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North Carolina Intercity Rail Transit


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Amtrak ridership numbers for fiscal year 2019 are out.  The Carolinian is down 4.7% to 244,779.  The Piedmont is up 28.1% at 214,218.  The Piedmont saw the second highest growth on all of Amtrak's rou

Current routing in red, the new VA rail purchase in green. I'm not sure how to find ownership of the "Norlina Subdivision" line running from Norlina to Raleigh, but boy that's an exciting possibility

From the July NCDOT rail report: https://connect.ncdot.gov/resources/Rail-Division-Resources/Documents/2019.07_Monthly Rail Report.pdf Things are going well, The Carolinian has basically been at

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I doubt the state would bypass Hickory, but I was surprised to learn that the city sold the historic depot recently. I'm not sure if it retains pass for passenger waiting areas, ticketing, etc. Seems they made a decision that was polar opposite from most towns on the line (renovate and retain for future service). Someone with more knowledge may want to chime in.

All the other towns along the Asheville route put up 10% matching funds to renovate their stations. Hickory was not willing to do so. If they did the same, the other 90% of the funds would come from the State and Federal sources. Seems like an exercise in extreme short-sightedness to me, but if there's not the political will for these things locally, there won't be a station. If the Asheville line's development gets closer to reality, I think Hickory may revisit and rethink this decision.

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Hickory would be nuts to pass this opportunity up. This is a great opportunity to bring people into the city to visit relatives, as tourist or whatever and give their economy a little shot in the arm. There are many people who would no doubt go there for one reason or another if there was a train or some other form of mass transit to get there who would otherwise not go.

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Here is a map courtesy of a poster at orangepolitics.org of the service that NCRR is studying for the Triangle and Triad areas:

ncrr2.gif

There are 4 lines under consideration:

Raleigh-Greensboro

Goldsboro-University Station (State University Railroad junction near Hillsborough)

University Station-Carrboro

Burlington-West Greensboro (and beyond)

We have to remember, though, that this is just NCRR deciding on their own "this is what we want to study." They are determining the infrastructure needs and therefore the cost to get this done in terms of double track, sidings, and crossovers. No study to date has been done to determine if this is actually the best or most efficient way of serving commuter travel needs in the region, and nobody has talked at all about funding yet either. NCRR does have some revenue with which to improve their physical plant as they see fit, but nowhere near enough to implement a bold plan like this. Presumably this would be contingent on local, state, and perhaps some federal money as well.

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Orulz that map you have posted has made my day. All of the stations locations they are studying make sense to me with the exection of a few in Orange County which I am very familiar with. I am assuming all of those stations would have very well planned large TODs around them due to the high demand to live in Orange County and the scarcity and price of the current housing stock. I can envision the University Road station having the most potential if the Rail lines were built out according to that map. I will admit I was a skeptic concerning the University Railroad line and Hillsbrough having an Amtrak Station due to Chapel Hill's proximity to Durham but after thinking about it more I've come to realize that the Hillsborough Station will end up doing suprisingly well. Most Chapel Hill residents will choose the Hillsborough station over the Durham station for more reasons than I am willing to list here. Chapel Hill Transit will more than likely have bus service from the stations to campus and points throughout Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

I am curious to know since each line will have rush hour service, 4 morning, 1 mid-day, and 4 Evening, will this apply to each line if so University Road to Raleigh will have a total of 8 morning, 1 mid-day, and 8 evening. This could be an excellent gauge on transit in the Triangle.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The TBJ is reporting that NC DOT has struck a lease deal for the Durham station to go in the old Walker Warehouse. Terms are $100,000 per year for 47 years. In addition, the Cary station is to be enhanced once the DMV office is moved out in a few weeks. That station will gain full time staff.

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This isn't news about NC, but it is relevant to RE-developing rail in NC. CA has been working on HSR for well over a decade, and it appears they are just about ready to go. Unless something falls thru at the 11th hour, the citizens of CA will vote this November on an almost $10B bond that would go towards beginning HSR construction connecting all the major metros in the state. I would think success in CA is instrumental in potentially demonstrating the viability of HSR in the US and other states like NC.

