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HRVT

Light Rail in the Triad?

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http://www.rhinotimes.com/Content/Default/One-Click-Reading/Article/Old-Derailed-Commuter-Train-Plans-Back-on-Track/-3/6/959

Here's an interesting article from another board that I saw. Using commuter rail and light rail interchangeably bugs me a bit. The cost of light rail could make the idea cost prohibitive as well. But it would be good to have a good light rail connector between Winston Salem and Greensboro. Especially while there is still a ton of land available between the two cities.

Another possible idea that could cut down on costs is MAGLEV technology. This has been proposed as an alternative for light rail in Virginia Beach (but isn't desirably for a number reasons, number one of which is that adjoining Norfolk has already built a light rail system so you would have two completely different systems rather than a continuous system). MAGLEV also doesn't work as well in VB when you have a number of stops to make in a relatively short distance. However, apparently from what I have read, MAGLEV does work well when you have longer distances between stops. Given that from PTI to Winston Salem, it's likely that you have as few as 2 or 3 stops, this could make the Triad an excellent candidate to ring in MAGLEV technology.

 

 

 

 

Edited by HRVT

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^ The lightly used Norfolk Southern line would make a fine commuter rail route between the two cities. NS is in the process of rationalizing their route structure so they would likely jump at the chance to get publicly funded upgrades to the line or sell it outright. Transit service at either end of the commuter line could be ably provided by streetcars or (ugh) BRT given the relatively compact nature of both central WS and Gboro.

No need to reinvent the wheel here.

The triad really does need to get its transit act together as upgrades to the NCRR will bring substantially more intercity rail traffic through Greensboro. If they have any desire to benefit from this new connectivity they will need to provide local circulator service and a means to easily get to Winston (and the WFIQ).

[FWIW that rhino times article is one of the worst written pieces on transit I have _ever_ seen -- If you want a hatchet job to be taken seriously by anyone other than a Fauxnews audience, you need to be at least be vaguely accurate with terminology]

 

Edited by kermit

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On 2/3/2016 at 0:59 AM, kermit said:

^ The lightly used Norfolk Southern line would make a fine commuter rail route between the two cities. NS is in the process of rationalizing their route structure so they would likely jump at the chance to get publicly funded upgrades to the line or sell it outright. Transit service at either end of the commuter line could be ably provided by streetcars or (ugh) BRT given the relatively compact nature of both central WS and Gboro.

No need to reinvent the wheel here.

The triad really does need to get its transit act together as upgrades to the NCRR will bring substantially more intercity rail traffic through Greensboro. If they have any desire to benefit from this new connectivity they will need to provide local circulator service and a means to easily get to Winston (and the WFIQ).

[FWIW that rhino times article is one of the worst written pieces on transit I have _ever_ seen -- If you want a hatchet job to be taken seriously by anyone other than a Fauxnews audience, you need to be at least be vaguely accurate with terminology]

 

Yup. I'm in favor of two commuter lines for the Triad. A Winston-Salem-Greensboro-Burlington line, and a Lexington-Greensboro-Burlington line. I know WS has plans for a downtown streetcar service, but I don't know if Greensboro has anything in the works.

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On ‎2‎/‎3‎/‎2016 at 0:59 AM, kermit said:

^ The lightly used Norfolk Southern line would make a fine commuter rail route between the two cities. NS is in the process of rationalizing their route structure so they would likely jump at the chance to get publicly funded upgrades to the line or sell it outright. Transit service at either end of the commuter line could be ably provided by streetcars or (ugh) BRT given the relatively compact nature of both central WS and Gboro.

No need to reinvent the wheel here.

The triad really does need to get its transit act together as upgrades to the NCRR will bring substantially more intercity rail traffic through Greensboro. If they have any desire to benefit from this new connectivity they will need to provide local circulator service and a means to easily get to Winston (and the WFIQ).

[FWIW that rhino times article is one of the worst written pieces on transit I have _ever_ seen -- If you want a hatchet job to be taken seriously by anyone other than a Fauxnews audience, you need to be at least be vaguely accurate with terminology]

 

The article is poorly written, but the idea is at least interesting. From what I see, commuter rail is probably the better way to go. But I do think that the area may be ripe for experimenting in MAGLEV technology. It can be built for much cheaper than light rail and brings many (if not all) of the same benefits as light rail. The only reason I prefer light rail over MAGLEV in my current home town of Virginia Beach is because neighboring Norfolk already has a light rail line in place.

