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CATS Long Term Transit Plan - Silver, Red, Airport Lines

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17 hours ago, kermit said:

I have no idea, but I'll make an uninformed guess anyway. The bar-napkin estimate on a regional transportation plan might look something like:

  • Mecklenburg Big bang: $8 billion (Silver line, BLE-E, Freedom and Graham BRT, higher frequency on Blue Line, etc.)
  • Double Mecklenburg co bus frequency: #32 million per year operating expense and buy a crapload of buses
  • Phase 3 streetcar (a city project, not CATS): $400 million (just a guess)

I guesstimate Mecklenburg could have Portland-level transit for around $8-$10 billion

As for regional transit:

  • Commuter rail to Mashville via Monroe (34 miles @ $35 million per mile): $1.2 billion
  • Commuter rail to Rock Hill and Chester (42 miles @ $35 million per mile):$1.5 billion
  • Commuter rail to Shelby via Kings Mtn (requires 10 miles of new track along US74) (42 miles @ $35 million per mile): $1.5 billion
  • Commuter rail to Spencer (43 miles @ $10 million per mile -- its already double tracked): $430 million
  • Commuter rail to Lincolnton (via Mt Holly) (30 miles @ $35 million per mile): $1.1 billion (getting this train to Gateway may require some extra $$$)
  • Nothing to N Meck / Mooresville since it is more efficiently served by BRT (and Iredell 'pulled a Pineville' and does not want it)

Total to serve outlying counties with commuter rail (not really a Mecklenburg expense): $5.7 billion. Each of those lines is roughly the same cost as widening 77 from Uptown to the State Line.

It looks like a bunch of money, but this is an existential need for a metro growing as fast as ours. Roads won't be able to keep up with traffic at this growth rate so we had better build an alternative ASAP or we are going to Atlantaize ourselves.  If commuter rail and rezoning can generate higher densities and increased prosperity in outlying areas then new tax revenue will generate a very large portion of this cost. Commuter rail will also help keep metro housing costs low and allow for (some) greener suburban.

($35 million per mile commuter rail capital cost comes from Triangle Commuter rail feasibility study posted here: http://goforwardnc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/PRES_GTCR-Prelim-Results-191218_DRAFT_v5.1-for-web.pdf those estimates are based on converting a mostly single-tracked railroad to double track, buying equipment and building stations I believe)

EDIT: CBJ reported on some transit cost issues today (see link two posts below this one) and provided the costs of increasing bus frequency to 15 minutes or less:

 

To get these much commuter rails. We might need eight or more tracks for gateway station.  And additional 3-4 tracks for inter-city trains in the long run.

Which definitely doesn't have so much space in gateway area and in current land use plan

 

 

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20 minutes ago, XRZ.ME said:

To get these much commuter rails. We might need eight or more tracks for gateway station.  And additional 3-4 tracks for inter-city trains in the long run.

Which definitely doesn't have so much space in gateway area and in current land use plan

Yea, I have been concerned about Gateway’s capacity, particularly since they don’t appear to have dedicated platform space for commuter rail. Having said that, I don't think we need that many tracks for this fantasy level of service. For intercity three tracks should be plenty for a long while. For commuter rail, keep in mind that its really just one service from Kings Mtn to Spencer and one from Monroe to Lincolnton (and that might not even go to Gateway, the downtown stop for CSx tracks might make more sense at 11th st). Through running should make it  unnecessary to turn many trains at Gateway and commuter trains could be off the platform in less than 3 minutes.

With sensible management of commuter capacity I would think that 6 platforms (total) at Gateway would be enough.

Edited by kermit
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How many tracks are currently proposed and under construction at Gateway?  I believe it’s 4 total?  I can foresee a future problem since InterCity Rail does stay/linger at the Station a lot longer than Light Rail or Commuter Rail

I’ve just read through the NCMoves2050 data sheets and it seems like the best way we’ll get Commuter Rail is to have our Regional Transportation Organizations get their act together - Design/Propose something comprehensive and achieveable and then get NCDOT on board to cut a check to assist in paying for it.  I doubt the feds will do anything (unless that rural transit initiative takes root) to contribute.

D2F1563B-77D0-4656-A859-8220CEF1126E.png

Edited by Hushpuppy321
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2 minutes ago, Hushpuppy321 said:

How many tracks are currently proposed and under construction at Gateway?  I believe it’s 4 total?

I’ve just read through the NCMoves2050 data sheets and it seems like the best way we’ll get Commuter Rail is to have our Regional Transportation Organizations get their act together - Design/Propose something comprehensive and achieveable and then get NCDOT on board to cut a check to assist in paying for it.  I doubt the feds will do anything (unless that rural transit initiative takes root) to contribute.

The Centralina Council of Governments is undertaking a new regional transit study. It's been awarded to a planning firm, the original RFQ is here: https://centralina.org/regional-transit-plan-rfq/

The study is intended to identify appropriate corridors for rapid transit, including commuter rail, BRT, etc, cost estimates, etc. 
Project Geography:  The project area includes Anson, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly, and Union counties in North Carolina and the urbanized areas of Lancaster and York counties in South Carolina (within the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study geography).

