ChiefJoJo

2035 Triangle Regional Transit Vision Plan

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Here's a link to my semi-fantasy transit plan I've been working on for a while off and on in my free time since the STAC started getting into their more detailed plans last fall. I say semi-fantasy because--in my semi-educated opinion--I think all of this could be built... eventually...2050? It expands the STAC plan in a more comprehensive network with rail service, so you can see how the region could be connected more seamlessly. It builds on the STAC plan for the Chapel Hill to Durham LRT (light blue) and Durham to Raleigh DMU lines (red), but adds on...

  • an extended Red Line up to Wake Forest. The STAC looked at that extent, but reduced the scope due to cost. There's already a lot of commuters making this trip now on US1.
  • the circulator routes the STAC released in their initial plan for Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh. In my plan, they are all streetcars, but I assumed the RTP and Cary are buses (not shown). These make a number of important intra-city connections and would help stimulate redevelopment in some areas (parcels shown in light red).
  • a Purple Line, which would extend from downtown Apex to Cary to DT Raleigh out to Zebulon. This would run on the CSX corridor from Apex, but then run together on the new TTA tracks for the Red Line until north of the Govt Center station in Raleigh where it would veer off on the NS corridor on new tracks. The STAC looked at this, but not in much detail (cost/demand).
  • the proposed NCRR Commuter Rail (Silver Line) route from Burlington & points west to Goldsboro (Historic Union Station), plus a spur line from Burlington over to Carolina North and Carrboro at Main St. The main line would run on shared freight tracks on the NCRR and stop at some of the same locations as the Red Line for transfers to other lines, buses, streetcars (DT Durham, RTP, Cary, NCSU, DT Raleigh), and high-speed rail in some places (DT Durham, Cary, DT Raleigh).
  • the Pink Line to RDU, which is on the STAC Plan, but not very well defined. I'm calling for a BRT line from the Triangle Metro Center to RDU.
  • finally a Midtown LRT (Black Line) in Raleigh. This is the only new concept--at least I've never seen it before. It would start at Crabtree, follow I-440 to North Hills, over to near St. Albans Dr and down to Duke Raleigh Hospital.... then down to the old Alcatel site (TOD), and over to a new dual transit station for both the Red Line & Black Line at Whitaker Mill and Atlantic Ave (area with tones of redev potential).... down to the reclaimed NS Glenwood Yard near Five Points, and back down the NS line to Glenwood South & the MTC downtown at the Boylan Wye. I'd always thought tying in Crabtree & North Hills ought to be done somehow (since they're both major centers) and this seems like the best way. When you add in the hospital, Alcatel site, Atlantic warehouses, and near Five Points, you can see the potential in tying all those areas together. It could be extended out to Pleasant Valley too.

Of course, I'm assuming there'd be fantastic bus service connecting everything together. Also, the red triangles are the 2 major multimodal centers in Durham and Raleigh, and the large blue bus symbols are secondary transit centers connecting to at least 2 rapid transit lines. I went a little nuts with all the redevelopment parcels, but if you add it up, you can really get a sense of how much underused land could be redeveloped for some of those 1M+ people who are moving here.

I thought about connecting to Fuquay-Varina via commuter rail, but there's not much in between so they get a bus :P . I considered extending the Black Line south to the convention center or over to Dix, but there's not too many other "centers" to hit other than maybe Garner, and they already have CR. What did I miss?

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ChiefJoJo, your plan is amazing. I especially like the idea of the black line around the beltline, because it ties in places that would not be served. It would make the area feel like a great urban area... assuming anything like it gets built. Would it be rail? monorail?

Anyway, have you tried to submit your ideas to whoever plans this stuff? Seriously, it's great.

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How about extending the black line up Glennwood to the Airport and Briar Creek and then tie into the RTP North Station. Or you could extend the black line around to Rex Hospital to the Art Museum to the Vet School/Stadium and tie into the Fairgrounds Station.

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How about extending the black line up Glenwood to the Airport and Briar Creek and then tie into the RTP North Station. Or you could extend the black line around to Rex Hospital to the Art Museum to the Vet School/Stadium and tie into the Fairgrounds Station.

