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2035 Triangle Regional Transit Vision Plan


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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.

I wonder if the SE HSR is close enough. They've been working on that Tier II EIS for years now, but they keep pushing the completion date back. At the moment, they have 2011 as the date for the final Record of Decision from FRA, but perhaps NCDOT and VDOT can scrape together the funds to get the EIS out ASAP.

Another unrelated thing. Triangle Transit is moving their transfer center on December 1st. This move will result in schedule changes, that will be beneficial to most Raleigh-RTP commuters (that's me!) and detrimental for some Chapel Hill commuters.

Previously I had to leave home at about 8:05, catch the bus at about 8:15, and get to work at about 8:55. That's 50 minutes, whereas driving takes 20-25. Under the new schedule, I get to leave home a full 15 minutes later, but still arrive at work at the same time, resulting in a 35 minute trip. That's a pretty favorable comparison, given that I don't have to drive.

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Here is the Wake County transit plan for the next 20 years. Wake-County-Transit-Plan-Update---FINAL-ADOPTED.pdf (nmcdn.io) Bus Rapid Transit and very frequent bus service to most all employm

Charlotte's LR uses NCRR ROW from 32nd St to Pumpernickel Rd (~2.5 miles). South of 32nd St through the city center to Woodlawn Rd (6 miles), the LR reuses an old freight line that Norfolk Southern ow

I don't defend Duke's decisions, but as an electrical engineer I will point out that EMI from an above-ground catenary and EMI from a deep-buried electrified third-rail are quite different. Perhaps th

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I wonder if the SE HSR is close enough. They've been working on that Tier II EIS for years now, but they keep pushing the completion date back. At the moment, they have 2011 as the date for the final Record of Decision from FRA, but perhaps NCDOT and VDOT can scrape together the funds to get the EIS out ASAP.

I seriously doubt it. Most of the capital projects being talked about are those that literally can be executed within a few months of having the money available, rather than a few years, which makes sense considering the point is to immediately stimulate the economy. If you look at that list (probably not set in stone), there are a few transit and rail projects, but not any in NC--ours are all highways. :( I do think that the chances are very strong that the new administration will be pro mass transit and intercity rail... possibly moreso than any in our history. Of course, the problem is many of these infrastructure projects are in the billions of dollars, and we are simultaneously running all time high deficits.

What we need is a comprehensive national energy/infrastructure strategy that guides all of our investment decisions. If you think about it, we haven't had any national infrastructure strategy since the cold war era interstate & defense highway bill. The new plan should measure life cycle costs (sustainability), return on investments, minization of resources (energy, land, $, environmental, etc) and other factors such that we make smart decisions about how and where to invest. It would be a major departure from the past, but if we in fact considered all of the above factors, I think we would be pleasantly surprised at the resulting project decision-making.

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There were a couple of articles in the Herald-Sun this week about the transit line.

The first one, "The future is nearly now on N.C. 54", talks about the NC54 corridor in Chapel Hill, from 15/501 to Meadowmont. It mentions East 54, and points out that it's a likely location for a light rail stop.

The second article, "Coast thought clear for light rail", tells us what ChiefJoJo has been telling us for a little over a month now. It seems that for whatever reason, perhaps due to the commuter rail study they commissioned, the NCRR is now open to electric light rail trains running in their right-of-way. In addition to diverting from the NCRR near downtown Raleigh and maybe NCCU, they also mention a possible diversion near RTP.

Using light rail will result in some cost savings since the line won't have to be so heavily engineered, but the electrical wires will add cost, making a light rail line somewhat more expensive on the whole than the DMU line. The FRA is still a hurdle, but that hurdle has been overcome elsewhere. Whether Norfolk Southern and CSX would support this or not still remains to be seen.

Also worth noting is that there is a public hearing on CAMPO's 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan tomorrow, at 4:00pm.

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This comment from Mayor Kevin Foy is good to hear:

"If you live on 54, in the vision of the future of Chapel Hill, you'll be able to walk out your door and go to a light rail station and get on a train to Durham or Raleigh," Foy said. "It's a long way off, but my point is that you've got to have guiding principles and this is the guiding principle of Chapel Hill. We're not just saying put density everywhere; we're saying put density where it's appropriate."

"The converse of sprawl is greater density inside the city," Foy said. "You get one or the other. You can't have no sprawl and a city that looks the same as it used to unless you say zero population growth, and we haven't said zero population growth."

Zero growth really isn't a viable option anyway. People want to live in Chapel Hill, and if the town were to take a no development stance, the economic pressures would be unsustainable. Even now, the town's tax base is weak on the commercial side and there are major affordability issues for middle and lower income residents. And of course with economic development at a macro scale, it's a zero sum game as he contends. People have to live and work somewhere, and if you don't provide a sustainable infrastructure to support this growth in an orderly fashion, the result will be plenty of sprawl in the wrong places... something we have seen a lot of over the past few decades in Wake, Durham, Johnston, Alamance, Chatham, and even Orange counties.