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11 minutes ago, HRVT said:

It can be built for much cheaper than light rail and brings many (if not all) of the same benefits as light rail.

ummmm, OK......

(where did you read that?)

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I've been following the saga that is potential light rail in Virginia Beach for the last several years. One of the alternatives proposed has been MAGLEV for the reason of cost. I will admit, I should add the word "potentially" to my sentence as right now MAGLEV is a big question mark.

Here in Virginia Beach, there was actually a proposal on the table where the folks behind MAGLEV were going to build a starter line free of charge to the city as a demonstration of what the technology could do. What soured people to the idea is that about 15 years earlier, the same thing was done in Norfolk at Old Dominion University. Let's just say it didn't go well. But the technology has supposedly improved and many members of council were apparently very impressed with the demonstrations of the technology now at a test track.

I've included a copy of a story that cited a cost estimate of about $344 million for MAGLEV from the Norfolk/Va Beach border to the Oceanfront about 15 miles away. Similar proposals for light rail have topped $1 billion. I understand that this may not be the most reliable source, but there is reason to believe that MAGLEV will be less expensive down the road. Perhaps when/if the Triad ever decides to start considering a light rail system. Watching how the Orlando system unfolds is going to make quite the interesting story.

http://pilotonline.com/inside-business/news/maritime-and-transportation/maglev-deal-that-fell-short-in-virginia-beach-floats-in/article_83500ded-a43f-59a1-97b2-87b3bd08b69e.html

 

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OK, Maglev is cheaper in the _very_ circumscribed context of a company willing to heavily subsidize a small, proof of concept, project. The key sentence of the article you cited was:

23 minutes ago, HRVT said:

"If Orlando proves to be a success, American Maglev will have a different price structure," he said. "I'm sure of it."

Its important to keep in mind that this company likely: 1) does not know what actual commercial construction costs will be after proof of concept and 2) does not know exactly how much maintenance and operations costs will be for this technology which is entirely unproven in the North American context (see the ODU example). It is not unlikely that maglev will have far higher operations costs than well-proven steel-on-steel technology.  I do agree that if the Orlando project is successful it could be a game changer, but we are _many_ years away from an unsubsidized commercial application of this technology IMO.

Also keep in mind that maglev doesn't make sense in the Triad for the same reasons it was rejected in Virginia Beach -- it eliminates the possibility of through running trains from the existing, well-used, rail network.

Edited by kermit

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20 minutes ago, kermit said:
20 minutes ago, kermit said:

OK, Maglev is cheaper in the _very_ circumscribed context of a company willing to heavily subsidize a small, proof of concept, project. The key sentence of the article you cited was:

Its important to keep in mind that this company likely: 1) does not know what actual commercial construction costs will be after proof of concept and 2) does not know exactly how much maintenance and operations costs will be for this technology which is entirely unproven in the North American context (see the ODU example). It is not unlikely that maglev will have far higher operations costs than well-proven steel-on-steel technology.  I do agree that if the Orlando project is successful it could be a game changer, but we are _many_ years away from an unsubsidized commercial application of this technology IMO.

Also keep in mind that maglev doesn't make sense in the Triad for the same reasons it was rejected in Virginia Beach -- it eliminates the possibility of through running trains from the existing, well-used, rail network.

 

Even subsidized, the cited costs would be significant savings over light rail. I do realize and agree with the point that the REAL costs aren't known. This is what makes Orlando so important to MAGLEV technology. If successful and significantly cheaper, it will almost certainly be a replacement for light rail. I also agree that we are many years from application of this technology. But we are also many years away from light rail/MAGLEV in the Triad.

As for using existing rail networks, keep in mind that light rail really can't do that either. If the Triad builds Light Rail on existing lines, they will have to tear up those existing lines and replace them with light rail compatible lines. This is just like what Virginia Beach will have to do and what Norfolk DID have to do. Since light rail already does exist in Norfolk, it doesn't make sense to suddenly change over to MAGLEV in Virginia Beach turning one potentially useful system that does go places into two short systems that don't really go to too many places on their own (forcing riders to disembark at the border if they are looking to get to the other city). The Triad presumably wouldn't have that problem as they do not currently have either system in place.

The Triad is at least 5 years (and likely much longer) from seriously having these discussions though. Also, I'll admit, not being from the Triad though, I'm not as familiar with happenings and the complete transportation network as I am here in Hampton Roads.

Edited by HRVT

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^ I assume you mean UNsubsidized costs are cheaper than LRT -- but I did not see those costs mentioned anywhere. The Japanese implementation of maglev was substantially (orders of magnitude) more expensive than rail so I really would be interested to see some information which says maglev can be built more cheaply than LRT.

