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dubone

Ballantyne Blue Line Light Rail Extension

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(This idea is outside of the existing Blue Line plans, and outside of the 2030 plans, so that is why I made it its own thread)

The article that compared our transit system to Denver's got me thinking about this. Today's article about the spiraling costs of even just adding one lane to 485 between 77 and Johnston Rd, and the associated delay, caused me to draw this idea out.

In Denver, they have expanded LRT to the suburbs primarily by extending their existing line within the right of way of a congested freeway. Many people plan their commutes on the freeway system, but at some point, there is an exponential growth in demand compared to an extremely sluggish growth of capacity. Many people live near the freeways, and many office parks and retail centers are built at key interchanges.

One of Charlottes most heavily traveled and congested freeways, 485 west of Johnston Rd has major retail (Carolina Place, and significant square footage in shopping centers around it) and an office park with significant numbers of jobs. The current mass transit system does not serve either of those, but it comes close.

By following the model of other cities and extending our existing Light Rail system within the right of way that the public sector already owns as a freeway buffer, we can reach out and serve significant number of new riders. The Ballantyne office park would bring reverse commuters, enhancing the existing line by using capacity that arguably will be under-used compared to the rush hour commute to uptown. The mall would bring evening and weekend riders, and provide a destination for many of the people living along the line. The 4 additional stations I propose here would also provide significantly more park and ride spaces to support the more typical uptown commute. Park and ride lots on Pineville Rd, Park Rd, and Johnston Rd would not only take cars off the congested section of 485, but might allow many commuters to avoid 485 altogether.

The line I am proposing here would be a 4.1 mile extension with very little right of way purchases needed. The main costs outside of the line itself would be to purchase land for the park and ride lots, and bridges over 485, Pineville Rd, Pineville- Matthews Road, and the 3 creeks. Engineering work would be needed to done to determine those costs and the riders gained. NCDOT would need to consent to using their right of way, but generally, this is allowed by DOTs because the farthest reach of the interstate rights of way are primarily for buffers, and the light rail would reduce traffic growth, reducing the need for expansion of the freeway.

My guess is that this extension would have a far greater cost-benefit ratio that some of the other lines planned in the 2030 plan, but that is hard to know without engineering.

Here are some summary points:

- Extension of existing line, creating new destinations and park and rides

- Serves Ballantyne employment district for reverse commutes on LRT

- Serves Carolina Place Mall with millions of visitors

- Serves a highly congested corridor of 485 and area of Pineville and Charlotte

- Creates a mass transit alternative to the most congested section of 485 that has significant costs of expansion.

- Can likely be passed in less than 10 minutes, creating a 30-40 minute commute between Ballantyne and Uptown, competive with driving commutes

- Most of right of way is in the edge of the 485 right of way, similar to how many other cities build transit to the suburbs.

- Only land purchases would be the 1/3 of mile lenght on Norfolk-Southern railroad land, and 10-15 acres of land for park and ride lots

Here is the line and aerial of the surrounding development:

216752124-O.jpg

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Beautiful work there Dubone. And a splendid idea that seems very doable, imo. The idea of the Blue Line servicing CPM and Ballantyne makes sense. It kinda reminds me of the Marta in Dunwoody or Lenox Square (much smaller scale of course). I think it would easily serve it's purpose, especially those in the Ballantyne area who need to quickly commute to uptown when necessary (and vice-versa). Plus, just think of all the people in that area that own Bobcat & Panther PSL's. I know quite a few that would take advantage of the Ballantyne station before the Pineville station.

