Jump to content

2035 Triangle Regional Transit Vision Plan


ChiefJoJo

Recommended Posts

  • 6 months later...

Voters inside Raleigh certainly are. Voters in the county outside Raleigh, maybe or maybe not. Several precincts in the county had less than 10% turnout. Almost none had more than 20%. One precinct in Raleigh had 37%, and a number of them had more than 30%. Difficult to predict what happens in 12 months from these results.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

While Durham and Orange proceed apace with planning their light rail corridor and applying to the FTA for a New Starts grant, there is a movement afoot to send Wake back to the drawing board.

 

The RTA, a rather powerful organization of businesses that lobbies for local transportation investments, has suggested abandoning, or at least re-studying, the LRT approach in favor of BRT for Raleigh and Wake County. They are still in favor of the Commuter Rail line.

 

My take is that when they say BRT, they basically mean "enhanced bus service." True BRT would be a dedicated corridor not in shared traffic, with priority given at grade crossings and serving dense areas with potential for TOD. I could definitely support that, but I don't think that is what RTA is proposing. The biggest problem with BRT is that it is too easy to water down. For example, using a corridor like HIllsborough would result in a "BRT" corridor that is in fact little more than fancy bus shelters. BRT stops in the middle of I-40 would not support TOD at all.

 

That said, incrementally enhanced bus service absolutely has a place here. There are several corridors where it would make great sense such as Glenwood or New Bern. But for arguably the most important corridor, heading west from Downtown towards Cary and RTP, Western Blvd is in the wrong place, and Hillsborough is not wide nor fast enough to ever be a satisfactory BRT corridor. Maybe if they could get BRT into the NCRR corridor, or somehow improve the planned commuter rail service to have frequent trains all day combined with enhanced bus service in other corridors, I could agree.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

RTA is mainly driven by the large employers in RTP. Do not discount their clout. They still represent the lion's share of corporate employment in the Triangle.

 

I am sympathetic to those in outlying Wake County and even Raleigh OTB for whom the proposed LRT would be largely irrelevant. BRT is the only feasible option for those people; taxing them for LRT whose benefits are either (1) limited to a mile or two either side of the rail corridor or (2) future TOD on a build-it-and-they-will-come basis is politically difficult. This dynamic in Wake County is fundamentally different from the recent referendums in Orange and Durham.

 

One would hope that a hybrid plan emerges that is neither 100% pure LRT nor 100% pure BRT.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a great thing when people walk to work. I usually do, either here in Raleigh (25 feet from my bedroom to my office) or in London where I spend a third of my time. But setting aside the number of work-at-home folks, I would guess that fewer than 5,000 people in Wake County walk to work.. 0.5% of the population. How many could walk to work (at both ends) if TOD is a big success? In 20 years, perhaps 2%. 

 

I'm not arguing about what's best; I'm talking about political practicality. The combined population of Apex, Holly Springs, and Fuquay-Varina and nearby unannexed territory is approaching 100,000 people. If the overwhelming majority of them vote No in the referendum, supporters of the referendum have a big disadvantage to overcome. Somebody has got to figure out how to sell a mass transit proposal to the entire county, not just ITB.

 

Remember, only about 30% of the Raleigh population is ITB. Suppose that 80% of them vote Yes. Suppose that Raleigh OTB splits 50-50. And suppose that the rest of Wake County votes 70% No. If you make the assumption that turnout is equal throughout the county, the referendum fails with only 43% Yes county-wide. This is the calculus that supporters must overcome.

Edited by ctl
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Two different ads on the radio are promoting a new deal for car dealerships.  Buy one, get one free.  You read that right.  Get an extra car when you buy one.  Driving is just too prevalent in this area.  But the same was the case for every other city before they built extensive mass transportation systems. 

 

The truth is, you will never know how the culture will change until you give it options to change.  Right now, the bus system is improving little by little but still has a long ways to go - and mainly impacts intercity trips.  The biggest headache regionally is I-40, so therefore the biggest impact can be made there - hopefully with the commuter rail project.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


After a few nights in Minneapolis I am now thoroughly convinced our bus system is nothing short of horrendous. Up there I could catch a bus on almost every block within a several mile radius and for many hours they came every ten minutes. Really. It's absolutely terrible here and it makes me angry. An immediate infusion of about 4 times as much money plus major revamping of routes through multiple hubs is essential. 