I considered extending it up as far as Pleasant Valley SC. I think that could make sense, but US 70 & LRT is tricky. Clearly, there is a lot of "pull" from Brier Creek and RTP, but both are difficult to serve by transit as current formed, and LRT is mostly designed for closely spaced stations (1/2-2 miles apart). If there are long gaps, it might be a waste of money to extend it that far... not to mention Umstead and the steep grades out there. Tying the black line into West Raleigh might work, but only very long term IMO. It could be the first loop light rail line! :silly: My thought was to let the Red Line be the regional E-W spine and build eveything off that, and if the STAC plan is implemented, the regional rail line will be probably be more than adequate as the spine which ties the region together. Of course, the great thing about rail is that when ridership peaks, just add more vehicles and you've got plenty of extra capacity.

I didn't intend on this, but way down the road, you could imagine Raleigh being a bit like Dallas is on the DART long range plan. In that analogy, the Texas Railway Express (TRE) connects Dallas to Fort Worth like Raleigh would be connected to Durham. Notice DART TRE also has an airport link, but it's not directly connected by rail (only by a free shuttle), like RDU would be in the STAC plan.

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Mods, I can't seem to find the thread with comments about bus shelter requirements in Raleigh (CAT thread is closed) but wanted to add a thought that occurred to me while driving down Hillsborough St just now. Setting a standard of 10 for a bench and 25 for a shelter is a very reactionary approach to bus system use. The system should study development...work with the planning folks and determine where they want/have/need dense development and go ahead and put in shelter now.......not like the never used shelters along Centennial Pkwy where there was no development at all, but I know at least one reason I don't ride is the waiting areas suck real bad. I know places where if a shelter was put in people would gravitate there from other nearby stops perhaps reducing the number of stops some....I see people at Capital Brentwood everyday, I know it gets 20 riders a day...so does Capital north bound at Highwoods......the cost of those would easily be covered by an increase in ridership I believe.....be proactive about this system......it was plain horrible to see that Charlotte has about 5 times the number of buses we do in the paper this weekend.

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The problem I see with the two stops in Cary is the lack of available parking. I know Charlotte is dealing with that problem six months into their one route. There is no way DT cary would make sense unless they build a parking deck that would allow 200-300 cars. The NW Cary Pkwy would have to house 500-600 cars. We are talking about a town that has 130,000 and will have close to 150,000 by the time this things gets rolling. No parking creates a lot of unwanted problems and additional manpower to police the no parking zones.

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The system should study development...work with the planning folks and determine where they want/have/need dense development and go ahead and put in shelter now....

I agree. Would it be something if we required developers to build both (1) bike racks and (2) transit shelters in turn for development approval? We do it for roads, water and sewer, so the least we could do is tell them to add in some multimodal amenities... maybe in exchange for reduced or eliminated parking requirements. Asphalt pavement and concrete costs a whole lot more than a couple of racks and some benches. I still say we should allow advertising to pay for adding benches, but there seems to be obstacles with DOT there.

The problem I see with the two stops in Cary is the lack of available parking. I know Charlotte is dealing with that problem six months into their one route. There is no way DT cary would make sense unless they build a parking deck that would allow 200-300 cars. The NW Cary Pkwy would have to house 500-600 cars. We are talking about a town that has 130,000 and will have close to 150,000 by the time this things gets rolling. No parking creates a lot of unwanted problems and additional manpower to police the no parking zones.

I have to disagree with you. Charlotte has smartly taken the view that building rapid transit lines--be it LRT, BRT, commuter rail, etc--is mostly about changing land use. As a result, many of the stations on the Lynx LRT do not allow any park and ride lots. They want to encourage more development, not more parking lots. To that end in the Triangle, it would not make sense to put up any additional public parking in downtown Cary, as that would be the logical place to encourage more dense development that rapid transit is meant to support. That is the whole point. It might make sense to have some parking available in NW Cary, but downtown should not have any. Downtown Cary is one of the few places in town where a discernable, walkable grid exists, but guess what? There's zero condos and very few offices. If you add rapid transit with quick reliable access to RTP, Downtown Raleigh and Downtown Durham, all of a sudden you have a new market for development.