On a side note, I was just at Carolina Pavilion today (Sat) and that area is a total zoo as far as traffic. They have added a new traffic light at the 485, S Blvd interchange, they have taken out one of the through lanes in front of Carolina Pavilion, the red light timing was horrendous with turn arrows giving more time than the through lights. Back ups on both ends of the shopping center were easily a half mile or more. If this doesn't get corrected soon, think how bad it will be when the light rail opens. Our wonderful DoT is at it again!! :o

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Dubone- beautiful job and ironically enough, I was thinking about this last night but with the thought- why didn't they swirve the line into SouthPark- a high density, employing, and living area. That is what one of the complains with the vote for repeal crowd- density. Ballantyne seems like a good choice, also, the only thing- looking at this plan on a "real level", it wouldn't happen because of costs. It would be cheaper just to finish 485 then to make that extension, and by that article- they are short on funds for the road, so it doesn't seem LRT would work, unless an outside investor was willing to... I do wish, looking at the 2030 plan again recently, that (although the line wouldn't be a straight line following a major road), that is swirved some to hit some high(er) density areas of outside neighborhoods, such as Southpark and Ballantyne...

On another note- it would be good (although expensive) to see investments of rail over roads. That's why I wish they would have avoided changing independence to an expressway and put light rail on there. Commuters stuck in traffic on Independence watching LRT's fly by would surely make them second guess their route on Independence and want to utilize LRT. That's also why I think the SE Line is going to not be a worthy one- once you have a highway, there will be less of a need for the LRT or BRT after investing millions of dollars on a highway transformation.

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I don't believe that the costs would make this extension unfeasible, I think it would purely be delayed because it wasn't already envisioned with the 2030 plan, but you never know how things will go with that in the next few years. Tober will be gone, mayors will switch, the federal budget may shift to support transit as part of carbon reduction goals, or Huntersville may pull out, creating room to replace the North line in the plans. I just think that is worth imagining realistic alternates that might help us gain more transit ridership over the current plan.

Although I think this would be less per mile than the original line, even if it is the same, that is $200m. I bet this extension would yield more ridership than the ~5k the north line is expecting for that money. Plus, this line extension might be eligible for federal funds, meaning we'd be spending only $50-100m locally. The employment in these areas might create a bigger draw for reverse commutes on the line about to open that many might realize.

I'll also add this for fun:

1847801243_6c700deba1_o.jpg

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No doubt in my mind that the ridership is there and would far exceed the north line. I think they may be some repel with this with the current for the repeal crowd, because this line is directed towards Ballantyne, which could cause more "for the rich" contraversy, although I don't believe in that. Would make sence, and I like the Pineville-Matthews station for the hospital that is growing down there (CMC-Pineville). A lot of hospital employees use transit to get to work and they employee great numbers of people. Johnston Rd. would be huge though. Great job on that map also, Dubone. Wish we could hire you as our 2030 planner. Only repel against it- would this distance be too much for LRT? Discussed earlier in the 2030 thread was, "when is distance too far for LRT and should be altered to Heavy Rail". I think S.C. border/Fort Mill was used as an example as it might not be worth extending b/c the time traveled is becoming ineffective. With your plan, Dubone, which I love, the 4 or 5 add'l stations and 3 miles, give or take, may be somewhat ineffective as far as a commute time. Then again this is me just throwing out some constructive critisizm, needless to say I love your idea.

Another thing that I saw used from Denver's LRT was an actual "fork in the track", where the main track splits up into 2 seperate routes reaching 2 different destinations (one was somewhere in the west and the other was in the north). I wonder how a small "fork-cut LRT track" would do as an add'l extension route to Southpark. The distance wouldn't be too great, as far as track mileage and cost, and would be able to serve a dense location of town- which means high ridership. Also, this would cut to only maybe 2 add'l stations that wouldn't have to go through all of the southern stations of the Blue Line.

EDIT: Hey Dubone, this is a great thread. Maybe it should be renamed to alternative 2030 Transit Plan Ideas, or something like that. Maybe our input could go a long way. Plus it would give an opportunity for people on UP that critisize the current plan to give alternate direction. Could be of some worth, who knows?

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This is not an unreasonable distance to extend the LRT. Remember that it was originally envisioned to reach Pineville anyway.

The Blue line and Green lines in Los Angeles county are light rail and about umpteen miles long. The main thing is to not have "too many" stops so that the commute time is worthwhile.

Something like this is probably the only way to pay for it to ever cross 485 at this point. You need more stops than just Pineville to justify the expense of a bridge.

