monsoon

Triad Regional Transit

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cityboi    246

I think eventually Winston-Salem will have to get its own station. The city is becoming too important not to have one.

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Myles Away    0

They are working on it. When they finish the high speed rail system in the southeast Winston-Salem will have a stop on the train at historic Union Station. Until then they have to close crossings and upgrade track.

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Agreed.

I want the Asheville train to go through downtown Winston-Salem. It would only strengthen our ties to Western North Carolina or WNC as its sometimes called. Since the completion of the Appalachian Way about 100 years ago and our rail and highway network that connects us to every western NC city we have been called the Gateway to Western North Carolina

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JunktionFET    0

Whether or not it becomes a reality, Greensboro based PART (Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation) has been planning a regional mass transit system for the Triad using BRT, Commuter Rail, or a combination of both technologies.

PART was created by the state in 1997 and is funded by a rental car tax established in Guilford and Forsyth counties. They presently operate an express bus between Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point, and PTI airport. They also offer connector service to Chapel Hill Medical Center and Duke Medical Center (in Durham).

For a couple of years David King, NCDOT's deputy secretary of transportation, has spoken highly of a rail based alternative in the Triad, and has implied that the state would support the development of such a system if the Triad were to become serious about it. The region would need to provide local funding of some sort, probably some sort of new or modified tax. Charlotte is cited as a good model to follow in the state.

A proposed starter commuter rail line would connect Hanes Mall in western Winston-Salem to NC A&T in eastern Greensboro with nine stations initially. The cost of the initial 33 mile line would be somewhere near $400 million, and $100 million would be needed from the Triad for the proposal to have any chance of seeing the light of day. The existing rental car tax used for PART wouldn't cut it.

Though $400 million sounds like a lot (and it is), it is far less than the $700 million pricetag on the 28 mile TTA system and it covers more ground than the $420 million 11 mile south LRT line in Charlotte. The proposed starter line would add a second set of tracks to the existing rail, and would probably involve the closure of several unsignaled crossings along the way.

Let's add to this discussion over time, as we have with the other NC regional transit threads.

Below are a list of articles I found interesting, and I hope you all do as well:

http://www.bizjournals.com/triad/stories/2...14/daily33.html (Relates to Dell)

http://triad.bizjournals.com/triad/stories...ts1.html?page=1 (Long but informative)

This is an older article, but it discusses the possible future for Union Station in Winston-Salem :thumbsup:

I'll try to post some maps as well as some other pertinent data later on. Feel free to post your findings as well. :D

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orulz    106

I have a number of thoughts and comments about rail in the Triad, but let me start with this:

The budget projection for TTA's rail system was originally around $200 million. As they performed more studies and did more engineering work, they realized that there was more to it than they originally thought. Then the neighborhoods and municipalites came in with their own set of demands, raising the pricetag even further. There's no doubt in my mind that the same thing will happen in the Triad as well.

---

The line being considered for PART's first regional rail line is the Norfolk Southern "K"-line between Winston Salem and Greensboro. It is a lightly traveled railroad only used for local traffic, as opposed to the busy "H" mainline through the Triangle. So rather then needing a completely seperate set of tracks like TTA, PART might be able to buy the whole "K" line from NS, double-track it (except for a few of the larger bridges, which could be left as is), upgrade it for higher speeds, install signaling, and boom, regional rail line. Freight hauling rights could then be negotiated with NS, and performed at off-hours when there are no passenger trains to interfere.

Buying the line outright is a bit touchy of a situation, because despite its low traffic, the "K" line is very valuable to Norfolk Southern. With the "K"-"L"-"O" route through Winston-Salem, Mocksville, and Mooresville, it's the only way NS trains can move between Greensboro and Charlotte without ever leaving NS-owned trackage (the route they use now, through High Point and Salisbury, is actually owned by the state.) It's debatable what the price might be, but if they made a sweet enough deal I'm sure NS would give in. The whole scheme might even be possible with the line still under NS ownership, too, but freight railroads don't like being told when to run their trains so good luck on that one.

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Jerseyman4    0

I am all for new rail service for the Triad. How much longer can I-40 be moving at most times of the day before it reaches the point of overcapacity through most times of the day? The triad is very car reliant but it does have a great bus system i know of in Greensboro.

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JunktionFET    0

The budget projection for TTA's rail system was originally around $200 million. As they performed more studies and did more engineering work, they realized that there was more to it than they originally thought.

Definitely, just look at the cost projections from this 2002 article (linked above) versus the latest estimates published in the Business Journal articles. Granted the latest version is 6 miles longer, but still...