While you are technically correct about the interoperability of LRT and heavy rail (it can't be done for regulatory reasons) you miss the point I originally made about connecting Winston and Greensboro (and the point that the rino times blew so spectacularly). The 30 mile distance separating Winston and Greensboro is too long to be effectively connected with LRT technology -- Commuter rail is the only way to sensibly connect the two places with rail. The bonus of commuter rail is you can run it concomitantly with existing intercity rail service in NC and extend it beyond the Gbor-Winston route using existing infrastructure to Burlington, Lexington and ultimately to Charlotte and Raleigh. These one seat rides are impossible with either maglev or LRT.

You are also correct that the Triad is a _LONG_ way from seriously considering transit. Lots will change before these laggards get around to discussing the issue.

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24 minutes ago, kermit said:

^ I assume you mean UNsubsidized costs are cheaper than LRT -- but I did not see those costs mentioned anywhere. The Japanese implementation of maglev was substantially (orders of magnitude) more expensive than rail so I really would be interested to see some information which says maglev can be built more cheaply than LRT.

While you are technically correct about the interoperability of LRT and heavy rail (it can't be done for regulatory reasons) you miss the point I originally made about connecting Winston and Greensboro (and the point that the rino times blew so spectacularly). The 30 mile distance separating Winston and Greensboro is too long to be effectively connected with LRT technology -- Commuter rail is the only way to sensibly connect the two places with rail. The bonus of commuter rail is you can run it concomitantly with existing intercity rail service in NC and extend it beyond the Gbor-Winston route using existing infrastructure to Burlington, Lexington and ultimately to Charlotte and Raleigh. These one seat rides are impossible with either maglev or LRT.

You are also correct that the Triad is a _LONG_ way from seriously considering transit. Lots will change before these laggards get around to discussing the issue.

True, given the fact that the developers are building MAGLEV at cost (rather than the cost they would charge to build it in other areas).

As for the distance, I'm not sure that's quite the factor you make it out to be. For one, the driving distance between Downtown Greensboro and Downtown Winston-Salem is listed at 29.4 miles. However, that distance does not take into account that that mileage is driving time only, not the rail line. It also doesn't take into account that we're talking center Downtown Greensboro and center Downtown Winston-Salem. The rail distance between the downtown edges appears to be more like 22-25 miles. That said, you still have stops in between the could make a light rail/MAGLEV line worth it, such as Greensboro Coliseum just outside of Downtown Greensboro, the airport, and Kernersville (which could be a worthwhile park & ride suburban stop for those looking to go either way). Also, Dallas/Fort Worth has a similar distance between Fort Worth's Intermodal Transportation Center and Dallas's Union Station in their multi-line light rail system. In a similar sized metro as the Triad, Salt Lake City has about a 23 mile line (in addition to other lines that are nearly as long). The point is that I don't think the distance is the huge put-off that you make it out to be.

Now, the final point is that the area appears like Hampton Roads in that they will wait WAY longer than they should to move forward. Rail of ANY kind (light rail, MAGLEV, commuter rail, etc) SHOULD be in the conversation now (and years ago). Yet, it will be years before the conversation seriously begins. At least VB has been talking about it, but I think the VERY vocal minority will get its way and block progress.

Edited by HRVT

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1) Commuter rail is perfectly capable of making those same stops on existing tracks.

2) Dallas and Ft Worth are connected by Commuter rail, not light rail.

3) I believe the line you reference in SLC is also commuter rail (the frontrunner) not LRT

I have enjoyed thinking about new transit in the Triad, so I do appreciate your starting the thread.

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13 minutes ago, kermit said:

1) Commuter rail is perfectly capable of making those same stops on existing tracks.

2) Dallas and Ft Worth are connected by Commuter rail, not light rail.

3) I believe the line you reference in SLC is also commuter rail (the frontrunner) not LRT

I have enjoyed thinking about new transit in the Triad, so I do appreciate your starting the thread.

1. You're definitely right. And I do agree that Commuter rail may be the best option for the Triad based on my admittedly limited knowledge of the area.

2. I believe you are right on that one. I initially mis-read the transit map.

3. Salt Lake City's lines are indeed Light Rail per Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRAX_(light_rail)). And Michael Scott made clear how reliable Wikipedia is. The Triad's line would be a bit longer, but not THAT much longer.

It has been (and should continue to be in the future) enjoyable to bring this topic to the board. I look forward to continue discourse about it and other topics.

 

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