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This does seem like a reasonable distance to extend the blue line. The biggest problem is that the I-485 bridge would have to be tall, expensive, and long, because immediately after crossing 485, the rail line would have to also cross the Norfolk Southern freight line as well.

I had sort of toyed in my mind with the idea of two extensions - one similar to what dubone suggests, and another to Pineville, an I-77 P&R station, and Carowinds. No doubt the Ballantyne route makes more sense.

Including South Park in the transit plans is a must, eventually, but it's also kind of a tough nut to crack, as Tyvola is a fairly narrow right-of-way.

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What if the Extension to Ballantyne didn't cross 485 at that point, instead turned down following it but on the northern side of 485? Stop for the mall, stop for CMC- Pineville, and a stop for Ballantyne. The mall, obviously would have to utilize some good pedestrian movement under 485 to the line. CMC-Pineville would be direct, since it is on that side of 485, an Ballantyne, a few different options there. Also maybe instead of a bridge, just bring it under 485, that way expense wise it stays at ground level, and allow it to underpass between S. Blvd and Pineville-Matthews Rd and come out somewhere where the Home Depot/Best Buy/ Petsmart is on the opposite side of the road to the mall.

Here's the southpark maps:

stationmap_southpark.jpg

2030LYNXMap500_southpark.jpg

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Google Path Calculation is about 4 miles from the current end of the line to Ballantyne, following 485, roughly. If it avoided going over 485 but instead under, there's actually a small creek that runs behind the retail where Best Buy is and may be able to squeeze the track under through there. Seems quite doable with some rezoning.

The Park Rd. station would seem sort of unnecessary if there was a mall stop, and wouldn't need any park-and-ride b/c of the mall parking. Probally convert some of that surface lot space to parking garage, though, to handle mall and park-and-ride. So 3 stops and 4 miles (Ballantyne, Mall, one other). Would be cool to somehow get a stop at CMC-Pineville, then curve down to the mall. Short distance by means of LRT distance, but both stops would get heavy use and not very accessible currently by foot. Would be hard to get that with Pineville Matthews Rd. being so heavily used.

Thanks for getting the ideas flowing, dubone.

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That would be a good idea. I think someone up here had mention maybe having the West Corridor Line, loop from the airport, and go past the old coliseum site and then go to South Park, versus going directly to Uptown, and have a transfer station on the blue line to connect to Uptown. This would create two "nodes" for system and could possibly be cheaper than HRT from Uptown to South Park, although I'm not opposed to the idea.

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Andy, here is my prior proposal for mass transit to Southpark, which I viewed as an airport to Southpark perpendicular/circumferential route:

http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/Proposal...rpo-t29147.html

The issue with just putting a mark on the big-picture map to SouthPark is that you have to pick a logical route. With Ballantyne, there is a protected right of way, as I showed above. To SouthPark, this is no way to do it without following the street network. There just isn't any continual right of way to have transit there, unless it is a subway under a street or streetcar on the street. I opted for streetcar in my proposal, as the congestion levels are not terrible so as to prevent movement on the route I selected (primarily Woodlawn due to its passing of multiple multi-family areas, and retail districts).

As for putting this Ballantyne extension idea on the northern right of way of 485, I think that would be a great cost saving device, but it also runs past a lot of single-family home developments. The real destinations are all south or west of the freeway, so you really ought to just spend the money on the bridge. I could envision a case where in the next 10-30 years, the surface lots in Ballantyne and Carolina Place are converted more to decks to allow for infill in between, like SouthPark Mall did. Having the light rail there to support that growth would be better than to save the money and having the stops in between the culdesacs there.

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Andy, here is my prior proposal for mass transit to Southpark, which I viewed as an airport to Southpark perpendicular/circumferential route:

http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/Proposal...rpo-t29147.html

The issue with just putting a mark on the big-picture map to SouthPark is that you have to pick a logical route. With Ballantyne, there is a protected right of way, as I showed above. To SouthPark, this is no way to do it without following the street network. There just isn't any continual right of way to have transit there, unless it is a subway under a street or streetcar on the street. I opted for streetcar in my proposal, as the congestion levels are not terrible so as to prevent movement on the route I selected (primarily Woodlawn due to its passing of multiple multi-family areas, and retail districts).