It is a lightly traveled railroad only used for local traffic, as opposed to the busy "H" mainline through the Triangle. So rather then needing a completely seperate set of tracks like TTA, PART might be able to buy the whole "K" line from NS, double-track it

I agree, and in fact it sounds like the starter proposal calls for upgrading the existing tracks and building another set alongside (see this article, again)--effectively double-tracking the corridor. I guess they figure the existing tracks are used little enough that they could reliably run regional commuter trains on it during the day without many conflicts.

Buying the railroad would be a great solution though and is certainly feasible. Perhaps when and if the time comes around for this system, it will be an option worth more consideration.

The triad is very car reliant but it does have a great bus system i know of in Greensboro.

My sister goes to Greensboro every now and then to visit friends and do some projects. Before her most recent day-long excursion she was was complaining about having to drive, so I suggested she take the train there. Whenever she is in New York City or Washington DC she uses mass transit almost exclusively. When I suggested the train, she was like "oh yeah" and that it never occurs to her that such options exist here at home (though not as versatile... yet).

She took the train from Cary to Greensboro in the morning and ended up buying a GTA Multiride Bus Pass upon arrival in Greenboro. Multiride or Day Passes are a little known treasure in the transit world. :D

She used the pass to get from the train station to UNCG where she did some things, then took a bus to her friend's apartment. They both took the bus back to downtown to do some studio work, have lunch, etc... Finally around 7pm she took the train back to Cary. I think she ended up spending less than $20 for transportation all day, and look at the ground she covered! The Piedmont train and GTA bus took her everywhere she needed to go.

Edited by NorffCarolina

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JunktionFET    0

Here's some more news--4/14/2005

On Wednesday PART agreed to set up a committee which will develop the plan to increase funding for a major regional transit system. Of course they will supplement their funds with federal and additional state money for such an endeavor, but right now the ~$2.6 million raised by the existing rental car tax barely scratches the surface. It is very good news that they are making the effort to secure a good source for local funds.

The news article also has a brief description of the starter line from Hanes Mall to NC A&T, with a different set of numbers (oddly enough), and a hopeful time frame for the system to start.

-----

The first segment of rail would be a 37-mile line from N.C. A&T in Greensboro to Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem that could be built as early as 2014. Earlier studies said installing rail along that corridor would cost $319 million; whereas bus service would cost $167 million.

-----

The mayor of Greensboro is obviously behind the system and has urged PART to help educate the public on the benefits of the rail line and why it is important to plan ahead now

-----

As the decision on whether to build a rail line draws closer, Greensboro Mayor Keith Holliday asked PART to increase public awareness about the benefits of a rail system in an effort to thwart criticism he said is already developing.

-----

Click here for the full article. Enjoy!

Edited by NorffCarolina

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twincity    5

Here is a graphic from Monday's Winston-Salem Journal...an interesting comparison to Charlotte's light rail and the one proposed for the Triad. I still think its bad planning that no stop is proposed deeper into High Point. Im sure this is very prelimanry but isnt it obvious from recent news that SE Forsyth to SW Guilford has the potential to be a very highly populated area?

G7C-M.jpg

Here is the full article from journalnow.com

http://www.journalnow.com/servlet/Satellit...s=1037645509137

Edited by twincity

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orulz    106
I still think its bad planning that no stop is proposed deeper into High Point.
Edited by orulz

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cityboi    246

I think the Triad has to have a good PR campaign to get alot of support for this project before the idea is crushed before take off. The skeptics will say the Triad isnt ready for it yet and will be too costly. I think using existing rail lines cut the costs down dramatically rather than other Triad rail proposals I saw like monorail which would require the development of expensive two-way elevated track. By using existing lines, the big costs would really be for develping the rail stations and stops. Fortunatly, Greensboro alreday has a downtown multi-modal depot. Winston-Salem is planning to redevelope its downtown rail station. So really its about building a new station at PTI airport and multiple stops in between Greensboro ind Winston-Salem. I believe High Point should be further included because it is an important center, especially with the furniture market. a regional rail system would do a great deal in keeping the furniture market from leaving High Point and going to Las Vegas. Its easier for market goers to stay at hotels in downtown Greensboro, Winston-Salem, the airport area. All they have to do is go a few blocks and hop on a train which would take them to downtown High Point very quickly. Maybe this should be part of the case in a PR campaign.

Edited by cityboi

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cityboi    246

Interesting, I wonder why there are two major rail hub in the airport area in Greensboro. Also I think there needs to be a village hub in Kernersville. I'm also glad Burlington is tied into the system because Burlington is like an extension of Greensboro. Alot of people from Burlington Commute to Greensboro.