We have to change the paradigm such that instead of building more obsolete roads or trying to imagine how transit could fit into a car-centric lifestyle, we begin to imagine how transit and land use could create new living, employment and travel markets 'off the grid,' free and clear of auto-dependency.

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Here is the aforementioned (more like threatened) link to this interesting study. I would say that it is pretty accurate.

United States of Mind, Wall Street Journal 09/23/08

I call your attention to the darker blue states on the Openness chart. What you are looking at with these lower numbered (higher score) states, is virtually a roll-call list of states with activist rail transit systems. The only two states in the same quintile as NC that have implemented rail systems -- Arizona (which scored a couple of points better, and Minnesota, which surprisingly scored 7 points worse). Those two states are far more urbanized than NC, so the trick there is to keep transit solutions as regional as possible, and span the benefit as far out as you can. In this case, bigger really would be better.

No how in Hades South Carolina came in with a 26 on this scale, I don't know. But if you look around, you see NC framed by states with either commuter rail, or heavy rail systems, or both. It really should not be this hard.

No point here. Just interesting stuff. Uh, buh, bye... :alc:

Edited by vitaviatic

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Interesting link. I would say that while NC as a whole might not be as open as we'd like, the Triangle (at least the 3 counties) is probably the most progressive part of the state, and with every new resident from other parts of the country and world, the area changes (mostly) for the better.

FYI, the transit thread was renamed because the new "vision" represents the first new collaborately-developed, regional plan in a decade, replacing the old TTA project. The "vision" aspect is only technicality, as there is a saying: 'If you can't pay for it, you don't have a plan.'

The lack of activity in this topic is not a reflection of the work being done outside of cyberspace. There are a lot efforts underway to make transit a reality here. It just takes time, and we have to make it through the election cycle and then to the next general assembly session to see what happens. Rest assured that there will be a lot of interest in making sure that this region (and hopefully the Triad, and maybe others) will gain the opportunity to get a viable transit system going ASAP.

On that note, everyone should make sure and sign this petition to support the STAC plan (shown here).

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FYI, the NCRR's shared track commuter rail study is complete and there is a meeting to view the results:

The North Carolina Railroad Company invites you

to an information session to discuss the results of the

Shared Corridor Commuter Rail Capacity Study.

October 9, 2008

10:00 a.m.

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FYI, the NCRR's shared track commuter rail study is complete and there is a meeting to view the results:

The North Carolina Railroad Company invites you

to an information session to discuss the results of the

Shared Corridor Commuter Rail Capacity Study.

October 9, 2008

10:00 a.m.

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The study results are posted online. Quick notes:

  • Greensboro to Burlington: 23 miles, 41 minutes, $213M, $9.3M/mi
  • Burlington to W. Durham: 24 miles, 36 minutes, $56M, $2.3M/mi
  • W. Durham to Raleigh: 35 miles, 50 minutes, $250M, $7.1M/mi
  • Raleigh to Goldsboro: 49 miles, 80 minutes, $116M, $2.2M.mi
  • W. Durham to Carrboro connector: 10 miles, 24 minutes, $24M, $2.4M/mi

  • rolling stock: $283M
  • maintenance facility & storage: $73M
  • rail infrastructure: $657M
  • total cost = $1B (all costs in 2010 dollars)

It is also worthy to note that there has been some talk lately about possibly opening up the NCRR corridor to light rail vehicles on separate tracks. You may recall that previously the railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) had stated that light rail would not be permitted in the NCRR ROW, but now there has been some discussion on relaxing those rules... the CAMPO even has looked at a potential light rail line running all the way from Durham that would veer off the NCRR tracks and onto the downtown street grid at the Convention Center and run at grade along Salisbury and Wilmington St back up to the CSX rail corridor near Peace St. The concept is attached below.

As cool is it sounds, all-LRT is probably not the best idea either. 58 miles of light rail at say $60M/mi would be astronomically pricey, and it doesn't even make a lot of sense, as LRT is designed more for frequent short/medium-distance intracity operation than long distance intercity operation that is more suited to commuter rail or DMU. If LRT is allowed in the NCRR corridor, perhaps the best solution might be a hybrid: build the shared track commuter rail from Greensboro to Durham, Cary, Raleigh and Goldsboro with the Chapel Hill to Durham LRT on the west side of the Triangle and do a Cary to Downtown Raleigh to NE Raleigh LRT with the line jumping off the rail corridor where needed (ie, downtown).

post-1957-1223584426_thumb.jpg

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I assume there's a more detailed study document out there, but the "summary" document and the PDF doesn't have that much information that we didn't already know.

