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All - I realized there really isn't a place where we can post comments or questions about general topics, so I created this thread.   This is where topics such as the following can be discussed:

  • General Topics
  • Urban Planning
  • Comparisons (between Little Rock/Central Arkansas and other metros)
  • What ifs?

I have pinned this topic to the top of the discussion forum.

When I have some time in the near future, I have a few questions and/or topics to share for discussion.  In the meantime,  enjoy!

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I'll throw out a what if...

What if LR invested in a light rail type system that ran the length of 630 instead of adding a 4th lane like they are doing now. Say from Markham and Chenal to the Airport. I recall an animation of something very similar a few years ago. I know it will never happen but seems like it would be more beneficial than another lane of traffic. Way far in the future they could add branches to Saline county and NLR/Sherwood. A boy can dream right?

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2 hours ago, Smith said:

I'll throw out a what if...

What if LR invested in a light rail type system that ran the length of 630 instead of adding a 4th lane like they are doing now. Say from Markham and Chenal to the Airport. I recall an animation of something very similar a few years ago. I know it will never happen but seems like it would be more beneficial than another lane of traffic. Way far in the future they could add branches to Saline county and NLR/Sherwood. A boy can dream right?

You've touched on a subject that I intended to post here...see separate comment below.

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Related to Smith's question above, I've always been a proponent and advocate for River Rail Streetcar, but I will have to admit that its implementation (and perception) is certainly more gimmick and less practical, to say the least.

We were in Oklahoma City this weekend, and I discovered that they just implemented (in January) a new streetcar system funded by their MAPS3 tax (from 2008?...it did take a while).  Now THIS is how you do a streetcar, one designed with intent to actually serve as a mode of transportation connecting points of interest and destination within the downtown core.  Note that the actual "trains" are a 3-car setup (which, coincidentally, are the same cars used in Seattle's short streetcar system around the Amazon HQ).

Their system, like River Rail, runs one-way, and has two routes.  The difference is of course that the cars are larger (and modern in style), the system has legitimate stops that are branded/named, and actually have a place to wait (with shelter) and a system to purchase tickets.  One route just runs the "Bricktown" loop on Fridays and Saturdays (read River Market) whereas the other loop, that follows this route but extends up through downtown and to a few other peripheral districts (much like Argenta or East Village), runs 6 days a week.  It was very well trafficked, but of course, it is brand new so there's quite a bit of curiosity at play here.   Here is a link to their system:  https://www.okc.gov/government/maps-3/projects/modern-streetcar-transit

Overall, the OKC Streetcar presents itself as a legitimate mode of transportation, and not some whimsical, throwback touristy kitsch.  In fact, in contrast, this nearly angers me at the shortsightedness of the implementation of rail in Central Arkansas.  It really makes me wonder - even hope - that our rail infrastructure (gauge) is actually the same, or compatible with these types of cars, as then it wouldn't be such a leap to upgrade our system to something very similar.  In fact, if the system were simply extended down main, with an upgrade to similar cars (and upgraded stops), it would be on par with this.  This is the type of system we could have if we step forward, and not back, with our current rail infrastructure.

IMG_5635.jpg

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53 minutes ago, Architect said:

Related to Smith's question above, I've always been a proponent and advocate for River Rail Streetcar, but I will have to admit that its implementation (and perception) is certainly more gimmick and less practical, to say the least.

We were in Oklahoma City this weekend, and I discovered that they just implemented (in January) a new streetcar system funded by their MAPS3 tax (from 2008?...it did take a while).  Now THIS is how you do a streetcar, one designed with intent to actually serve as a mode of transportation connecting points of interest and destination within the downtown core.  Note that the actual "trains" are a 3-car setup (which, coincidentally, are the same cars used in Seattle's short streetcar system around the Amazon HQ).

Their system, like River Rail, runs one-way, and has two routes.  The difference is of course that the cars are larger (and modern in style), the system has legitimate stops that are branded/named, and actually have a place to wait (with shelter) and a system to purchase tickets.  One route just runs the "Bricktown" loop on Fridays and Saturdays (read River Market) whereas the other loop, that follows this route but extends up through downtown and to a few other peripheral districts (much like Argenta or East Village), runs 6 days a week.  It was very well trafficked, but of course, it is brand new so there's quite a bit of curiosity at play here.   Here is a link to their system:  https://www.okc.gov/government/maps-3/projects/modern-streetcar-transit

Overall, the OKC Streetcar presents itself as a legitimate mode of transportation, and not some whimsical, throwback touristy kitsch.  In fact, in contrast, this nearly angers me at the shortsightedness of the implementation of rail in Central Arkansas.  It really makes me wonder - even hope - that our rail infrastructure (gauge) is actually the same, or compatible with these types of cars, as then it wouldn't be such a leap to upgrade our system to something very similar.  In fact, if the system were simply extended down main, with an upgrade to similar cars (and upgraded stops), it would be on par with this.  This is the type of system we could have if we step forward, and not back, with our current rail infrastructure.

