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Charlotte's Light Rail: Lynx Blue Line


dubone

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"If the light-rail extension goes over budget, the city would likely have to pay all the cost overrun. That was the case when the original light-rail line was built between 2005 and 2007."

 

The economy tanked in 2008, taking CATS ambitious plans for additional lines with it.  Does anyone know by what date the cost overrun had been paid for by the City?

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Somewhat confusingly the article discusses a need for overtime labor to keep the project on pace, yet CATS insists that the budget and timeline remains fine.

 

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/11/10/5305992/cats-pushing-some-light-rail-crews.html#.VGFxdskjUl4

 

In hindsight the expected finish date mentioned in the article (beginning of Fall semester at UNCC -- August 2017) is about 6 months later than the initial completion dates. Original completion dates were "early 2017" and IIRC the construction summary had things complete in January 2017.

 

I know its early , but gezzz, there is lots more time for the schedule to slide.

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But if there's a Ped bridge, then Craighead to Sugar Creek should see new development as well.

 
At least that does mitigate the issue I raised for development of the area of NoDa north of the ACWR railroad.   

 

 

 

I think it is still a massive missed opportunity.   Just move the station under the bridge and put an elevator and staircase tower up to the sidewalk on the Sugar Creek Road Bridge like the elevators at 3rd and Trade streets uptown.  

 

Look at the benefits:

  • Savings from the station canopies
  • Far better rain coverage than simple canopies (e.g. 3rd Street Station under the Hilton)
  • Covered pathway to the park and ride on Raleigh Street
  • No need for a separate up-over-down pedestrian bridge to reduce the distance to the N Davidson St.  
  • Activates the area under the bridge to prevent blight and homelessness taking over
  • Station goes back to the original location planned all along now under instead of over Sugar Creek

 

 

 

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Compare it to Sharon Rd West station. There is a separate ped bridge from Crump Rd overpass, which doesn't even have sidewalks.

I'll admit that Archdale station is the ideal. But neither Archdale nor Sharon Rd West have generated much development, which seems proof that station design can only do so much to overcome surroundings.

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I finally read the article that had me behind the times on the Sugar Creek ped bridge, but I'm intrigued by how they are going to be doing the parking deck for Sugar Creek Station.   Additional detail here:

 

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/11/10/5305992/cats-pushing-some-light-rail-crews.html

 http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/cats/planning/ble/involvement/documents/blenewslttrspring14v5.pdf

 

 

It is refreshing to see that value that had been engineered out are being put back in, but it just seems like further evidence of left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.     The city themselves asked the state to extend the Sugar Creek Road bridge so that Raleigh Street could connect on either side and no longer intersect with Sugar Creek Rd.    

 

By cutting out the surface lot at 530 E Sugar Creek, they no longer have the park and ride accessible to the main road.   So they have expanded the park and ride, but made it very difficult for drivers to get to.   Drivers must venture around about in an industrial area to find Raleigh Street by way of Greensboro street.  

 

It is crazy that all this is because they cannot impact the "historic" warehouses on either side of Sugar Creek Road and that is probably the entire reason that this is such a cluster.    So Charlotte has torn down all the decent historic buildings but has to bend over backwards for these banal forgettable structures: (both sides of this streetview).

 

 

It all one big clusterfk of a design after countless awesome renderings of the amazing possibilities over the years, and specialized studies of where to put it to maximize TOD.   It is just bizarre how far potential they have ended up.  

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Well, they specifically mention bus bays as part of the parking deck, so something tells me there are as-yet unseen changes to NCDOT's Sugar Creek crossing plans, because to your point the roundabout access to the parking deck from Sugar Creek is silly.

 

Some many pages back in this thread there's discussion about how the Sugar Creek separation plans didn't include any reference to the BLE infrastructure. It's still crazy that the two projects seem to ignore each other.

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I finally read the article that had me behind the times on the Sugar Creek ped bridge, but I'm intrigued by how they are going to be doing the parking deck for Sugar Creek Station.   Additional detail here:

 

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/11/10/5305992/cats-pushing-some-light-rail-crews.html

 http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/cats/planning/ble/involvement/documents/blenewslttrspring14v5.pdf

 

 

It is refreshing to see that value that had been engineered out are being put back in, but it just seems like further evidence of left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.     The city themselves asked the state to extend the Sugar Creek Road bridge so that Raleigh Street could connect on either side and no longer intersect with Sugar Creek Rd.    

 

By cutting out the surface lot at 530 E Sugar Creek, they no longer have the park and ride accessible to the main road.   So they have expanded the park and ride, but made it very difficult for drivers to get to.   Drivers must venture around about in an industrial area to find Raleigh Street by way of Greensboro street.  

 

It is crazy that all this is because they cannot impact the "historic" warehouses on either side of Sugar Creek Road and that is probably the entire reason that this is such a cluster.    So Charlotte has torn down all the decent historic buildings but has to bend over backwards for these banal forgettable structures: (both sides of this streetview).