Here are some notes about what they want to do:

-Double track the NCRR from Greensboro to Burlington, and from the University branch to Cary.

-A small portion of the service would be run with DMUs, other parts would be run with push-pull locomotives.

-The maps indicate a potential extension west of Greensboro. I suppose that would be the K-line to Winston-Salem.

-The plan would include some improvements to grade crossings and possibly some grade separations as well, but they're not listed anywhere.

-Could be built in phases

I think they have drastically underestimated the expense of running into Carrboro and Chapel Hill. They assumed that they will only need to build new sidings. At the very least, though, they'll have to refurbish the line with new ballast and replace most of the crossties. More likely, they'll have to replace some or all of the rail, and probably even do some engineering work on the right-of-way, such as stabilizing embankments and refurbishing bridges over creeks.

This project is conceptually similar to New Mexico's Rail Runner, except our corridor is more complicated, more densely populated, and longer. Their line is projected to cost about $390 million when done. Where did New Mexico get the money for this? Well, the truth is, their governor is very popular, and the RailRunner is his baby. The construction of the line is being funded entirely by the state. Not sure if there was a separate appropriation, or if they just built it from gas tax money. No contributions from the feds, cities, or counties. Operational funding is another issue; that is left up to the counties and municipalities along the line. It's important to note that New Mexico got their system started in good economic times.

$1 billion is a hefty price tag, but then again this is a pretty far-reaching commuter system. If this concept gains any traction, hopefully somebody very high up will champion it at the state level. Given the expense of the segments in less urban counties like Alamance and Wayne, if it were to happen, expecting a 25% local contribution may be impossible. If things change in Washington, the feds may be able to contribute funding, but like in New Mexico the state would also have to step up to the plate in a big way.

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It is also worthy to note that there has been some talk lately about possibly opening up the NCRR corridor to light rail vehicles on separate tracks. You may recall that previously the railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) had stated that light rail would not be permitted in the NCRR ROW, but now there has been some discussion on relaxing those rules... the CAMPO even has looked at a potential light rail line running all the way from Durham that would veer off the NCRR tracks and onto the downtown street grid at the Convention Center and run at grade along Salisbury and Wilmington St back up to the CSX rail corridor near Peace St. The concept is attached below.

As cool is it sounds, all-LRT is probably not the best idea either. 58 miles of light rail at say $60M/mi would be astronomically pricey, and it doesn't even make a lot of sense, as LRT is designed more for frequent short/medium-distance intracity operation than long distance intercity operation that is more suited to commuter rail or DMU. If LRT is allowed in the NCRR corridor, perhaps the best solution might be a hybrid: build the shared track commuter rail from Greensboro to Durham, Cary, Raleigh and Goldsboro with the Chapel Hill to Durham LRT on the west side of the Triangle and do a Cary to Downtown Raleigh to NE Raleigh LRT with the line jumping off the rail corridor where needed (ie, downtown).

That's an interesting thought. Is there really a need for multiple trains per hour between Raleigh and Durham at midday? Perhaps not. Then again, electric LRT is more expensive, but there's no reason that a light rail DMU line would have to cost more than a "regional rail" DMU line. It might actually be cheaper: bridges could be lighter, grades steeper, curves tighter, vehicles would not have to be developed, etc. You can still put the stations wherever you want, so you could probably achieve exactly the same running time as the TTA regional rail line, though it would be hard to resist the temptation to include a few more stops.