 

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23 hours ago, southslider said:

^Step one-- stop approving multi-family where there isn't any transit, especially in food deserts.

Not only will Express service to North Mecklenburg expand next month, but CATS will also nearly double (from five to nine) the total number of Local routes that run every 15 minutes or better.

Yeah, those new routes are:

  • Sprinter (Route 5)
  • Tuckaseegee (Route 8)
  • South Tryon (Route 16)
  • Monroe Road (Route 27)

In addition to:

  • Kings Drive (Route 6)
  • Beatties Ford (Route 7)
  • Central Avenue (Route 9)
  • West Boulevard (Route 10)
  • Park Road (Route 19)

The North Mecklenburg Express Routes will be rebranded MetroRapid (I wonder if that's only for I-77 Express Lane busses or all CATS' Express routes?):

  • Northcross (Route 48x)
  • Northlake (Route 53x)
  • Huntersville (New) (Route 63x)
  • North Mecklenburg Express (Route 77x)
  • Davidson Shuttle (New) (Route 290)

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5 minutes ago, davidclt said:

The North Mecklenburg Express Routes will be rebranded MetroRapid (I wonder if that's only for I-77 Express Lane busses or all CATS' Express routes?):

For now, the MetroRapid branding only applies to the north meck express routes. 

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3 hours ago, kermit said:

There is a new study in the journal of Planning Education and Research of property values around the new BART extension to Warm Springs. The study found that property values increased between 9-15% (over a control neighborhood) after station opening -- this was said to be enough property value increase to pay for the extension's $800 million cost five times over.  Can't wait to hear about CATS TIF plans for the big bang (still waiting...)

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0739456X19898737?journalCode=jpea

Having said that, these sorts of studies are notoriously problematic, the urban environment is just too complicated for this sort of modeling.

Found an article that suggests the area near that station added 2.2k housing units and a lot of commercial.  

I think the Ballantyne extension would have a really sizable impact here...but CATS has to increase speed/headways.

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The Observer has a very well researched article on NS’s position on the Red Line. It spells out NS’s position: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article239535193.html

  • sharing tracks w commuter rail is out since they need to keep the O-Line is alternative route for the NS main if the NCRR if lease negotiations go badly (the renewal point on NS’s lease of the NCRR is 2029). NS does not want to be giving away capacity on a (remotely possible) future main.
  • Adding separate tracks to the corridor for rail is out because the ROW is poorly defined / encroached in ‘several’ downtowns
  • NS has a new policy of not allowing new passenger service on lines it still uses for freight

Anyway, there are several quotes by Lewis which say CATS would begin preliminary engineering on the Red Line tomorrow if NS changed its mind (which left me wondering where he would get that money). 
 

One thing the article does not say is that NS’s position that it might use the O-line as it’s main in the future is just BS, the route is curvy, constrained and would be quite slow (it would take hours to run a freight train through Winston)

The 2029 NCRR lease renewal date presents a little hope, but overall the article just explains why NS won’t play ball, why its unlikely to change its mind and why creative alternatives are not practical. 

So for now: “How about those express busses!”

Edited by kermit
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Really disappointing. Since it clearly will not happen, what would it take to build out an alternative rail line on a completely new ROW? In other words, forget NS/NCRR altogether.

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3 minutes ago, Matthew.Brendan said:

Really disappointing. Since it clearly will not happen, what would it take to build out an alternative rail line on a completely new ROW? In other words, forget NS/NCRR altogether.

Tearing businesses and people's houses down and having people lose their mind. Anybody that didn't already buy a home up against a railroad is probably going to protest a ton about having a heavy rail system added to their backyard (which is a bit different than the people that bought along the current railway). 

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1 hour ago, kermit said:

The Observer has a very good article on NS’s position on the Red Line. It spells out NS’s position: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article239535193.html

  • sharing tracks w commuter rail is out since they need to keep the O-Line is alternative route for the NS main if the NCRR if lease negotiations go badly (the renewal point on NS’s lease of the NCRR is 2029)
  • Adding separate tracks to the corridor for rail is out because the ROW is poorly defined / encroached in ‘several’ downtowns
  • NS has a new policy of not allowing new passenger service on lines it still uses for freight

Anyway, there are several quotes by Lewis which say CATS would begin preliminary engineering on the Red Line tomorrow if NS changed its mind (which left me wondering where he would get that money)

The 2029 NCRR lease renewal date presents a little hope, but overall the article just explains why NS won’t play ball, why its unlikely to change its mind and why creative alternatives are not practical. 

So for now: “How about those express busses!”

Thanks for nothing NS 

Yep.  Looks like BRT and toll roads are the best it is going to get for Northern Meck/Iredell.  Yuck

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Luckily Lake Norman just got their express lanes and another lane in the shoulder is being planned, so the BRT Phase I approach should be a great option for this decade and perhaps there will be a different structure possible for the train corridor after 2029. 