The takeaway for us is that at least we are on the right track by doing planning early (now), but we will really need some forward thinking leadership (like the Governator) to actually pull something like HSR off in this state. While we aren't going to see electrification and 200+ mph speeds here, the good news is that compared to CA we have much smaller distances to cover and we have the tremendous opportunity to connect to the northeast corridor via Richmond. I really believe that the investments that we are making in historic station rehabs, rail track infrastructure, new intermodal centers in Charlotte and Raleigh, and high speed rail planning will definitely pay off on a few years.

Then, after HSR is a success & the public is sold, we can move on to RE-extending passenger service to Asheville and Wilmington, and the vast majority of the state will be tied together once again via rail. :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

Great, mid-day on a Thursday. :rolleyes:

It will be interesting to see the results of this study. It will also be interesting to see whether any political momentum builds in the wake of the study's release. Remember that this is a completely separate proposal to the STAC plan. Though they could potentially both be implemented at the same time, shortages of funding might dictate a sort of de facto mutual exclusion.

This study proposes a fairly minimal level of service, over a very large service area. I expect that this study will be similar in format to the Eastrans study that was commissioned by Knightdale on the rail lines to Wilson and Goldsboro.

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  • 2 weeks later...

That project actually started well over a year ago. They got some grading done, and then stopped. Not clear exactly what happened then, but it was something along the lines of having to divert the work crew to somewhere in Georgia to do a more important project. Or perhaps the clearing and grading crew finished their job, and we were just waiting on the track crew to finish their preceeding job.

The entire mainline from Greensboro to Charlotte is supposedly going to be double-tracked by 2013. Depending on how the next administration (state and federal) sets transportation priorities, that could easily get pushed back, or maybe even pushed up a bit.

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Also of note is that the President Bush just signed a new rail safety bill into law today. This legislation was written after the Metrolink crash in LA. All passenger lines and freight lines that move hazardous materials must be upgraded to Positive Train Control signal systems by 2015. This law, an unfunded mandate, was passed for the purpose of safety.

Here in NC, NCRR and NCDOT will have to install the signals on their lines. I expect they will get this done in a pretty timely fashion. This may wind up pushing some other capital projects back, but then again it may be worthwhile, since the signals actually have a few benefits beyond just safety.

Most passenger lines in NC are classified as FRA Class 4 - that means CTC signals and a speed limit of 79mph. Installing cab signals gets them an automatic upgrade to FRA Class 5, allowing for 90mph. Positive Train Control, which is now required by law, would actually allow for even higher speeds, but the geometry requirements become more stringent as speeds go up. At any rate, when this is done, I expect we'll see the speed limits on passenger lines in NC increase to at least 90mph.

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  • 2 months later...

N&O has an article about the growth that NC's Amtrak service has been seeing lately. Evidently it's still growing quickly even in spite of the economic downturn and the drop in gas prices. I read somewhere that the Piedmont service between Charlotte and Raleigh actually saw a 24% year-over-year increase for the month of November. At least a part of that is commuter traffic; the article mentions at least one person who commutes on the train, from Cary to Greensboro, for a cost of about $14 per day (that's pretty reasonable considering the distance.) The article also mentions that on-time performance has climbed from 64% in November 2007 to 85% in November 2008.

Most stations in the state have been upgraded and are now reasonably modern and adequate facilities. Cary and Durham are underway; Charlotte has planning mostly complete and a reasonably concrete timeline for construction, but Raleigh, the busiest station in the state, has very little decided about their replacement station yet. They also talk about the midday Piedmont train that's due to start rolling in Summer 2009. Hopefully that will be just the first of a number of frequency improvements to the line.

Not mentioned is the High Speed Rail line, or NCDOT's track improvements, both of which are important components of the state's rail transportation program.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I decided to try out the train service in NC for New Year's. As far as the whole trip, this is how it went...