The downtown alignment you posted seems like it would serve the entire downtown core quite well. I guess that would probably be in mixed traffic. I Wonder what the travel time from Pilot Mill to the Intermodal center would be? Pretty long I guess, but signal priority might make it tolerble. There may be other possibilities to speed it up. For example, turn Wilmington into a two-way street and make Salisbury a transit mall. This is similar to what Dallas did. Or, pie in the sky, go underground, first under Davie or Martin and then up McDowell or Salisbury. How much per mile does underground light rail cost anyway? The one-way pair on Wilmington and Salisbury may turn out to be the best / most economical / least disruptive option, but it's always worthwhile to examine the alternatives. I mention this because in my limited experience with mixed traffic street-running LRT (Baltimore is the only place in the US I've actually ridden one) I was not impressed at all with the speed, convenience, or aesthetics of the LRT's run down Howard Street.

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Personally I like HTIB study and the idea of commuter rail along the NCRR. This is similar to the vision I have had for this part of NC since I moved from NYC. Commuter rail would serve Alamance County commuters well. There are alot of large abandoned and lightly used warehouses some dating from the late 1800s which could be revitilized and used for TODs. As gas prices go up and people grow tired of their commute, I can see many people heading to DUKE and UNC hospitals, RTP, and Downtown Raleigh boarding at the Burlington, and Mebane stations (Graham should be included). Also People in the Alamance County would have excellent access to Elon, Elon Law School, UNCG and NCAT. The whole University Road station concept is cool except for the fact there is nothing there at the moment. When I look at the Blue Line I notice only 2 peak hour trains will travel past West Durham, I am assuming the other two travel all the way to Greensboro.

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^ I like the commuter rail concept too, and at $1B for the entire line from Greensboro to Goldsboro, it's actually cheap and might be effective.

That's an interesting thought. Is there really a need for multiple trains per hour between Raleigh and Durham at midday? Perhaps not. Then again, electric LRT is more expensive, but there's no reason that a light rail DMU line would have to cost more than a "regional rail" DMU line. It might actually be cheaper: bridges could be lighter, grades steeper, curves tighter, vehicles would not have to be developed, etc. You can still put the stations wherever you want, so you could probably achieve exactly the same running time as the TTA regional rail line, though it would be hard to resist the temptation to include a few more stops.

The downtown alignment you posted seems like it would serve the entire downtown core quite well. I guess that would probably be in mixed traffic. I Wonder what the travel time from Pilot Mill to the Intermodal center would be? Pretty long I guess, but signal priority might make it tolerble. There may be other possibilities to speed it up. For example, turn Wilmington into a two-way street and make Salisbury a transit mall. This is similar to what Dallas did. Or, pie in the sky, go underground, first under Davie or Martin and then up McDowell or Salisbury. How much per mile does underground light rail cost anyway? The one-way pair on Wilmington and Salisbury may turn out to be the best / most economical / least disruptive option, but it's always worthwhile to examine the alternatives. I mention this because in my limited experience with mixed traffic street-running LRT (Baltimore is the only place in the US I've actually ridden one) I was not impressed at all with the speed, convenience, or aesthetics of the LRT's run down Howard Street.

There are a few reasons to like all LRT, and that is flexibility of going off the rail corridor, electrification (no diesel fuel), and continuity of the system (one vehicle type, one VMF, and no transfers). The flexibility comes in with the downtown area, where you could penetrate the travel market quite well by running along Wilmington and Salisbury St, and possibly further up the line in North Raleigh, with possible extensions to North Hills and Crabtree as I envisioned. Electrification instead of DMU would be better for long term sustainability and resistance from spikes in fuel costs. And there would be some savings by having only LRVs, one VMF (not sure they could pull that off starting on both ends of the Triangle), and the big benefit of no transfers. I've ridden on Portland's MAX, which has some mixed traffic operation, and it operates quite well, even if travel time suffers a bit despite signal priority at surface streets. IIRC, Seattle is building a LRT partially U/G and I believe that it's $250M/mi.

Of course this is all just conjecture now, but I don't like the operational and cost aspects of this... is there an LRT line that approaches 60 miles in length anywhere in the world? I doubt it, and the reason is because it's usually not intended to make that sort of trip. I wouldn't want to have to stand on a LRV for 75-90 minute trip from North Raleigh to UNC, for example. You may be right about potential for reducing cost with lighter vehicles, but I think adding 60 miles worth of electrical equipment more than makes up for the difference. One potential equalizer would be some sort of federal carbon cap scheme that might increase the cost of DMU emissions and make LRT more attractive, since it coule be eventually paired with a smart grid powered by renewables. At some point, we need to get on with it... soon.

