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CATS Long Term Transit Plan - Silver, Red Lines


monsoon

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Today between 5-7, there is a Citizens Informational Workshop for the Norfolk Southern Mainline improvements, and for the NS/CSX grade seperation proposal @ Char-Meck Gov Center (room CH-14).

The NS Mainline is the same line that runs through NoDa, Op Park, Intermodal Yards etc. Right? I assume this is why I got the mailer. Anycase, I think I might go to this - does anyone know what I can expect (will anyone else go? will it be very dry and remedial?)

I'd guess it is pretty much a done deal, but I'd like to hear more on the reasoning for closing Craighead Rd.

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The search for CATS new CEO has begun with job postings on the internet. The plan is to have someone selected by November 30th.

The new CEO will be appointed by Charlotte City Manager Curt Walton but will have to be also approved by Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones and Davidson Mayor John Woods (MTC Representative)

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  • 1 month later...

The O as some poll numbers from Elon University, and some interesting transit numbers came out of it:

The survey found wide support for relieving congestion by building more roads and building more transit. Just under 77 percent said building more roads would ease congestion, and just under 64 percent said the same for building light rail. A little less than 32 percent said they strongly support expanding light rail and 34.5 percent said they support it.

When asked which transit line should be built next

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Streetcar is rail. But with the Sprinter in effect and with the corridors with significantly higher ridership projections getting pushed further and further into the future, so it is hard to care about what they are discussing for the line to the airport.

I am heartened to see that for the New Starts, the Obama administration has put cost effectiveness from 50 to 20 of the formula and Land Use from 20 to 40. Apparently, that will help the North/Purple line, which is not very cost effective due to lowish ridership, but will have a much larger impact on land-use. But it looks like even if they can't get federal funds for it, a state law change will still allow NCDOT to continue with their share.

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The power vacuum at CATS seems to be taking its toll.

For months various parties have been jostling to change the original 2030 project order, and it sounds like the mayors up north are finally speaking up about it. Combined with the sales tax shortfall, this seems to be a very badly timed vacuum. As McCory put it, without a clearly defined goal and priority of projects, federal lobbying could become much more challenging. CATS really needs a strong personality to step in and get those priorities straight before the different factions tear 2030 to shreds and we end up with nothing.

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^

I fear that if CATS keeps going over budget and behind schedule, the issue will come to a referendum again and the tax will get voted away alltogether. It is my sense that the population of the city is growing extremeley distrustful of city leaders on the issue of transit. Take, the streetcar for instance. The perception among many in the city is that SC is nothing more than a bus on rails that can't reroute itself around problems in the street, yet it is getting money while other projects aren't. Furthermore, and this one has me scratching my head in confusion, the city is installing the rails for the system, yet they don't even know if they will be able to actually even have the streetcar. Don't get me wrong, I want to see it built as well, but not at the expense of something like the Purple line or BLE.

While it is true that most people in the city want transit, I fear many people are beginning to question whether or not it's really worth it, especially those in the North who pay the same transit tax yet seemingly get ignored.

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Streetcar is not at the expense of North or Northeast. All recent financing schemes discussed by Council have pointed to increased taxes (TIF, MSD) on properties and activities along the very project corridor, or maybe City-wide (property), but not County-wide (sales).

Why CATS delayed North is because they are worried sales tax receipts may not quickly recover. That is to say, Northeast is going to take a hefty local match that may not be there, if you do North first.

Personally, I'm more optimistic that the economy will recover. Plus, since North could be built cheaper now in this economy, it may not be such a big risk afterall.

However, I also think that the Towns should be willing to debt-service up to 25% of the total project cost against the incremental increase in revenues generated by transit-station area development. And sadly, that's needed more so to make up for State match that was assumed in the System Plan than it is for lower County half-cent revenues.

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^

OK, City council may have discussed those methods of funding for SC, however most don't know that (I was not aware). If the perception among the majority is that SC is a boondoggle and that CATS is nothing more than a money pit using tax money for useless projects [once again, if that's the perception], then I can see the tax getting taken to referendum again and voted down.

Moving forward, I think the best thing CATS can do for itself is to go ahead and begin work on the Purple line with a goal of having phase 1 complete by early next decade. If they did they could say "Look, while we weren't able to build both lines at once, we still got one line finished; we took the money we had and did with it what we could." I think that just the buildout of another line would go a long way in keeping high public support for tansit. It would show the county that the money is going to something. I also think that CATS could be better about keeping information current on their website. Most if not all of their "Transitions" newsletters are at least 3 years old. They should be producing monthly or quarterly newsletters with updates on each of the projects. I think if they published current information on the projects, it would help keep "morale" for the projects high...even if they just said "Bear with us, we will get this system built." But the only news anyone can get regarding the plan is through the eyes of the reporter. They sometimes make statements that imply that a transit line is dead even though the line may just be delayed. CATS needs to disseminate it's own info rather than letting Soundbytes and Newsclips be the only source of info for people.