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JunktionFET    0

Interesting, I wonder why there are two major rail hub in the airport area in Greensboro. Also I think there needs to be a village hub in Kernersville. I'm also glad Burlington is tied into the system because Burlington is like an extension of Greensboro. Alot of people from Burlington Commute to Greensboro.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

One hub is for the BRT option, the other for the Rail option... It would be one or the other, depending on what technology is used. Needless to say, I'm pushing for the rail option. :)

And yes, Kernersville would definitely need something special if the rail option is persued.

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twincity    5

I laugh everytime i see this map. its so obvious that PART is Hq'd in Greensboro. if this plan goes through... W-S (population of around 200,000) will have the same amount of stops as High Point (population around 100,000).

there should be stops at:

US52 and University Parkway

LJVM Coliseum

Wake Forest University

US421 and Main St in Kernersville

I-40 and Peters Creek

Edited by twincity

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orulz    106

I laugh everytime i see this map.  its so ious that PART is Hq'd in Greensboro.  if this plan goes throught. W-S population of around 200,000 will have the same amount of stops as High Point.  population around 100,000.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Every other map and description that I've seen has shown at least slightly different stops. The only thing that map shows accurately is the alignment of the lines. Some of the areas you mention (WFU and the one at US52/University Pkwy in northern WS, for example) could be served by feeder buses in the short term and future extensions in the long term. (Commuter rail to Mt. Airy? Could happen...)

I also notice that most of your suggestions are on road alignments that could only be served by BRT. Where would you like to see stops added on the rail alignment? In particular, the I'm curious, because I don't know anything about W-S at all.

Anyway, here's a slightly newer version of the map, split into two - one for BRT and one for rail.

better_brt.gif

better_rail.gif

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49er    127

well one interesting thing with the ridership forecast is that the 9100 for Charlotte is just for the 9.6 mile line to the south. The 7,500 for the triad system is for 33 miles. This sorta sounds low for such a lengthy system.

Interesting, there will end up being 3 very long commuter rail lines in the state, the 3rd being the Charlotte to Mooresville line that will be around 30 miles.

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JunktionFET    0

As orulz pointed out, the stops depicted are based on what exists around the proposed routes. In the case of rail, what exists in Winston-Salem along the existing rail corridor that would be worthy of a stop or a future TOD? I assume the proposed stops are a good start, but what additional stops or areas should be considered? I'm sure there is some undeveloped land that would make for a great urban village type of development (which could also double as a park'n'ride rail station).

And before assuming PART has some kind of bias (which is silly), remember that PART is the one working so hard to get passenger rail service to Winston-Salem. I have searched high and low and cannot find any such initiatives from the city of Winston-Salem. Even their 2030 long range plan is just stuff from PART (old stuff I might add).

PART has also worked out a plethora of possible routes to incorporate Winston in western NC passenger rail as well as SEHSR. PART and NCDOT both subsidize the Amtrak-Connector van service into Greensboro.

PART seems to be one of the services that really tries to unify the Triad. Love the PART. Be one with the PART. Errr... scratch that last part. :D

Edited by NorffCarolina

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cityboi    246

Piedmont Triad takes steps towards commuter rail

News

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The future of commuters

It's 4 p.m. when Rejella Bigelow-Mitchell hustles out of her office building in the Piedmont Centre to catch her bus ride home. She's carrying an umbrella and poncho into the blinding sun.

With a threat of summer showers, she grabbed the items in the morning. Now she's stuck carrying them all the way home, a two-hour commute on three buses from north High Point to Greensboro. But it's better than standing in the rain if the bus is late.

"You know if you don't drive, you have to make concessions," she said.

Bigelow-Mitchell, a loan services specialist at Bank of America, takes the bus because she hates to drive. In the mornings, her husband drops her off. But in the evenings, he can't pick her up.

She likes taking the bus, but she wouldn't mind if the ride moved quicker.

"Some days I'm like, 'Are we ever going to get there?' " Bigelow-Mitchell said.

She might see something that would move commuters faster in the Triad someday, now that the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation is inching closer to building commuter rail.

For commuters who don't want to drive or who can't afford a car, a rail line could bring them from point to point a little quicker.

"That would be real nice," Bigelow-Mitchell said.

PART will release a study this fall recommending whether buses or commuter rail should move commuters along a 60-mile corridor that would eventually connect Burlington to Clemmons. While the study isn't over, there is a growing belief among some that the report will recommend a commuter-rail system that would require millions in tax dollars to construct and operate.