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Personally I like HTIB study and the idea of commuter rail along the NCRR. This is similar to the vision I have had for this part of NC since I moved from NYC. Commuter rail would serve Alamance County commuters well. There are alot of large abandoned and lightly used warehouses some dating from the late 1800s which could be revitilized and used for TODs.

The ability of low-frequency, rush-hour only rail service to shape growth in the US is questionable, even in cities where connections to an excellent urban rail system exist. There will be lots of pressure for the commuter rail stations to be surrounded by huge parking fields.

Growth from Commuter Rail Limited

NIMBYism also plays a role. Maybe in downtown Burlington or Selma, which are comparatively moribund compared to other downtowns in NC, this development would be welcome and more likely. Simply put, commuter rail doesn't allow anyone living on this line to give up a car, unless perhaps they live in Downtown Raleigh and commute to work somewhere else along the line.

I'm not saying that commuter rail doesn't have a role in this region or that some of these services may not be well-patronized. I am saying that if transit is not an end in itself, but a means to more compact, mixed-use communities that cost less to serve with public infrastructure than conventional suburbs, and are also less dependent on fossil fuels for economic activity, then commuter rail is not very likely to help with those goals in the way that light rail would.

Edited by transitman

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A couple of notes based on rumblings I've heard:

1. The general feeling I get from talking to some close to the situation is that NCRR may have ulterior motives for proposing this system at the time it did. Certainly, it was not a coincidence that the study was commissioned during the STAC discussions on major transit investments. Some say that NCRR simply wants the public to finance the construction of "their" additional tracks instead of cash from their lease payments. NCRR would benefit with increased capacity, making room for more freight (= profit) while placating the public's increasing appetite for some form of basic rail transit. Keep in mind that the state of NC owns NCRR, but it is a for profit company. I think these folks view the proposal as having some merit, but also a bit of a distraction from the push to focus on the primary corridors the STAC recommended, ie, Chapel Hill to Durham to Raleigh to N. Raleigh.

2. Speaking of STAC, everything I hear from the Wake County side is that DMU seems to be falling from interest, as the FRA and railroads seem to be opening up to the idea of accomodating light rail in the NCRR corridor. Apart from the technically-based reasons I listed above, DMU just isn't as sexy as light rail--especailly the "diesel" part. Also, it's likely that any referendum will send 100% of the money generated in each county back to be spent in that county. This is good for Wake, the region's most populous county by far, but could lead to some challenges in building out a system (including buses) that will cross county lines in several places.

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Of course NCRR has some degree of self-serving ulterior motives for their proposal. But the recommendations can be implemented incrementally, and the end goal of a mostly double-track NCRR is one that would serve us well from a HSR, commuter, and freight standpoint.

I suppose the move to light rail makes sense from a flexibility standpoint. It would allow for more stops (and therefore more development) due to better acceleration, street running where it makes sense, and would also not be tied to fossil fuels. At least in theory, LRVs can run just as fast as a DMU can, too (70mph) but you probably need more expensive catenary to make it happen.

When you say that that this is what Wake County is considering, I guess you mean they are considering Light Rail on the 20 mile NW Cary -> downtown Raleigh -> Durant Road corridor? If the entire line from Chapel Hill to Durant Road were built as one long light rail line, it would be a total of 54 miles - certainly be the longest light rail line in the country. Interesting thought.

BTW, I'm interested in where you got the picture showing a light rail line on Salisbury/Wilmington. Was there any other material that came with it?

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Of course NCRR has some degree of self-serving ulterior motives for their proposal. But the recommendations can be implemented incrementally, and the end goal of a mostly double-track NCRR is one that would serve us well from a HSR, commuter, and freight standpoint.

I suppose the move to light rail makes sense from a flexibility standpoint. It would allow for more stops (and therefore more development) due to better acceleration, street running where it makes sense, and would also not be tied to fossil fuels. At least in theory, LRVs can run just as fast as a DMU can, too (70mph) but you probably need more expensive catenary to make it happen.