There was another option if they had been able to jump on it in time, Statesville Road is being widened, and they could have coordinated and preserved median space like on Tryon.   But with the BRT on 77 option being pursued this decade, the rail options will need to be deprioritized until LKN locations densify and the corridors can be identified. 

 

It's often forgotten that within Charlotte city limits is a much higher population density that supports transit throughout the day.   LKN was always the tiniest of ridership projections due to only being setup as a commuter option, which BRT on Express Lanes can resolve at a much lower cost and potentially higher benefit with better feeder locations. 

The population density along Independence and Central corridors are already extant, the need to redevelop Independence from strip mall land use give those corridor much better ridership projections than Red Line.   There is already population toward Ballantyne, but also there is massive commercial/job growth planned there and (relatively) short extension distance.   Then the west side has the rapidly growing airport, and planning massive commercial development in Airport North and  River districts. 

 

It is all well and good that LKN has a lot of political clout, but the technical merits have always been weak.   The original model projections had 5000 LKN daily riders compared to 25000 for Central streetcar and I think 28000 for Independence LRT.    FTA even gave the Red Line a non-viable rating when they went up for stimulus funding.   They don't put those numbers front and center anymore, so I do not see the current comparison, but really, I'm happy with focusing on more viable and high ridership lines that are a better value for the core city where the population, especially lower income population is. 

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There won't be a transit tax vote this year. Too soon after Arts tax defeat. Silver Line will still be under study. And hosting RNC adds even more noise for voters to focus on anything down ballot, except with partisan angst.

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5 hours ago, southslider said:

There won't be a transit tax vote this year. Too soon after Arts tax defeat. Silver Line will still be under study. And hosting RNC adds even more noise for voters to focus on anything down ballot, except with partisan angst.

What about in 2022? We will have a high-priority senate election that year, but depending how 2020 goes not sure which way the political tide will be going state-wide. I would hate having to wait until 2024 to see this up on the ballot.

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23 minutes ago, DH17 said:

What about in 2022? We will have a high-priority senate election that year, but depending how 2020 goes not sure which way the political tide will be going state-wide. I would hate having to wait until 2024 to see this up on the ballot.

If we have to wait until 2022 or 2024 for funding... I'm not optimistic of anything being delivered before 2030. The 9.7 mile extension for the blue line took five years from ground breaking to opening. The first phase of the Silver Line would be longer, at 13.5 miles in length, have two more stations than the extension, have 8 - 10 park and ride lots to construct (versus 4 on the extension), and involve complex construction around Independence Blvd and I-277 in Uptown (versus a right of way that was already clear in Center City).  I would think construction is going to take a good amount longer... maybe 7 years?

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6 hours ago, CLT2014 said:

If we have to wait until 2022 or 2024 for funding... I'm not optimistic of anything being delivered before 2030. The 9.7 mile extension for the blue line took five years from ground breaking to opening. The first phase of the Silver Line would be longer, at 13.5 miles in length, have two more stations than the extension, have 8 - 10 park and ride lots to construct (versus 4 on the extension), and involve complex construction around Independence Blvd and I-277 in Uptown (versus a right of way that was already clear in Center City).  I would think construction is going to take a good amount longer... maybe 7 years?

With the Silverline Big Bang - I believe the entire 20 Miles (13.5 miles & West Corridor) would all be constructed at the same time.  The construction would probably take 4 years to be completed.  If a referendum is floated and passed in the 2022 or 2024 timeframe I could see construction starting within 24 months (2026).  So it’s conceivable the Silverline could be open for riders by late 2030 or 1st Quarter of 2031.

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1 hour ago, kermit said:

Meanwhile in Indianapolis, ridership on their four month old BRT line is falling and 50% below expectations.

https://www.wthr.com/article/ridership-indygos-red-line-well-below-projections

BRT is still a bus...

I hope the same fate is not in store for our own MetroRapid in the months to come.....

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On 2/1/2020 at 6:54 PM, Hushpuppy321 said:

I hope the same fate is not in store for our own MetroRapid in the months to come.....

I would bet that MetroRapid will do well. The non-stop routes will be as fast (faster for some) and cheaper than driving. I also think they will benefit from some of the anger about tolls. The problem will be that since each route only has a single stop in N Meck their ridership will be very constrained by the size of the park and ride lots (scooters and better bike paths could bump ridership by improving local circulation).

Not sure what is happening in Indy, but it is a very different type of route (more urban and 'neighborhoody')  than what CATS has planned in N Meck. The Indy case is interesting because they had a huge debate about a big LRT-oriented transit plan, but it ended when the state government passed a law in 2014 banning LRT in "Central Indiana" and additionally prohibiting the use of state funds on LRT (Mike Pence signed the bill into law). One of the better rationales for the anti-urban transit bill was that BRT would be just as good as LRT but much cheaper.  These data suggest they may have been mistaken about that (to be fair, 5 months is not much time to reasonably judge ridership, but the declines they have seen are pretty substantial).

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/02/13/indiana-transit-bill-moves-forward-with-only-some-of-its-worst-provisions/

Edited by kermit
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