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Moving forward, I think the best thing CATS can do for itself is to go ahead and begin work on the Purple line with a goal of having phase 1 complete by early next decade.

Where will the money come from to build it?

Right now the Feds say NO to funding the Purple Line

NCDOT won't fund it unless the Feds fund it

North Towns say they don't want to put any of their local taxes into it.

So that leaves the 1/2 Cent Sales Tax which was designed to only fund 25%....now funding 100% of this project. There in lies the problem with the North Line... everyone wants it built but no one is willing to step forward and fund it.

Whereas the Blue Line Extention has already received Federal Funding...and will likely receive about 50% Federal Funding. Once the Feds commit then NCDOT will kick in about 25% and that leaves the 1/2 Cent Sales Tax to fund the remaining 25%.

So either we can spend $300M and leverage that with $800M from the Feds and State for the Northeast line.

OR

Spend $300M on the North Line and get no leverage at all to our Local dollars.

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I read on another forum that the way new starts projects are scored for funding will be changed dramatically under the Obama administration. Of course this comes from another forum so it should be taken with a grain of salt. Previously, cost effectiveness was to be 50% of the score, and land use 20%. Now, cost effectiveness is 20% of the score and land use 40%. I have no idea where they pulled this number, but the obvious intent would be to avoid shortsighted decisions that result in shortcuts that harm a system's long-term viability.

What does this mean for the North line? Don't really know, but it would indicate that the FTA's methodology for evaluating projects will change.

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^

AFAIK, the only funding that BLE received was an earmark fund for a 24 million dollar study. That's not even enough to constitute a rounding error for the total cost. The probem is that CATS is talking about delaying the BLE even further all the way to 2019 because they haven't secured the funding for it. Even if the 1/2 cent sales tax did produce the desired money, it is not enough to build BLE, yet the city can pretty much build the Purple line with it's own money, or at least the first phase.

If the city did build the Purple line first, then CATS could use it as sort of a propaganda machine to say "Look, we're putting your half-cent sales tax to good use." This would buy them a certain amount of "political capital" and allow them to continue with the 2030 plan while easing some of the pessimism in the community surrounding the plan. While the Purple Line was being constructed, the city could still complete it's studies on BLE and work toward making it a shovel ready project as soon as the Purple line was complete. Hopefully by then the sales tax revenue would have recovered enough to allow the city to pay for it's part, and continue with the BLE. While this proposal would probably delay the extension til the end of the decade, it would allow both projects to be completed rather than just one.

As of now, the whole plan is in the proverbial holding pattern waiting on the preliminary engineering work on BLE. The North line is more or less shovel ready and could nearly be completed befor construction on BLE could even begin. Time and the patience of the citizenry are comodities that I don't think CATS has right now. My fear is that if they don't do something soon, the tax might go to referendum and get repealed which would effectively kill the entire plan. OTOH if CATS built the North Line first, they would at least have some tangible evidence of their work which would help buy them time and more goodwill from the people, especially those who voted for the tax in 2007 (approximately 1/5 of the county population is in the Northern area of Meck). It's not the perfect solution, but I think it would be better than the current debacle. There is a saying in the military that the 70% solution acted upon swiftly and aggressively is better than waiting on the 100% solution until it's too late.

I hope this post is clearly worded...I have had one heck of a time trying to think of how to clearly put my thoughts on this issue in writing.

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I read on another forum that the way new starts projects are scored for funding will be changed dramatically under the Obama administration. Of course this comes from another forum so it should be taken with a grain of salt. Previously, cost effectiveness was to be 50% of the score, and land use 20%. Now, cost effectiveness is 20% of the score and land use 40%. I have no idea where they pulled this number, but the obvious intent would be to avoid shortsighted decisions that result in shortcuts that harm a system's long-term viability.

What does this mean for the North line? Don't really know, but it would indicate that the FTA's methodology for evaluating projects will change.

It may not mean much. If the criteria get easier for Charlotte to meet, they also get easier for everyone else. If the federal pot of New Starts money remains at an anemic $1.4 billion for a nation of 300 million people, competition for those funds will still be incredibly fierce. Many projects with ratings that improve from medium-low to medium may simply not be able to get money because many of the medium-rated projects will move to medium-high.