IMG_5635.jpg

I'm going to have to disagree with you on the type of cars LR should get. I would stay along the line on what we have now and add some single truck cars to be used during slower periods. These cars hold 46 passengers as opposed to the 104 that can ride in the modern cars. Also, five of the single truck cars can be purchased for the price of one of the new units. 

Single truck streetcar being used in Memphis.

z1JNYp.jpg

I do agree with the extension down Main but I think the main problem with the streetcar system ever becoming anything more than a tourist attraction is the problem with crossing the river. Whenever something is happening the system is shut down because  the only way to cross the river is using the Main Street Bridge.  At one time plans were in place to also cross the new Broadway Bridge but I don't believe this option was added when the new bridge was constructed.  It is possible the Main Street option would be used by locals as a form of transportation much more than the system is used now.

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Skirby - to clarify my point, my emphasis was much more on the style/type of train than the size.  I agree the 3-car setup might be too much, but when it comes to perception of a system, when people see the throw-back trolleys, I believe they think, "Oh, that looks cute." whereas when they see the a modern system, they take it seriously, and realize that the system is intended to serve as a mode of transportation, and ask, "Wow, where can this take me?"

p.s.  Someone on Reddit "Little Rock" made comment that they thought Memphis' streetcars were shut down, but I suspect this is false information.

[Update: reading online, the streetcar system in Memphis was suspended in 2014 after fires on two of the streetcars; service was restored on the Main Street line on April, 2018, but the other two routes remain suspended for whatever reason.]

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20 hours ago, Architect said:

Skirby - to clarify my point, my emphasis was much more on the style/type of train than the size.  I agree the 3-car setup might be too much, but when it comes to perception of a system, when people see the throw-back trolleys, I believe they think, "Oh, that looks cute." whereas when they see the a modern system, they take it seriously, and realize that the system is intended to serve as a mode of transportation, and ask, "Wow, where can this take me?"

p.s.  Someone on Reddit "Little Rock" made comment that they thought Memphis' streetcars were shut down, but I suspect this is false information.

[Update: reading online, the streetcar system in Memphis was suspended in 2014 after fires on two of the streetcars; service was restored on the Main Street line on April, 2018, but the other two routes remain suspended for whatever reason.]

Perception is the key. When I see the modern cars I think of a more advanced system instead of the closed loop limited area system in Little Rock. I would be sorta of disappointment if LR had modern cars like OK City has and I could only travel to Argenta and the River Market. If the lines ventured to west LR or the airport them I would go along with it. 

My hope is the Metro Rail(River Rail) looks at ways to become more of a local passenger system. As a tourist attraction is does a good job but for locals not so much.  I would suggest reviewing the location of stops and build shelters at all stops. Decrease the time between streetcars from 20/25 minutes to 15 minutes. Change starting time in the mornings to 7/7:30 AM as Argenta develops. Finally, this one is for Architect, use single truck streetcar frames and instead of using heritage bodies, design new bodies using 1950's futuristic design elements and paint them in late 50's early 60's Studebaker paint colors. Call them street pods and let the Instagramers  of the world have at it. Instant promotion for LR and who wouldn't want to get on and see where it would take them.    If this happened I know Architect you would become a Podder and would soon claim your favorite Pod Pad(stop) to start your adventure around the River Market or Argenta to fetch yourself a Flyway pretzel(so good) unless you are a donut man, then Hurts it is .

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Perception is the key. When I see the modern cars I think of a more advanced system instead of the closed loop limited area system in Little Rock. I would be sorta of disappointment if LR had modern cars like OK City has and I could only travel to Argenta and the River Market. If the lines ventured to west LR or the airport them I would go along with it. 
My hope is the Metro Rail(River Rail) looks at ways to become more of a local passenger system. As a tourist attraction is does a good job but for locals not so much.  I would suggest reviewing the location of stops and build shelters at all stops. Decrease the time between streetcars from 20/25 minutes to 15 minutes. Change starting time in the mornings to 7/7:30 AM as Argenta develops. Finally, this one is for Architect, use single truck streetcar frames and instead of using heritage bodies, design new bodies using 1950's futuristic design elements and paint them in late 50's early 60's Studebaker paint colors. Call them street pods and let the Instagramers  of the world have at it. Instant promotion for LR and who wouldn't want to get on and see where it would take them.    If this happened I know Architect you would become a Podder and would soon claim your favorite Pod Pad(stop) to start your adventure around the River Market or Argenta to fetch yourself a Flyway pretzel(so good) unless you are a donut man, then Hurts it is .