 

 

It all one big clusterfk of a design after countless awesome renderings of the amazing possibilities over the years, and specialized studies of where to put it to maximize TOD.   It is just bizarre how far potential they have ended up.  

 

No, the renderings shown here is the design for the project being built by the state with input from the city.   I called the NCDOT rep working on the project and obviously there was collaboration, just that the project served many masters and were constrained by the aspects of water drainage, and not disrupting those two warehouses.

 

 

But in my view, CATS dropped the ball a lot by bouncing their station around as the grade separation project evolved and ending up with what they did.   Obviously it is too late now as contracts are signed, etc., but to me, they are having to mitigate failures of design all over the place, with ped bridge which rare are very enticing for pedestrians.   I hope they maybe plan a street connector between Greensboro and Raleigh Streets on the edge of the lot where they once planned the extra surface parking.

 

 

 

I still think the far better outcome would have been to build the station underneath the new bridge, elevator tower up to the bridge, and a pathway under the bridge to a parking deck at  530 E Sugar Creek.  Then the deck would be accessible to Sugar Creek, the whole area under the bridge would be an active transit station and not a de facto homeless shelter and all the silliness of ped bridges, odd auto access would have been resolved, and the station would be exactly where they studied and planned during the first few years of the project with easier access to Asian Corners, NoDa, etc. 

 

 

Anyway, they always have tons of public meetings early where they say all the BS like "we route it on Tryon because we can easily build within the median"  or "the streetcar project to Central will be built by 2009" or whatever forward looking statements that turn out to be wrong, but then they don't have public meetings on the last minute changes when things are actually under construction and directly impact what ultimately gets built compared to what they originally pitched.

 

 

^There will be a new jughandle road between the Greensboro St signal on Sugar Creek Rd and Raleigh St.

 

The jug-handle is shown in the link I posted.  It will avoid left turns for cars coming from the east, but obviously is not the right way to drive coming from N Tryon or I85.    It is not going to be very obvious for drivers.   But clearly that is just 1 of many many ideals that fell to the wastebasket as this thing was planned.  

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If there are any lessons frim South Corridor, pedestrian access to stations, both from adjoining streets and the park-and-ride are much more important than vehicle access. Archdale has direct access to South Blvd, but is far walk from parking to platform. Sharon Rd West has indirect access from South Blvd, yet the parking is very close to the platform. With Sugar Creek, drivers need only use Craighead or the Greensboro signal once to learn how to drive to the station. But how easy and comfortable the walk is from parking to platform will keep drivers coming back regularly.

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It is what it is.   But the plan at this location does not look like some result of 5 years of planning and learning lessons, it looks more like just where the mud deposited after the rain stopped.     The result of happenstance and Bush-era strategery and not well-executed planning and project coordination on high cost public works projects.  

 

 

This one seems worse than both Archdale and Sharon Rd W, but they started with being one of the highest potential for TOD on the whole line.   Time will tell, and I hope it is successful despite the awkward designs.  

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There are no full renderings of the Sugar Creek Station yet, but here I put the NCDOT road bridge with the station site plan onto Google Maps to visualize the big picture of how this station ended up.  You can see how cars would go with the new streets and bridge. 

 

post-670-0-50713600-1415987866_thumb.png

 

Regardless of my rants of how they got to this and what I viewed as ways this could have ended up better, this is pretty much what is being built.  

 

 

 

It is pretty obvious, then, how they would likely connect the new pedestrian bridge directly into the parking deck.   It would probably be a path to Davidson that aligns with Norwell Place between the current buildings.  Hopefully they go with a gradual linear ramp up from Davidson St, but I could also imagine just a path and then an elevator/staircase tower up to the ped bridge.  On the station side, passengers would just use the staircase or elevator within the deck to get down to the station.   

 

 

This image shows the pedestrian path that is solved by the pedestrian bridge, which was my original complaint.  The red path is .64 mi which put this section of NoDa outside the station area, even though it only a block away physically.  With the new ped bridge it cuts out 1/2 mile/10 minutes of walking to .13mi shown in green

post-670-0-08537100-1415988884_thumb.png 

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It would probably be a path to Davidson that aligns with Norwell Place between the current buildings.  Hopefully they go with a gradual linear ramp up from Davidson St, but I could also imagine just a path and then an elevator/staircase tower up to the ped bridge.

 

This image shows the pedestrian path that is solved by the pedestrian bridge, which was my original complaint.  The red path is .64 mi which put this section of NoDa outside the station area, even though it only a block away physically.  With the new ped bridge it cuts out 1/2 mile/10 minutes of walking to .13mi shown in green

attachicon.gifScreen Shot 2014-11-14 at 1.14.06 PM.png

I hope they take the time and energy to make this a very wide, visible, well lit, and inviting path from the street.  Landscaping, overhead signs, maybe even some benches.  It just needs to have an obvious presence on Davidson.  Walking back between 2 warehouses without that will have people thinking twice.