 

I did a several year stint in fast food. Many franchises would not add employees to reduce service time until they had the customers to support it. However the single biggest sales of this chain were with a franchise that let a particular manager spend the restaurant negative for a year or so by over staffing so people would never have to wait over two minutes to get in and out. This restaurant now does sales 3-4 times an average restaurant does in this chain. They employ 18-20 people at lunch while most use 6-9. This certainly applies to transit. It simply must be there, and be good or nobody will use it. At some point transit and transportation can and will suffocate growth here. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not surprised at the outlook from the consultants brought in by Wake Co.:

 

Wake County isn't crowded enough to support rail transit, experts say

 

Hopefully they'll at least listen to this guy :  “Do something now and more later,” said Steve E. Polzin of the University of South Florida.

 

If Wake refuses to do anything, can Orange and Durham move forward with their own plans? 

Edited by rooster8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

So they hired these consultants to come in and tell us what we already know, and what the plan that was presented to commissioners years ago already said? Sounds about par for course. We've only been studying transit plans for the area for 30 years. If Coble and his ilk have their way, we will still be planning for rail transit in 2050. If Coble runs another campaign you can count on this showing up as a spun to death talking point. It will probably sound something like, "I saved the Wake taxpayers over a billion dollars on a train that nobody will ride."

Edited by Euphorius
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

If Wake refuses to do anything, can Orange and Durham move forward with their own plans? 

 

Durham and Orange County are not constrained by the Wake County plan in any way except on projects that have one end that begins/ends in Wake County.  This means that the Durham-Wake Commuter Rail line is held up while Wake County does not have a consensus on how to proceed, but that the Durham-Orange line has no constraints on it whatsoever by Wake County actions.

 

Given these conditions, I encourage the moderators to consider if the Durham-Orange corridor should be broken off into its own discussion thread from the broader discussion of regional transit plans.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Reading articles about the meetings, it seems two of the consultants were predictable conservative/libertarian think tank hacks, but Marsella has background with the FasTracks project in Denver and I might be more inclined to listen to him? I don't know his political philosophy though.

 

My first instinct is still that we should move forward with the plan. The way to do that would be to vote out the current county commissioners.

 

If that doesn't happen, I could see spending a few more pragmatic years beefing up bus service before proceeding in earnest with a fixed guideway program in Wake, and possibly allocating more of the capital budget towards short term bus service enhancements in key corridors, especially if it gets the commission to bring the transit tax to a vote sooner. Higher bus ridership would likely help our overall case with the FTA for a light rail line as well. However, I would be opposed to blowing the whole capital budget on something like elevated managed lanes in the median of I-40 that could only incidentally be used by buses, which some of the consultants seem to suggest. I would also be opposed to an indefinite, ideologically motivated moratorium on rail transit.

 

Too bad videos aren't posted online of county commission work sessions. I would love to hear what they had to say.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bringing in guys from Florida to discuss how to develop a City is like asking Monsanto how to run an organic farm. This had the feeling of being completely staged to me. And narrowly focused. Nobody ever wants to discuss development and planning as a backdrop for transit at meetings like this. But hey...the county would never think of doing anything beyond letting the "market" dictate development...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A fly-through video of the Chapel Hill to Durham LRT route is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqijCS_B2U8&feature=youtu.be

The video is a nice visualization of what the route will look like, although I fear (but am not certain) that it misrepresents scale around and between stations.

I do appreciate the difficulty of transit planning and ROW acquisition. However, I was shocked by the choice of routing from UNC Hospitals all the way to West Durham. IMO the routing is problematic because 1) the tracks primarily run along side 4+ lane thoroughfares (limiting pedestrian oriented development to half of station areas), 2) a near total absence of existing residential space adjacent to station areas (I guess the plan is for nearly all the ridership to be park and ride?); 3) nearly all of the commercial development along the route is big-box, surrounded by parking (take a look at the South Square station) and 4) the only trip generator reached in Chapel Hill is the hospital. 5) The routing down NC 54 is primarily through an undevelopable swamp. 6) I have to assume that most stations in Orange county will be built with the hope that new TOD will generate ridership -- is such a rezoning realistic in famously NIMBY Orange county?

