have the #'s since then? It'd be interesting to see what the real #'s are, I mean after the novelty has worn off. :)

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This is an old topic, but I thought I would add something it. With the recent downgrading of TTA's plan by the feds, we might see a long pause before rapid rail trasit makes its way into the Triangle, but I still hold out hope for it.

Here is a study and presentation for EasTrans, complete with maps, etc.

http://www.ci.knightdale.nc.us/government/...inal_report.pdf

I do not have the facility to host just the image of the map, but it's all in there. The report is very interesting to read too.

One of the cost saving features of EasTrans was that it relied on the scheduled upgrades to sections of track for use by TTA, Amtrak passenger service to Wilmington, and Amtrak Acela service. They were also going to use old but restored train cars--including some double decker cars which would be very cool.

The whole system was very well thought out and very resourceful--TTA should take a hint from the people behind EasTrans.

One day I'd like to go into the proposed multi-modal transit station in downtown Raleigh and see signs and counters for TTA Regional Rail, EasTrans, Amtrak passenger, and Amtrak Acela. That will be awesome!

I was talking with monsoon about this, and we are surprised more communities aren't persuing commuter rail of some sort. NC is loaded with rail, and many sections are abandoned--up for grabs. Just look at one of the proposed Amtrak routes from Raleigh to Wilmington--uses a section of abandoned rail down east. Most other states are in the same boat, there is a ton of potential out there and it would cost so much less than doing a ground-up light rail system, etc.

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I think both metropolitian areas can pull off the Light Rail/Commuter Rail projects. The Charlotte Metro area could probably pull it off a bit better because of the fact that once you got the center city going it would just pinwheel out from there to the rest of the area to cities and towns like Concord, Huntersville, Pineville maybe even Rock Hill, SC. And with good plans in place "Such as the New Charlotte Arena being right next door to a Stop of the Rail Transit Center" Things couldnt be much more perfect.

Now the Triangle's situation is a bit more fuzzy because It's not so centralized. But this may not be a bad thing. Stops Along the way would be Important ones. And with good planning there is unlimited potential for the Commuter Rail. If enough minds grasp the concept and Finalize significant Stations and Stops like the airport, popular Shopping Districts, Colleges, etc. things could run real smooth.

There are several cities/metros about this size with good Commuter Rails so I think it could work. B)

"Don't be afraid to dream and while your'e at it dream big."

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Now the Triangle's situation is a bit more fuzzy because It's not so centralized.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

This is precisely why TTA proposed a "regional rail" system to link Raleigh and Durham rather than traditional commuter rail: the destinations and origins are just too varied. Commuter rail, in its purest form, serves a central business district with incoming traffic in the morning, and outgoing traffic in the evening. This pattern does not fit the triangle at all. Durham and Raleigh both have CBDs with quite a few jobs and a growing number of residents; between them are RTP which has heaps of jobs (although it's kind of sprawled) and Cary which has heaps of commuting suburbanites.

The case for Eastrans, however, is different. I bet that a pretty high percentage of the subdivision dwellers in Knightdale and Garner commute to jobs in downtown Raleigh, since RTP and Durham are just too far away. There are huge congestion problems on US 64 around Knightdale, which would have caused tons of people to try commuter rail if the plan were implemented 3 or 4 years ago. However, with the 64 bypass due to come online very soon, you can bet that most people will put traffic headaches in the past and resume their love affair with the automobile.

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The NCDOT Rail Division has published a plethora of studies and reports, many of which pertain to possible commuter rail corridors.

Aside from the corridors handled by Eastrans, they also speak highly of a Fayetteville-Raleigh line. Believe it or not, in the last 6-7 years I have always met at least one or two people who live in Fayetteville but work in the Raleigh area (some actually commute to RTP!).

Right now they deal with traffic on I-95/I-40 or the dismal drive up US401. I think that a commuter rail line to Fayetteville might prove to be somewhat popular in the coming years. I'm not sure who would manage it though. It is out of TTA's territory and it is not on the lines proposed by Eastrans. Perhaps FAST (Fayetteville's transit system) would play a role in it, with help from other towns.

There were two options laid down by the NCDOT Rail Division--one used the existing passenger line to Selma (then cutting down south), and the other used a dormant route that is nearly direct, much shorter, and cuts through the middle of Fuquay Varina and the western side of Garner. This latter option is interesting because Fuquay is a booming suburb lately--sort of a neo-Cary. If the I-540 project falls apart in southern Wake County, commuters living in Fuquay may very well desire commuter rail as an option.

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Yeah, my project is still alive!!!!!!!!!