When you say that that this is what Wake County is considering, I guess you mean they are considering Light Rail on the 20 mile NW Cary -> downtown Raleigh -> Durant Road corridor? If the entire line from Chapel Hill to Durant Road were built as one long light rail line, it would be a total of 54 miles - certainly be the longest light rail line in the country. Interesting thought.

BTW, I'm interested in where you got the picture showing a light rail line on Salisbury/Wilmington. Was there any other material that came with it?

WRT NCRR, it seems they floated the idea, hoping the someone else would take it and run with it. Again, it has some merit, but I would place it lower in priority than the STAC corridors, with the possible exception of Raleigh to Durham, which definitely should be double tracked and accomodations made for HSR. But I think the state should definitely share the cost, given the benefits realized.

Indeed, what has been proposed is a 50+ mile light rail line (Here is the link to CAMPO's maps), and as I said above, on either end it seems appropriate for the context of those corridors, but for the Cary to Durham segment, not so much. I think vitaviatic pointed this out before, but operationally, DMU is much better suited for a mix of medium and longer distance travel than LRT, so I wonder whether if the plan is for all LRT, whether the folks in charge (FTA) would go along with something like that. So my thought is go ahead and build LRT from Chapel Hill to Durham and from Cary to NE Raleigh, but maybe think about rush hour commuter rail in between and in a few outlying areas like Garner, Wake Forest, Apex, and Burlington. It's much cheaper & quicker to put in place, and would bridge the gap between east and west (RTP/RDU). Essentially, you would have something closer to DART, where there's two urban systems connected with limited commuter rail. Do we really need 10 minute headways to RTP and Morrisville? It's overkill.

Of course, this is all just a general vision at this point, and if you look at most systems, there has been considerable evolution from the initial plan. Charlotte's centers and corridors vision is evidence of that (they did not have the NE LRT or streetcars in the vision). This is the regional vision to obtain public support; the details will get worked out later. One detail that I'd love to see is the development of streetcar circulators in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, hopefully planned & funded by the respective cities outside the regional transit funds (MSDs/TIFs?).

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I am not sure if this has been discussed before, but do we know or have an idea of which form of transportation is the cheapest to operate after it's already running? Electricity for the Light Rail or the fuel for the DMU's? Considering each train is carrying the same weight and length? What about maintenance? :dontknow:

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I would imagine that electricity is cheaper. On another note, it would be great if we went with electric and went into a deal with Progress Energy and Duke to provide power for the rail service from green sources, which both companies already have services set up for. This way, we could make the project green AND support companies based in NC :) .

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I was looking at dchc's website (durham / orange / chatham MPO) and, parallel to CAMPO's consideration of electric light rail, they are considering a similar option. Much like how CAMPO is considering a deviation from the NCRR downtown, DCHC seems to be looking at a deviation in the vicinity of NCCU. From the map it looks like the plan would go down Lawson and up Alston back to the NCRR.

It seems that the MPO prefers the "Electric STAC" option. I agree, but I hope the trains aren't limited to a top speed of 55mph. With 4 or 5 miles between stops in the RTP area, an extra 15 or 20mph might make the schedule as much as 5 minutes faster.

In any case, we need to get this ball rolling ASAP regardless of what winds up getting chosen as the LPA. There's no guaranteeing that an administration as friendly to transit as the one taking office in 2009 will be in office in 2013. I say dirt needs to turn by November 2012 or else the chances of a transit line not happening go up big time.

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Now that the feds are supposedly open to LRT in the NCRR corridor, everyone is pushing for all LRT now. Also, the options on DCHC's plan are identical to the CAMPO plan on purpose, since they are in the same region (travel forecasting model, etc).

With regard to operating costs, LRT is cheaper, since it removes diesel fuel from the equation, and as Gard points out, opens up opportunities for renewable sources to power the grid. I have even heard of the possibility of the development of a hybrid LRV using regenerative breaking on that returns some power to the vehicle. So, from a sustainability standpoint, LRT is definitely better, although more expensive up front. I am still not sure how a line this long would operate, but that can be worked out later.

To orulz's point, it's too bad we don't have our house in order, because there is a very good chance we'll see a $50-60B federal infrastructure stimulus package early next year. This will be for projects that are ready to go, but do not have funding in place... and that is not the case here.

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