As for putting this Ballantyne extension idea on the northern right of way of 485, I think that would be a great cost saving device, but it also runs past a lot of single-family home developments. The real destinations are all south or west of the freeway, so you really ought to just spend the money on the bridge. I could envision a case where in the next 10-30 years, the surface lots in Ballantyne and Carolina Place are converted more to decks to allow for infill in between, like SouthPark Mall did. Having the light rail there to support that growth would be better than to save the money and having the stops in between the culdesacs there.

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I 100% agree with dubone's idea, Imagine driving along 485, or rather, fumigating at a dead stop on 485, while a light rail passes by at full steam, and then another, and then another... If you're headed from uptown to Ballantyne during rush hour, the added length of the line may be ten minutes physically longer than the current termination point but would be quicker than that same commute by car. It rationalizes people using park and rides from these more southern stops rather than driving twenty minutes (in traffic) just to get to one. Which, IMO, I doubt will happen in large numbers. Having more accessible decks for LRT makes sense, especially along congested southern 485.

Andy, While your argument for LRT to SouthPark does make sense as it would draw more ridership, the issue with it is the price of land, the lack of space in southpark's denser areas, and the placement of a park and ride deck. Having a spur for just one destination is not likely to be well utilized as well. If this spur were to have three or more stops total, it could be justified. I know that Sydney is an extreme example, but on their line, most spurs have at least four or five stops on them. Traffic justifies extra stops, even if the total commute time increases.

Southpark indeed needs a stop at some point, but I believe that in the future, as LRT becomes more popular in Charlotte, we will see a line connecting the Eastern and Southern lines giving residents along Independence and in Matthews easy access to the Blue line without having to go through uptown stops. Also, this line could be justifiably overlapped with the two lines by a stop or two to reduce crowding at one particular terminal. The trains can share the lines on a timed basis, just like normal rail. So I got a bit bored and made a rough sketch of my South Park link idea in green. Were it to be built, I'd also like to see the streetcar line to Eastland built to connect back down to the light rail at this connector point. I highlighted that section in light green.

southparklightrail.jpg

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Why don't we get CATS to hire UP to design the new extension to the South Blue Line? :good:

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First, great ideas and I would totally support it but remember that Pineville is/will be a huge speed hump for this kind of idea. The original plan was for the LRT to go to Carolina Place but the Pineville Town Council said they did not want LRT and the growth caused by it to come into their town. That's why the last stop is just shy of the Pineville town limits.

Will they change their mind and allow LRT to pass through now? Also, as for the idead of building LRT on the north side of 485, remember that in addition to the existing neighborhoods, there are also several stretches of marshes that would be destroyed (not sure if there are any on the south side).

For a SouthPark line, I think the only option, if there ever is one, is a Tyvola Road extension of the South Line. Woodlawn east of South Blvd. is 3 lanes most of the way with houses almost on top of the road, becomes very winding, and seems to get smaller and smaller as you approach the Colony Road area. I think the only option there to hit Southpark from Woodlawn (which would be Runnymede by that point) is to come down Barclay Downs which again, is highly residential, has small width, and is very curvy.

If it came down Tyvola, which is 4 lanes with a center median up until Park Road, they could put a stop by Park Road Park (buy the daycare that's currently on the corner) and then maybe try to figure out something a little closer to the mall? Once you get pass the mall, the road widens again into 6 lanes with a center divider all the way to Providence/Randolph so some possibilities are still there.

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This plan is substantially different than the original plan to extend light rail into Pineville, plus, I think Pineville has changed its tune a bit on wanting light rail, as I think they now want to expand their residential base. This plan wouldn't go to the remaining greenfields in Pineville to spur dense development. It would merely run along the edge of the town and provide park and ride facilities, bring customers to the retailer which are main employers and taxpaying entities in the town, and provide some marginal relief to the overcrowding of their street network.