  • took the WSTA bus to the downtown Transportation Center to catch the Amtrak Connector operated by PART.
  • Arrived at High Point and took the Piedmont to Raleigh. Train left on time and arrived 10 min early.
  • Left Raleigh on New Year's day on the Carolinian. Train arrived at Raleigh 12 min early. Passengers had ample time for a smoke break at the station.
  • Arrived at High Point and took the Amtrak Connector back to the downtown Tranportation Center. Then caught a cab to the house.

The city bus cost $1, the Amtrak Connector cost $2, the Piedmont's fare from HP to RAL was $13, the Carolinian's fare was $16, trip back on the connector was $2, and the taxi was $16.20. Grand total for the trip was $50.20, with the biggest expense being the taxi home (WSTA busses were not running for the holiday.)

I was pleased with the trains, there were a few empty seats on the Piedmont; but the Carolinian was fairly well packed until Greensboro.

The stations in High Point and Greensboro were beautiful and very functional. However Durham's and Raleigh's are both inadequate (as earlier addressed on this thread.)

I was impressed with the cross section of people on the train, lots of college students and young professionals; many who had travelled to a downtown area (Raleigh, Richmond, DC, etc.) to meet friends for New Year's partying.

I will probably use the train to go to Raleigh again, but I'm not sure if I could use it for Charlotte. I like to go club hopping and Raleigh's got a good club scene (GLBT) all with walking distance downtown plus plenty of restaurants. However, Charlotte's GLBT scene is a bit spread out for that.

The only complaints I heard from folks were higher fares being charged by the conducter than what was listed on the website by Amtrak.

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I decided to try out the train service in NC for New Year's. As far as the whole trip, this is how it went...

  • took the WSTA bus to the downtown Transportation Center to catch the Amtrak Connector operated by PART.
  • Arrived at High Point and took the Piedmont to Raleigh. Train left on time and arrived 10 min early.
  • Left Raleigh on New Year's day on the Carolinian. Train arrived at Raleigh 12 min early. Passengers had ample time for a smoke break at the station.
  • Arrived at High Point and took the Amtrak Connector back to the downtown Tranportation Center. Then caught a cab to the house.

The city bus cost $1, the Amtrak Connector cost $2, the Piedmont's fare from HP to RAL was $13, the Carolinian's fare was $16, trip back on the connector was $2, and the taxi was $16.20. Grand total for the trip was $50.20, with the biggest expense being the taxi home (WSTA busses were not running for the holiday.)

I was pleased with the trains, there were a few empty seats on the Piedmont; but the Carolinian was fairly well packed until Greensboro.

The stations in High Point and Greensboro were beautiful and very functional. However Durham's and Raleigh's are both inadequate (as earlier addressed on this thread.)

I was impressed with the cross section of people on the train, lots of college students and young professionals; many who had travelled to a downtown area (Raleigh, Richmond, DC, etc.) to meet friends for New Year's partying.

I will probably use the train to go to Raleigh again, but I'm not sure if I could use it for Charlotte. I like to go club hopping and Raleigh's got a good club scene (GLBT) all with walking distance downtown plus plenty of restaurants. However, Charlotte's GLBT scene is a bit spread out for that.

The only complaints I heard from folks were higher fares being charged by the conducter than what was listed on the website by Amtrak.

Thanks for the trip report - sounds like you had a good time. You got lucky with the Carolinian departing Raleigh on time. During the summer, it tends to be 1 hour plus late, and during the winter, it seems to average around 30 minutes late.

Regarding the higher fares - the conductors do charge higher fares than the website if you're boarding at a staffed station with no ticket or reservations in hand. The idea is, you should buy your ticket at the window ahead of time before boarding the train, so they charge you extra for the conductor's time.

At unstaffed stations, the conductors are supposed to charge the same as the website.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The latest developments in the SE HSR project are:

1. A trail, to be part of the east coast greenway, is being considered in parallel with the HSR. I would guess (though I'm not sure) that the trail would be put on the old railroad right-of-way when it's realigned for higher speeds.

2. A study evaluating the options for HSR south of Charlotte has been released. It studies HSR options from 90mph diesel trains all the way through 200mph electric trains, and includes many permutations of the route, with as many as 14 and as few as 7 stops, and Charlotte-Atlanta travel times that vary between 3:51 and 1:46. The report generally recommends dedicated tracks except near stations where the trains would be decelerating anyway. The higher speed (150 and 200mph) routes generally divert from existing rights-of-way, frequently following interstate highways (such as I-85 between I-485 and Gastonia.)