Don't get me wrong, I am very pro transit (I ride the lynx several times a week in Charlotte) and believe that rail transit in RDU is absolute necessity. However, as someone who grew up in the Triangle, I fear that the proposed routing is a poor choice if the goal is to foster mobility between anything other than the two big hospitals in the region. Does this routing doom the line to poor ridership from the get go?

EDIT: ok, I looked at the video again and looked at the route from a broader scale as well. I'll conceed that the selected routing is second best (after the prohibitively expensive Franklin, fordham, 15501) and it looks a little less bad at a larger scale than the video can provide. I am still appaled by the lack of connectivity provided in Chapel Hill -- it seems like street running from the current terminus up Columbia / Pittsboro to Franklin is a no brainer. Downtown CH and the adjacent part of campus is essentially the only walkable environment until you reach 9th st.

As someone who grew up in CH I am shocked at how poor the land use planning has been (I always accepted it as normal until I saw the video). It going to be really tough to retrofit the environment -- doubly so without designing LRT so that it can reach the majority of students.

Edited by kermit
Link to comment
Share on other sites


Some of my takeaways from that fly-through video.

  • There sure are a lot of wetlands in Chapel Hill.
  • The route does not hit very many high-density locations
  • And in fact, the vast majority of the route is low-density or not developed.
  • How is there not a station right at the doorstep of DPAC, American Tobacco, Durham Bulls area?

If that 17 mile route is feasible through that amount of density, then I can't believe that the 17 mile route from Millbrook Rd through downtown Raleigh, NCSU and out to downtown Cary isnt feasible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The route doesn't hit particularly high density locations between Durham and Chapel Hill because there really aren't any, but it does hit dense locations at each endpoint, and also hits areas that are already experiencing redevelopment which in my opinion is a formula for long-term success, as long as initial ridership meets projections and the station areas are upzoned.

 

Stopping at the far side of UNC hospital however is definitely not ideal. It serves campus OK, though not perfectly (it's no further from the academic quads than many of the dorms.) The biggest problem is that it's too far from the Franklin Street business district, let alone Carrboro. There was a very conceptual white paper on how to extend light rail further but it isn't in the plan at the moment. My guess is that costs are the issue. Orange is not contributing nearly as much sales tax as Durham, so, politically, the expenditures per county probably need to be roughly proportional to the tax receipts.

 

Regarding a station near DPAC and American Tobacco. It is about 3/4 mile from the Durham Amtrak Station to the planned Dillard Drive station, which seems a little on the long side, considering that this is downtown Durham. For comparison, there is a station about every 0.2 miles through uptown Charlotte. So, another station right next to DPAC, in the vicinity of Blackwell & Mangum, would probably be both reasonable and useful. Perhaps space is the issue, since the NCRR corridor seems to pinch down right there. Or cost? Or perhaps they just don't want to do anything for now pending the outcome of the Traffic Separation Study which might grade separate all the railroad crossings through downtown?

 

I wonder which of the eastern Chapel Hill alternatives will be chosen. I've always preferred the Meadowmont option.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...
The route doesn't hit particularly high density locations between Durham and Chapel Hill because there really aren't any, but it does hit dense locations at each endpoint, and also hits areas that are already experiencing redevelopment which in my opinion is a formula for long-term success, as long as initial ridership meets projections and the station areas are upzoned.

 

Stopping at the far side of UNC hospital however is definitely not ideal. It serves campus OK, though not perfectly (it's no further from the academic quads than many of the dorms.) The biggest problem is that it's too far from the Franklin Street business district, let alone Carrboro. There was a very conceptual white paper on how to extend light rail further but it isn't in the plan at the moment. My guess is that costs are the issue. Orange is not contributing nearly as much sales tax as Durham, so, politically, the expenditures per county probably need to be roughly proportional to the tax receipts.