Edited by Mobuchu
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I drove down Sugar Creek today for the first time ever, and I was surprised how distressed that area was. Even with the improvements near the light rail station, the Tryon/Asian Corner Mall area looked very beatdown. With this area being so close to NoDa, I'm hoping some redevelopment comes this way. Maybe redevelop the Asian Corner into similar to the Cotswold Village Shops, and turn the corner of Sugar Creek and Tryon into a small park, that connects with the future Little Sugar Creek Greenway. Though, I'm not sure if anything will ever happen to the industrial block between Sugar Creek and Craighead Road.

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I drove down Sugar Creek today for the first time ever, and I was surprised how distressed that area was. Even with the improvements near the light rail station, the Tryon/Asian Corner Mall area looked very beatdown. With this area being so close to NoDa, I'm hoping some redevelopment comes this way. Maybe redevelop the Asian Corner into similar to the Cotswold Village Shops, and turn the corner of Sugar Creek and Tryon into a small park, that connects with the future Little Sugar Creek Greenway. Though, I'm not sure if anything will ever happen to the industrial block between Sugar Creek and Craighead Road.

 

I don't want to sound like a downer, but I have a hard time imagining any type of positive change for a long time around Sugar Creek.  NoDa will likely push south, not north.  As long as Hidden Valley anchors that area and has its reputation, it's going to be rough.

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^Unfortunately, I have to agree. I'm willing to bet that this area will remain the same many years after the extension is completed. I'm willing to bet that this area will probably look like South Blvd does now by Tyvola Station.

 

Ideally, I would love to see this area become a full-fledged Little Hanoi, maybe with a gate or pagoda and a park as well. The Asian Corner Mall is a great start. I have been to the mall many times, and enjoy going to the Asian supermarket for things I cannot find in any other stores (Natto, a brand of buckwheat noodles I like). The area though is very seedy and depressed.

 

The light rail will really transform NoDa, and hopefully the University area. I can't envision more development anywhere else.

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There is almost no question in my mind that [southend-style] TOD growth will come first south of 30th Street.  It is likely that Optimist Park as a neighborhood name would and maybe should vanish and just get lumped in with NoDa, which is already happening around Amelies which traditionally was also considered Villa Heights and Optimist Park.   It is all along North Davidson Street, and north of downtown, so have at it if it leads to a dense urban future.

 

 

BUT   we already have had redevelopment in northern NoDa even without transit.   Renaissance and Steel Gardens are already there so I think that area will get developed as the outer fringe of NoDa similar to the New Bern Station is.   If Brookhill and Southside Park didn't hold that area back, Hidden Valley will definitely not as it is far more separated.      

 

 

 

It does get more tenuous farther out, just as is true of the south corridor, but then it is more of a park and ride character for the lower density neighborhoods until it gets out near UNCC.  

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^ Woodlawn is definitely new, and it makes me wonder about the quality of the reporting as much as anything.

 

The original TIGER grant was for three station expansions, 485, Stonewall and (IIRC) CTC. The CTC expansion stopped being discussed as they moved closer to construction.

 

The capacity expansion proposal is here: http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/cats/planning/documents/tigeriii%20application%20ble%20capacity%20expansion%20project%20final.pdf

 

it mentions three stations, I'll try to check again after my meeting to see if I can find more details.

Edited by kermit
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CATS will have options operationally, but obviously it is a not going to be the ideal of having all the stations upgraded.   

 

They will run 2-car trains for almost all cases for now.  They will just label and announce in the 3rd car that it is only going to select stations. 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a relief that they are expanding at some additional stations.   It always seemed to me that some of the ground level stations could be expanded with out much cost.   I hope that in the end, the BLE stays under budget, with unused contingency funds, and that they get approval to expand more or the rest of the south stations once-and-for-all.   

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 It always seemed to me that some of the ground level stations could be expanded with out much cost.

 

Especially the stations which were designed to accommodate the Trolly which have an extended (but low) platform for the trolly. Adding 2 ft of concrete on some rebar really should not be that complicated. Every station between East-West and 7th street includes a Trolly platform.

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In trying to find the old documents of how they saved on the Blue Line, I at least found a long lost rendering of the North Tryon to UNCC crossing.

post-670-0-49627400-1416245800_thumb.png

 

http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/cats/planning/BLE/projectfacts/Documents/MTC42209.pdf

 

 

I guess 2009 was when CATS revised their annual 2030 ridership model based on the original Blue Line (from 10,500 riders to 27,500) so they realized they will actually need the 3-car trains in the next decade.  

 

But it is confusing because if adding the 3rd car to the BLE was only $15m, they probably didn't save all that much in the first place on the south corridor.

 

 

 

 

(I can't find the old docs yet on how much was saved when they dropped the longer stations in the south)

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