If you have questions...inquire.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Are you talking about the Raleigh-Fayetteville rail line? If I recall correctly, there was one study that considered a direct route along the Norfolk Southern line through Fuquay-Varina, and another that suggested a route using the NCRR to Selma and the (faster but congested) CSX A-line from Selma to Fayetteville on its way to Wilmington.

I included the direct route in my "Year 2050 NC Rail Map" (updated, by the way) which I drew up as a hobby in Adobe Illustrator. I also included an extension to Lumberton. As we all know, since I took the time to draw it in on this map I made in my spare time, that means it's definitely going to happen! :rofl:

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As we all know, since I took the time to draw it in on this map I made in my spare time, that means it's definitely going to happen!  :rofl:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Can you draw me receiving a million dollars? :lol:

Your revised map looks very nice, it seems to combine pretty much all the rail studies by NCDOT and SEHSR as well as some new ideas regarding train frequency and some tweaked routing. You forgot to throw in the Maglev proposal though (Richmond-Winston-Charlotte-Atlanta).

:)

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Are you talking about the Raleigh-Fayetteville rail line? If I recall correctly, there was one study that considered a direct route along the Norfolk Southern line through Fuquay-Varina, and another that suggested a route using the NCRR to Selma and the (faster but congested) CSX A-line from Selma to Fayetteville on its way to Wilmington.

I included the direct route in my "Year 2050 NC Rail Map" (updated, by the way) which I drew up as a hobby in Adobe Illustrator. I also included an extension to Lumberton. As we all know, since I took the time to draw it in on this map I made in my spare time, that means it's definitely going to happen!

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I'm curious, what do you mean by calling Eastrans "your" project? Were you involved in coming up with the idea or creating the report or something? I really like how Eastrans has that sort of grassroots appeal and resourcefulness, whereas the TTA line smacks of the pork-barrel politics found in big city transit agencies like MTA or CTA or whatever.

If you were indeed involved in the creation Eastrans, I have one question for you: why not extend the Wilson line to Greenville? According to any map I look at, the Wilson - Greenville segment is straight as an arrow compared with the winding alignment between Raleigh and Wilson. I guess it'd be a 2+ hour trip, which is not particularly useful for commuters, but it would be a good enhancement to mobility nonetheless.

On an unrelated note, I made another change to my map.

I didn't include the maglev, because I don't think that's going to happen by 2050, if it even happens at all. Maglev is definitely a buzzword and conceptually it sounds neat, but I don't forsee it coming to NC within my lifetime.

I included a Johnson City-Charlotte link along the Clinchfield, because once upon a time Tennessee's DOT considered it in their passenger rail corridors study. It made the "long list" of 11 corridors, but was eliminated due to a lack of demand and slow speeds. However, if NCDOT/TDOT/CSX see fit to upgrade this busy line for more capacity and higher speeds, then it might happen.

(edited for grammar. sheesh.)

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I'm curious, what do you mean by calling Eastrans "your" project? Were you involved in coming up with the idea or creating the report or something? I really like how Eastrans has that sort of grassroots appeal and resourcefulness, whereas the TTA line smacks of the pork-barrel politics found in big city transit agencies like MTA or CTA or whatever.

If you were indeed involved in the creating Eastrans, I have one question for you: why not extend the Wilson line to Greenville? According to any map I look at, the Wilson - Greenville segment is straight as an arrow compared with the windy alignment between Raleigh and Wilson. I guess it'd be a 2+ hour trip, which is not particularly useful for commuters, but it would be a good enhancement to mobility nonetheless.

On an unrelated note, I made another change to my map.

I didn't include the maglev, because I don't think that's going to happen by 2050, if it even happens at all. Maglev is definitely a buzzword and conceptually it sounds neat, but I don't forsee it coming to NC within my lifetime.

I included a Johnson City-Charlotte link along the Clinchfield, because once upon a time Tennessee's DOT considered it in their passenger rail corridors study. It made the "long list" of 11 corridors, but was eliminated due to a lack of demand and slow speeds. However, if NCDOT/TDOT/CSX see fit to upgrade this busy line for more capacity and higher speeds, then it might happen.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I created Eastrans in conjunction with the creation of Knightdale's new Comprehensive Master Plan. The reason Eastrans, aka EastRail, doesn't go to Greenville is that there would be too many conflicts with existing freight service. It's not that I didn't think it can't or shouldn't but I was trying to get the state, TTA, and feds interested and the cost for improving the line to accomodate both passenger and freight to Greenville was too high.

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I created Eastrans in conjunction with the creation of Knightdale's new Comprehensive Master Plan.

Wow that's extraordinary. Are you associated at all with Knightdale? How long have you been in Charlotte? Have you had your hands in any other such projects?

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