Ha ha! Awesome. I can get behind this!


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On 3/19/2019 at 9:04 AM, Smith said:

I'll throw out a what if...

What if LR invested in a light rail type system that ran the length of 630 instead of adding a 4th lane like they are doing now. Say from Markham and Chenal to the Airport. I recall an animation of something very similar a few years ago. I know it will never happen but seems like it would be more beneficial than another lane of traffic. Way far in the future they could add branches to Saline county and NLR/Sherwood. A boy can dream right?

I agree with you that would be a better idea than ever expanding concrete thru LR's core. 

To go along with your what if I will add a second. What if LR, back in the 70's, when the old airport terminal was replaced it had been located on the West side along Bond between 9th and 15th. Boulevards could have replaced 9th and 15th as an easy way to access West LR and downtown.  First impression have a lot to do with someone's view it things and I-440  is very lacking. How many places could claim their airport is only 5 to 10 minutes from downtown, LR could.  Smith your rail along I-630 would fit right in because it starts/ends at 15th Street. Also, a streetcar extension from where it ends in East Village and this terminal would only be around a mile, give or take.

 

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Anyone else notice the LACK of activity on the NWA forum in UrbanPlanet?  It used to be VERY active, but the only thread that's even been commented on so far in 2019 is the XNA thread.  Strange.

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On 3/19/2019 at 11:43 AM, Architect said:

Related to Smith's question above, I've always been a proponent and advocate for River Rail Streetcar, but I will have to admit that its implementation (and perception) is certainly more gimmick and less practical, to say the least.

We were in Oklahoma City this weekend, and I discovered that they just implemented (in January) a new streetcar system funded by their MAPS3 tax (from 2008?...it did take a while).  Now THIS is how you do a streetcar, one designed with intent to actually serve as a mode of transportation connecting points of interest and destination within the downtown core.  Note that the actual "trains" are a 3-car setup (which, coincidentally, are the same cars used in Seattle's short streetcar system around the Amazon HQ).

Their system, like River Rail, runs one-way, and has two routes.  The difference is of course that the cars are larger (and modern in style), the system has legitimate stops that are branded/named, and actually have a place to wait (with shelter) and a system to purchase tickets.  One route just runs the "Bricktown" loop on Fridays and Saturdays (read River Market) whereas the other loop, that follows this route but extends up through downtown and to a few other peripheral districts (much like Argenta or East Village), runs 6 days a week.  It was very well trafficked, but of course, it is brand new so there's quite a bit of curiosity at play here.   Here is a link to their system:  https://www.okc.gov/government/maps-3/projects/modern-streetcar-transit

Overall, the OKC Streetcar presents itself as a legitimate mode of transportation, and not some whimsical, throwback touristy kitsch.  In fact, in contrast, this nearly angers me at the shortsightedness of the implementation of rail in Central Arkansas.  It really makes me wonder - even hope - that our rail infrastructure (gauge) is actually the same, or compatible with these types of cars, as then it wouldn't be such a leap to upgrade our system to something very similar.  In fact, if the system were simply extended down main, with an upgrade to similar cars (and upgraded stops), it would be on par with this.  This is the type of system we could have if we step forward, and not back, with our current rail infrastructure.

IMG_5635.jpg

I couldn't agree more with this!  Our streetcar system in place now in the River Market is a joke compared to this, and that's how most people perceive it.  I am all for upgrading our River Rail to be on par with this type of street car system (although maybe not quite the same capacity for the moment).  A system that is modern, clean, efficient, convenient, and practical for getting from point A to point B would be a huge benefit for Little Rock.  The general trend now among young people has been one of moving back downtown and revitalizing it, and I love this new trend.  As a person who is considered young and grew up and have lived in Little Rock my whole life, I find this type of system incredibly attractive.  The idea of being able to live and work downtown and have this type of system to get me from home to work to a restaurant or park or event at Verizon (Simmons? Alltel? who knows anymore...) would be incredible.  I think that it would also be crucial for the system to extend to the airport (through East Village) and down Main Street at the minimum.  Alas, the big problem to overcome would be getting the money to fund the upgrades that would be needed, and based on the insane rejection of a millage in Little Rock to further fund the public school system to build the new SW LR high school, I have a hard time seeing voters approve any sort of MAPS3 proposal as in OKC (which is booming population wise, has a thriving downtown district, and pro basketball team so what could they possibly have to teach Little Rock? *sarcasm*).