Until the new transportation bill goes through (18 months?) we can assume that the New Starts program will remain pretty much the same, in terms of inputs and results, until then.

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I read on another forum that the way new starts projects are scored for funding will be changed dramatically under the Obama administration. Of course this comes from another forum so it should be taken with a grain of salt. Previously, cost effectiveness was to be 50% of the score, and land use 20%. Now, cost effectiveness is 20% of the score and land use 40%. I have no idea where they pulled this number, but the obvious intent would be to avoid shortsighted decisions that result in shortcuts that harm a system's long-term viability.

Right...but if we went ahead now with construction of the Purple line that means we would miss out on any Federal Funds we might be able to get when the rules change (hopefully) in the next year or so.

Thats why I think it is prudent to wait a year on the Purple line to see if we can leverage our local dollars with some Federal and State dollars.

Just to add some info....here is what CATS is proposing for the North (Purple) line to secure funding for it:

i) Supporting the TIGER grant application of $300 million in stimulus funds.

ii) Supporting proposed changes to the New Starts program which are currently recommended by

the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

Subcommittee for the new surface transportation legislation as follows:

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^

AFAIK, the only funding that BLE received was an earmark fund for a 24 million dollar study. That's not even enough to constitute a rounding error for the total cost. The probem is that CATS is talking about delaying the BLE even further all the way to 2019 because they haven't secured the funding for it. Even if the 1/2 cent sales tax did produce the desired money, it is not enough to build BLE, yet the city can pretty much build the Purple line with it's own money, or at least the first phase.

I hope this post is clearly worded...I have had one heck of a time trying to think of how to clearly put my thoughts on this issue in writing.

I think everyone has been frustrated that the North Line continually gets the "shaft" and still can't receive funding. However I don't think the MTC will go ahead and commit 100% funding of the 1/2 Cent Sales Tax for the North Line. It would not be fair to all the other corridors.

CATS is in favor of all the changes going on in Washington related to transit and those changes will increase the chance that the Purple line will receive some Federal funding. Right now the only Federal Funds that the North Line qualifies for is some Stimulus Money...that very likely won't come through. We have to lobby first to get all the rules changed in Washingotn that would then qualify the North Line for Federal Funds.

The only way I can see the MTC agreeing to 100% fund the North Line from the Sales Tax is if it is doubled to a Full Cent.

The BLE has received $25.15M so far from the Feds. The $24M you referenced has been approved by a Senate Cmte for FY10. So that is money we "hope" will come. The North Line so far has gotten $0 from the Feds. Not because CATS hasn't asked...but because the North Line doesnt qualify for funds.

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I believe the I-85 Yadkin river bridge is going to get this money, but an application was submitted anyway just in case of the very small chance that the bridge project doesn't get it.

I think there is a HUGE amount of competition for this money. There is only $1.5 billion available for TIGER grants nationwide. If NC gets any money at all (which I wouldn't really get my hopes up for) it will probably go to the decrepit Yadkin bridge, and even then it probably won't be enough to cover the full $300 million cost of construction.

The reason the Yadkin bridge has not been built yet is because of NC's crazy equity formula, and the fact that all decisions over what is going to be built are decentralized. Basically, this incredibly expensive project is treated as a local project for Division 9. But Division 9 doesn't want to spend all of its limited money on one megaproject. But if the equity formula were designed such that the Piedmont region gets the shaft, the Yadkin Bridge wouldn't be at such a logjam in the first place. I'm concerned the feds will see that we spent millions upon millions of dollars on unnecessary freeways like the one between Goldsboro and Wilson, and yet can't get our act together to build a project of such national significance. Then they might say "Why should we use federal stimulus money to make up for your incompetence? No money for you."

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Regarding the North Corridor, what if the design was value engineered down to a much more affordable form that could be upgraded later? Right now, the estimate is around $300m for 25 miles, or $12m a mile. By contrast, the 32 mile Music City Star in Nashville was built at a paltry $1.3m a mile. One part of that is the Star's utilitarian platforms. Should that be an option that CATS explores?

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I think you're talking about the concrete plant. They have a huge site and they ship tons (literally and figuratively) of concrete all over the city/region every day.

The station on Sugar Creek Rd will be on the railroad tracks. They have not completed design of the line, so it will be some time before we see any construction on the stations.

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  • dubone changed the title to CATS Long Term Transit Plan - Silver, Red, Airport Lines
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