I don't think this is a plan that should be attempted for anytime soon. I think the 2030 plan has laid out the priority lines to create mass transit lines on the major transportation corridors. We'll see how the politics plays out over the coming year, and we'll see how things go with Tuesday's vote. If the tax is kept, then in a couple years we'll be making the 2035 plans. I think modest extensions to the core system would then make sense.

The transit system has been devised in this city to support the 'Centers and Corridors' land use plan, where density of housing, retail, and jobs would be concentrated along the freeway/transit corridors (77, 85 and US74) as well as existing concentrated centers (Ballantyne, SouthPark, in and around Uptown, University City, Tyvola and others)

http://ww.charmeck.org/Planning/Land%20Use...idorsWedges.pdf

I think that for the 2035 plan, the need to identify centers that are not being served by mass transit, and create new plans for those areas. I agree that while it makes sense to focus on uptown for the initial plans, the other major employment centers need to be supported, too, in order to increase the percentage of commutes supported by mass transit. I still stand by my proposal to create an airport to SouthPark line to support those major employment hubs, but Ballantyne and Pineville should be high priorities.

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While it's an interesting idea, I think the biggest issue with it from a technical perspective is that if the Blue Line is operated as one line, that means you would have a light rail line that is operated as a single integrated system. While that sounds nice, what that really means is that a train's schedule in Ballentyne will affect one at UNCC and vice versa. My estimate is this will be close to a 30 mile line, with 35 stations on it. Some of this line will be traveling on the ROW and is subject to automobile traffic issues and even pedestrian issues in downtown. There may be as many as 30 trainsets operating simultaneously on a line like this. My guess is that CATS doesn't have the logistical systems in place to handle it and if there is an issue at any station, the whole system shuts down.

However the biggest hurdle of this plan is the FHA and the NCDOT most likely will not allow a train to run down the edge of 485. The issue it causes is that if someone breaks down or there is a car accident, you have trapped the parties on the highway as there won't be any way off of it without having to either cross the opposing lanes or train tracks. The only way this plan would work would be to send the train down the center of the highway. Obviously this would be too expensive for this idea to work. (given that we are not talking about that much additional ridership since this is light rail and not able to handle it)

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^I agree that NCDOT would probably be the biggest hurdle to this concept.

I do like the idea of connecting Ballantyne to the system. I think that significant centers like Ballantyne, SouthPark, Eastland Mall, and the Airport will ultimately be connected to the rail network, but it will be many decades before those plans come to be. For the extremely long term, Charlotte will need to develop more than a hub and spoke style of transit system.

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No doubt about it- the airport is crucial to being incorporated in rail transit. Most cities lines that have rail transit to an airport are successful, and it would completely change that aspect of connectivity for tourists, commuters (out of city), and travelers. Whether the answer is rail to uptown or to S. Park, both would be cruicial. I could imagine getting off a plane and instead of waiting for your ride, or waiting for a bus to your long term parking, or an expensive taxi, getting on Light Rail straight to a hotel or tourist location like the NASCAR HOF.

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^I agree that NCDOT would probably be the biggest hurdle to this concept.

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I love how the trains run down the middle of the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago. during rush youy are sitting in traffic..... NOT MOVING mind you.....and you see the trains go by, and as you see each one goes by you always sit there and say....."damn it!" lol.

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For those of you who haven't seen a rail line between lanes of an interstate, here is a great aerial shot of the DC METRO where it runs in the middle of I-66 in Vienna, VA. You can see the enclosed pedestrian bridges crossing to either side, where they have 3-4 story parking structures. Each of the parking structures is PACKED every day with people who park and ride.

vienna.jpg

My compliments on this plan for blue line extension, Dubone. I think this is a no-brainer, like you said. I think the Carolina Place Mall/CMC stop itself would be worth it in terms of overall ridership and connectivity for people going to jobs in this area, etc.

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