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So here's another random "what if" question:  

NWA's growth the past 25 years has been spectacular, and I question how much this growth has come at the expense of central Arkansas.  

Some might argue that this isn't a "zero sum" game, but to some extent, I think it is when you consider in-state migration.  I think the "mindshare" of a lot of young people in Arkansas, either coming out of college or coming of age, now have two choices, wherein 30 years ago, they either moved to central Arkansas, or they moved out of state.  This isn't a knock against NWA, and I'm glad Arkansas has two great metropolitan areas, but the fact is, we're a small state, and these two metros now compete for a finite group within the state as people continue - across the globe actually - to migrate to cities.

I'm going to make a complete guess...I think NWA's rise has probably cost metro Little Rock at least 100,000 in population over the past 25 years - maybe more.  That's not to say that this is all due to NWA, as central Arkansas continues to battle perceived (and real) challenges, but no doubt the growth of another metro has "cost" some growth to central Arkansas.

p.s.  There are other factors that maybe warrant another question: like "what if" Fed Ex hadn't moved, and "what if" Wal-Mart had either stayed in Newport or relocated to Little Rock back in the 1980's....other questions that probably warrant their own post, ha!

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I think you have a point to a certain extent. With the U of A, Walmart and it’s vendors, Tyson, JB Hunt and a few other big drivers NWA has grown and at the expense of central Arkansas. Young people want to be in hip, progressive places and parts of NWA offers that.

Even with that, Little Rock has continued to grow albeit at a slow pace. But the surrounding cities have exploded in population growth. Conway, Benton, Bryant, Sherwood, Maumelle  and Cabot have all grown a lot in the past 20 years. Some of that is white flight from Little Rock but some is also people from other parts of the state moving into the metro.

Even with all of the growth in NWA there are still things that are not offered there that are in central Arkansas (and there are things in NWA that aren’t in central Arkansas).

I think it reflects more of the urbanization of the state. Most states have more than one big metro area and Arkansas is now joining those states. The Jonesboro area will make three (even though it’s significantly smaller than the other two).  Most recent data says that Arkansas’ population is growing but it’s declining in the rural areas and growing in the metro areas.

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This whole scenario makes for a 

13 hours ago, theman said:

I think you have a point to a certain extent. With the U of A, Walmart and it’s vendors, Tyson, JB Hunt and a few other big drivers NWA has grown and at the expense of central Arkansas. Young people want to be in hip, progressive places and parts of NWA offers that.

Even with that, Little Rock has continued to grow albeit at a slow pace. But the surrounding cities have exploded in population growth. Conway, Benton, Bryant, Sherwood, Maumelle  and Cabot have all grown a lot in the past 20 years. Some of that is white flight from Little Rock but some is also people from other parts of the state moving into the metro.

Even with all of the growth in NWA there are still things that are not offered there that are in central Arkansas (and there are things in NWA that aren’t in central Arkansas).

I think it reflects more of the urbanization of the state. Most states have more than one big metro area and Arkansas is now joining those states. The Jonesboro area will make three (even though it’s significantly smaller than the other two).  Most recent data says that Arkansas’ population is growing but it’s declining in the rural areas and growing in the metro areas.

This whole scenario makes for an interesting parallel to Oklahoma, though the scale is twice as big (OKC 2x LR and Tulsa is 2x NWA), but back in the 1970's and 1980's, OKC was much larger than Tulsa, but it had almost nothing going for it other than the center of government of Oklahoma.  Tulsa was more vibrant, growing, was prettier (green) and aggressive, and was the place to be.  Sadly, it took the OKC bombings of the 1990's to sort of galvanize the city and its citizens into rising above the ashes.  As I understand it, it also came with a very progressive mayor who sought to create a new identity and hipness for the city.  Once the citizens got behind it and saw that they could create a great city (specifically through their MAPS bond issues, now re-upped 3 times), it's just blossomed.  OKC is now growing faster that Tulsa (Tulsa's growth is about the same as Little Rock), has large, home-grown companies, is home to an NBA team, etc.  OKC has definitely moved up the chain to the next rung.

This isn't a perfect comparison, but I hope Little Rock can find a way to "regain its swagger" as Mayor Scott put it.  The momentum of the 2000's and the impact of Fortune 500 companies has been lost this decade, partly due to these companies woes (FIS relocating, Alltel being sold, and now Windstream having trouble).  The city is just on the cusp of either becoming something great, or settling into a holding pattern.  Let's hope it's the former.

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