This is envisioned as an extension of the Charlotte-Washington Southeast HSR corridor, for which the EIS process is already well underway.

3. They contine to push back completion of the EIS for Richmond to Raleigh. The draft is due in mid-2010; who knows how much further that will be postponed between now and then.

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2. A study evaluating the options for HSR south of Charlotte has been released. It studies HSR options from 90mph diesel trains all the way through 200mph electric trains, and includes many permutations of the route, with as many as 14 and as few as 7 stops, and Charlotte-Atlanta travel times that vary between 3:51 and 1:46. The report generally recommends dedicated tracks except near stations where the trains would be decelerating anyway. The higher speed (150 and 200mph) routes generally divert from existing rights-of-way, frequently following interstate highways (such as I-85 between I-485 and Gastonia.)

This is envisioned as an extension of the Charlotte-Washington Southeast HSR corridor, for which the EIS process is already well underway.

I predict that this is the farthest the HSR efforts south of Charlotte will reach for the next 5-10 years, or until the CLT-WAS link opens. SC is simply not that interested in passenger rail, GA only mildly more so, and an electric-powered 150-mph running system between ATL and CLT with a fossil-fuel powered 100/125 max speed system north of it also makes little sense.

Hopefully NC will focus its efforts now to the north, where the will to act and best results likely lie.

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  • 2 weeks later...

In today's Observer, there is a column announcing that the federal DOT has completed an initial study for upgrading the current AMTRAK line between Charlotte and Macon to accomodate "high-speed" rail service. They looked at options to achieve average speeds of 90-200 mph. Of course they ruled out everything but 90mph as being cost prohibitive.

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/597/story/493917.html

While I'm glad that they are looking at this project for the long term, I'm dismayed that this country is once again selling itself short of building a truly efficient rail network. The 200 mph would apparantly require all new tracks and right-of-way as well as being electrified. Ok, great, so what's the cost $25B??? What's the cost of the entire eastern seaboard? $500B? I'm not sure, but those seem realistic. Isn't this a lot better than the multi-trillion dollars we are spending to not really correct our financial system. Our investments should be on improving our infrastructure and looking to the future and not putting a band-aid on a broken leg. :o Ok, rant over.

So regardless of it's short comings, I do like that travel time will be betwen 3:30-3:50 in length, which is comparble to how fast I drive it, and I speed all through Georgia. I also like that there will be a stop at CLT airport.

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High speed rail to ATL would be fantastic. I am going in March and would greatly prefer to spend the time reading by a window to driving and trying not go wild with boredom. Methinks it won't be ready by then? :lol:

We need to steal the Acela line from BosWash and drop it down here. Or better yet snatch a TGV or two from France. Oh train envy hurts...

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High speed rail to ATL would be fantastic. I am going in March and would greatly prefer to spend the time reading by a window to driving and trying not go wild with boredom. Methinks it won't be ready by then? :lol:

We need to steal the Acela line from BosWash and drop it down here. Or better yet snatch a TGV or two from France. Oh train envy hurts...

I concur voyager12...It seems that a high speed line that runs parallel to I-85 makes a ton of Economic sense. I would run it from ATL (possibly as far SW as Auburn/Opelika, AL), and run it straight up to Richmond (thus serving many of the major Urban Centers in the Carolinas) . I-85 is a MAJOR corridor, and one of the fastest growing in the entire US (if not THE fastest).

A2

ps---I know I would add to the ridership. Even though I am now in ATL, I still visit CLT quite a bit for Business and the In-laws :wacko: ...

Edited by A2
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I have long thought this was a great idea as a former Acela and AVE (Spain) rider. There was an article in the O during the summer about how more people were taking the train b/w Charlotte and Raliegh. I was hoping more ideas like this would gain traction, but I'm afraid our car dominated society both from the economic aspects as well as the social gain too much political favor for this to happen in the next 20 years.

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