Despite a 2-hour commute on three different buses, Rejella Bigelow-Mitchell must walk several blocks from the stop to her home.Already this spring, PART had local officials examine commercial and residential development around potential rail or bus stops. They also went to Charlotte to look at development along a light-rail line under construction.

"The more data collection and analysis we do, rail is beginning to emerge as the best alternative," said Brent McKinney, PART's executive director.

The study will look at the advantages and disadvantages of all possibilities, including making no changes to the Triad's transportation system, McKinney said. But it's not too early for PART to start thinking about commuter rail, he said.

An initial 10-station segment from Greensboro to Winston-Salem would cost $319 million to build and have trains arriving every 15 to 20 minutes, McKinney said. The initial line would take 50 minutes to travel. More stops could be added.

Local and regional bus service would also need to expand to bring train riders to the stations or take them from the stations to their final destination.

Why mass transit?

Roads alone cannot keep pace with the region's growth. PART studies show that if all the roads planned for construction in the region are built by 2025, congestion will force drivers to more than double the time they spend in their cars.

"We're going to have to do something," said Keith Holliday, Greensboro's mayor and a member of PART's board.

The center for the area's growth will be in Guilford and Forsyth counties. The two counties combined are expected to see a population jump of nearly 38 percent from 727,000 residents in 2000 to more than 1 million in 2030, according to state estimates. Traffic congestion will increase.

That's a concern for a region that is banking its economic future on becoming a distribution hub for the East Coast.

While rail may never be as convenient for some commuters as their cars, future congestion will make commutes more frustrating and force people out of their cars, McKinney said.

Bigelow-Mitchell already finds a commute by car frustrating. She is willing to spend nearly two hours on a bus for a trip that takes 35 to 40 minutes by car. She unwinds on the bus and reads books. Her co-workers comment that she's carrying a new book every day.

McKinney said an expanded bus system alone will not do enough to reduce congestion, but some are skeptical whether rail is the answer.

They say few commuters feel like Bigelow-Mitchell and are willing to trade their free time to avoid the Triad's roads. And they say the region's jobs and homes are too spread out to handle rail, which works best when there is one job center or destination, such as a downtown, that people commute to every day.

."It's very expensive, and it's going to be very tough for it to work," said Keith Debbage, an associate professor of urban geography at UNCG.

Some say that PART should work to increase ridership on its existing bus system before moving on to commuter rail.

"There's hardly anyone on those buses," said Don Wendelken, of Summerfield, a small-business owner who travels across the Triad often. "I don't know how they keep it running."

McKinney said the PART system remains in its infancy. Bus service began in 2002 and handles about 1,000 riders a day, a number that has grown steadily. Passenger surveys on the region's four bus systems show commuters want bus service to increase, and they would use commuter rail, McKinney said.

A rail system would increase ridership, McKinney said, with initial studies estimating about 7,500 rail riders a day.

Given the Triad's sprawling geography and custom of residents driving from door to door for what they need, Debbage questions whether many commuters would use a Winston-Salem-to-Greensboro route. Triad commuters move like the ball in a pinball machine, zigzagging from one place to the next. And growth and commuting patterns can change quickly, something buses can adapt to quickly, Debbage said.

"It's very, very hard for light rail to mimic that," he said.

Bigelow-Mitchell also wonders if a rail system would work in the Triad, given its growth outside downtowns.

"It looks like more and more stuff is happening farther out," she said.

But planners have an idea where growth is going now and feel the Interstate 40 corridor between Greensboro and Winston-Salem will continue to become congested, said Sandy Carmany, the PART board chairwoman and a member of the Greensboro City Council.

"I think the development pattern is pretty well set," she said.

Geoff King, a commercial and industrial real estate broker, is an outspoken critic of rail in the Triad. He thinks a rail line wouldn't go where people want to go, so it won't make a dent in congestion.

"What good is an alternative if it has no impact on traffic?" King said.

McKinney said trains and buses will reduce traffic. If Triad commuters took a train or bus just one day a week, there would be a 20 percent reduction in traffic on the roads.

King thinks the money would be better spent elsewhere and that commuter rail could take away funding from needed highway projects.

"Don't force it on us and keep building on it and hope it works," he said.

All aboard?

If PART decides to build commuter rail, the project would go through a lengthy federal and environmental review that would span a decade and include public meetings and hearings.