 

Regarding a station near DPAC and American Tobacco. It is about 3/4 mile from the Durham Amtrak Station to the planned Dillard Drive station, which seems a little on the long side, considering that this is downtown Durham. For comparison, there is a station about every 0.2 miles through uptown Charlotte. So, another station right next to DPAC, in the vicinity of Blackwell & Mangum, would probably be both reasonable and useful. Perhaps space is the issue, since the NCRR corridor seems to pinch down right there. Or cost? Or perhaps they just don't want to do anything for now pending the outcome of the Traffic Separation Study which might grade separate all the railroad crossings through downtown?

 

I wonder which of the eastern Chapel Hill alternatives will be chosen. I've always preferred the Meadowmont option.

 

 

The Durham section of the line looks very logical. It follows the 15-501 corridor and then the Erwin corridor, hitting commercial areas with lots of residential in a 1-mile radius near New Hope Commons, South Square, Duke Hospital, a couple areas Downtown, and NCCU. Couldn't ask for more from a Chapel-Hill to Durham line, really.

 

The Chapel Hill section is what bothers me. It takes a very meandering route away from anything noteworthy and ducks in at a very inconvenient part of the southernmost section of campus. Sure, alright Glen Lennox is becoming a decent hub, but it's a longer, more circuitious route than just following 15-501 to say... Raleigh Road/South Road and then cutting through the center of the campus. There are proposals for stations with new neighborhoods in the empty areas where it stops. So it seems entirely dependent upon new development to justify itself, and not additions to existing centers. I notice the highlighted route still requires removing a number of buildings on campus and building several miles of elevated section, in order to cut over to Mason Farm Rd. Would that really be all that much cheaper than the Raleigh Rd route I'm thinking of, which wouldn't have to remove anything?

 

Ugh... I mean, it's fine. I suspect it would be less time-consuming to just hop off the train onto the CL bus from New Hope Commons to Franklin Street for most people. (CL doesn't actually go out that far but I figure Chapel Hill would do something to its bus connections there to bridge the gap and connect to Durham). If you live in Meadowmont or Glen Lennox you make out like a king though.

Edited by Spatula
Link to comment
Share on other sites

^Have to diasagree about Chapel Hill as this has been designated a transit corridor for years and one reason why the East 54 development was placed here. As someone who made the drive every day from Chapel Hill to Durham, I can understand why there are going with this route. With Chapel Hill bus service being as good as it is, this will work well in CH. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

The tweets I saw from the RTP redesign announcement this morning indicated that the $2billion / 100,000 job plan was directly dependent upon the presence of commuter and light rail to the new park center.

 

While I remain skeptical about the prospects for RTP's redesign success I do think that the announcement represents the strongest possible private sector support for rail transit in the Triangle. Despite their recent struggles, RTP (and RTF) remain a very powerful entity in the Triangle. I wonder if its possible for the state and the Wake County Commission to ignore or delay the request for rail. Surely this changes the complexion of the transit debate in Wake.

Edited by kermit
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wonder if its possible for the state and the Wake County Commission to ignore or delay the request for rail. Surely this changes the complexion of the transit debate in Wake.

 

Sure it's possible.  They're thick skulled and living in the past, denying future growth problems.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They would be idiotic to at this point considering this is the main economic driver in the region. If it goes to a vote then its probably a go-probably why they keep stalling the vote on transit in Wake County. Geolas laid the gauntlet down with this announcement.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If RTP/RTF is taking a strong position on rail -- which is confusing, given that the have been decidely pro-bus until now -- it does change the dynamics of the transit conversation in Wake. The interesting question is whether RTP/RTF will want a say in the plans for how rail transit is built (where and when), compared to what DTR proponents would push for.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

^Attribute this shift to the change in leadership. Charles Hayes was old school NC whereas Geolas realizes RTP turns into a dinosaur without adapting to the 21st century. Additionally, it prompts both downtown Raleigh and Durham to up the ante on spec office space which has been a major issue in attracting larger businesses in these cores. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Geolas has a background in state government, including an early role in the NCDOT rail division. He was intimately involved in developing NCSU's Centennial Campus and then the very successful Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research.
 
Hayes remains a player -- he's still the CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP) -- but he's in his late 60s and is probably winding down his career. It will be interesting to see who succeeds him. 
 
Geolas sits on the board of RTRP, which is separate from the board of RTP (technically the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina). 
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.