The Triad would have to compete with other regions across the country for federal funding. McKinney is confident the Triad would be competitive, particularly with the line running along an existing Norfolk Southern rail corridor. That means less work is needed to determine whether the corridor is suitable for rail and less money is needed to buy land.

Once the study is completed, and if rail or an enhanced bus system is recommended, PART will submit its proposal to the federal government and begin preliminary engineering. Trains could start rolling in 2014.

"It's possible," McKinney said. "It's also very possible for that to slip."

Who would pay for it?

Holliday, who said he thinks both bus and rail are needed, said momentum will build among local leaders and residents for mass transit once the study is released.

The decision to build rail will come down to money.

"My biggest concern: Is the cost of commuter rail worth it?" he said. "The jury's still out on that."

If a rail or an enhanced bus system is approved for funding, the federal and state governments would pay about 75 percent.

Some say that large influx of federal money may help drive the push for a Triad rail project, not the need.

"They are chasing a huge pot of money," Debbage said.

King thinks, based on his observations and readings, that some officials are already pushing for commuter rail before the study is over.

"This was an answer looking for a question," he said.

Local officials who serve on PART's board caution that the results of the study are not in.

"Rail is looked at as the more viable option, but it's also the more expensive option," Carmany said.

Area governments would have to find a way to pay the remaining 25 percent before the federal government agrees to spend money. That could cost an estimated $42 million to $80 million to build a bus system or rail line between Greensboro and Winston-Salem. PART has begun to look at how to come up with that money.

PART leaders have already said that money could come from an undetermined tax increase. PART currently relies on a rental car tax in Forsyth and Guilford counties for much of its funding. Officials hope other area counties will contribute as well.

High Point Mayor Becky Smothers, a PART board member and among a group looking at funding issues, advocates for an alternative as cities such as San Diego have done -- give all in the Triad something to improve their commutes. A commuter rail line from Winston-Salem to Greensboro won't do that, she said.

The only way to get Triad taxpayers to agree to fund such a rail line may be to build new roads for other parts of the region, she said.

"The public has to agree to use it," she said. "But we're just so wedded to these cars."

Bigelow-Mitchell believes that too. She often hears co-workers talk about how they may try the bus system, but most haven't done it.

"They talk about it ... but I haven't seen a big group yet," she said.

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JunktionFET    0

Rumor has it that PART and the city of Winston-Salem are taking the initial steps necessary to reclaim Union Station as eminent domain. I have not found any recent articles about it, but someone alluded to this on another forum.

Though Mr. Davis has expressed a desire to stay in the station, surely even he can respect what this station is and what it means for the city. Nobody wants to be forced to do anything, but this isn't just any piece of property, and therefore it shouldn't be treated as a "I peed on it, now it's mine" situation. :)

Once acquired and restored, the station can act as an endpoint for the Asheville passenger rail line, future PART regional rail, future potential HSR routing, as well as other modes of transit. If completed, Greensboro and Winston-Salem will have the only two historical and multi-modal stations in the state that I'm aware of. All of the other proposed multi-modal stations are new construction.

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orulz    106

Here is the latest article (November 10th - use bugmenot) regarding the W-S Union Depot.

The gist is, PART has put off considering whether or not to fund restoration of the depot until the city has come up with a clear plan to acquire it. The article makes it seem like the city is willing to resort to eminent domain, but that PART wants no part in any such proceedings.

The owner of the garage, Harvey Davis, is on very bad terms with the city at the moment (hence the discussion of emminent domain) though he clearly understands this building's importance and doesn't appear to have anything in mind that would engender its historic significance. He has, however, expressed interest in restoring the building privately, and states that he would also consider renovating at least part of it for use as a transit station. That would probably mean PART, WSTA, and NCDOT/Amtrak leasing space in a building that he owns. I see nothing in particular wrong with this arrangement; NCDOT is already planning something similar for the new Durham train station in the Walker Warehouse.

Edited by orulz

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orulz    106

Once acquired and restored, the station can act as an endpoint for the Asheville passenger rail line, future PART regional rail, future potential HSR routing, as well as other modes of transit. If completed, Greensboro and Winston-Salem will have the only two historical and multi-modal stations in the state that I'm aware of. All of the other proposed multi-modal stations are new construction.
While Greensboro and Winston-Salem would certainly be the largest historical multimodal stations in the state, I don't think they're the only ones.

In High Point, the Hi-Tran bus station is right next to the train station (on the same block!), although the Greyhound station is about a block west of there.

Goldsboro is also considering using their union station as the home for their transit system, once they have train service. Not sure about greyhound.

There may be others, but I can't think of them off the top of my head.

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