Regarding light rail & as orulz said, all I can figure is that the NCRR study actually revealed with concrete detail (that had not been provided before) that there is enough physical space in the 200-ft ROW to accomodate 6 tracks: 2 for freight, 2 for intercity passenger rail, 2 for light rail, plus spacing to meet federal safety requirements. Clearly there hasn't been any kind of comprehensive review from federal officials, but I gather that there is enough optimism to feel comfortable with moving ahead towards a light rail future. And with the flexibility to go off the existing rail corridor (NCCU, RTP, RDU, DTR), the possibilities for LRT are pretty exciting!

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Why do I get this sinking feeling deep in the pit of my stomach that a continuing argument,(read-delaying of projects), of which is better, Light Rail or DMU's is about to begin? And I don't mean among us, but politicians from the cities to the counties. :huh:

It seems that the TAC boards of the the CAMPO and DCHC MPO's are getting solidly behind the idea of electric light rail as their first choice. The TAC boards are composed almost entirely of politicians (mayors, city / town council members / county commissioners). I don't think that there's any question that this is what everybody would like to see.

The debate will probably come over things like how to fund it, how to prioritize the segments, where to divert from the NCRR, where to put the stations, and whether to connect to the airport or not.

I hope that whatever options for stations and diversions they choose, that the travel time stays in the same ballpark as the original TTA proposal. They called for ~50 minutes from downtown Raleigh to downtown Durham. LRVs that max out at 55mph will have a very hard time achieving this, particularly with diversions included. I am also concerned that with 2 miles of street running and a total of seven stations downtown, the line will be useless for north Raleigh commuters going anywhere other than downtown.

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So are EMUs out of the question? Hopefully we'll see the rail line from DC to Charlotte electrified someday and a catenary built for this system could the catalyst for that to happen. I do realized the high cost of constructed such a system but the benefits of having stations close together coupled with the acceleratrion speed of EMUs could benefit the Raleigh-Durham area. Just a thought. Is the system in Austin similar to TTA's original proposal or is it more of a commuter based system?

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The light rail plan does call for electric power and the accelleration benefits that comes with it, just not FRA-compliant EMUs. Light rail vehicles do accelerate quite well - in the same ballpark as heavy rail transit vehicles, and better than exising FRA-compliant EMUs such as those run by NJT, Metro North, and Metra. Where light rail loses is on top speed. Heavy rail transit typically maxes at 70 or 80, and FRA EMUs generally max at 80, but most light rail lines are limited to 55mph.

Most modern mainline railway electrification is done at 25kv AC, but modern light rail is typically 750v DC, so the electrification systems for light rail and heavy rail are completely incompatible. I don't think that building an electric light rail line will get us any closer to having an electrified high speed NCRR.

As for Austin's project, that more closely resembles the Sprinter in Oceanside/Escondido, CA and the River Line in NJ. The original TTA project was it's own animal, nobody anywhere else in the country was proposing something like it.

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Seven stations downtown? Where did I miss these? Or do you refer to seven inside the beltline?

See the image attached to ChiefJoJo's post depicting the initial proposed light rail alignment through downtown Raleigh.

Perhaps I should clarify - I mean 7 downtown stations in each direction - for a total of 11. I imagine (hope?) that they'll consolidate. No need to have so many stations 3 blocks apart from each other. I'd love to see a tunnel instead of trains in mixed traffic on the surface, but that would blow the budget and I doubt if it is or has ever been under consideration.

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It seems that the TAC boards of the the CAMPO and DCHC MPO's are getting solidly behind the idea of electric light rail as their first choice. The TAC boards are composed almost entirely of politicians (mayors, city / town council members / county commissioners). I don't think that there's any question that this is what everybody would like to see.

The debate will probably come over things like how to fund it, how to prioritize the segments, where to divert from the NCRR, where to put the stations, and whether to connect to the airport or not.

I hope that whatever options for stations and diversions they choose, that the travel time stays in the same ballpark as the original TTA proposal. They called for ~50 minutes from downtown Raleigh to downtown Durham. LRVs that max out at 55mph will have a very hard time achieving this, particularly with diversions included. I am also concerned that with 2 miles of street running and a total of seven stations downtown, the line will be useless for north Raleigh commuters going anywhere other than downtown.

Yes, from everything I hear, the consensus seems to be light rail for the entire STAC "N" (shaped) corridor from Chapel Hill all the way to somewhere in NE Raleigh or Wake Forest. To be clear, I don't think anyone in an official capacity has endorsed the idea of a diversion off the rail ROW into Downtown Raleigh. It was just an idea floated for consideration if LRT were chosen. It's not a bad concept, but I agree with orulz that it has too many overlapping stations--should be ~1/2 mile apart. I'm not an expert in LRV operation, but there is a general trade-off between multiple service areas and minimizing travel time: more frequent station stops will be more convenient for local trips within a fairly concentrated corridor, but it will result in longer travel times from end to end, and vice versa. That's why I'm curious how the ~60-mile all-LRT system will actually function from end to end, when LRT is generally preferred for short to medium INTRAcity travel... it might just be the longest continuous LRT line ever planned.

Anyway, those types of details (though they might seem critical to us) are not essential to determine now, as the exact alignment, station area planning and designs will be worked out in the EIS & design process, which TT will have to go through again before anything is built. The important items now are that rail WILL be built in the STAC corridor, that the preferred technology is LRT (it seems), that we get the station area land use and streets right, and the governance issue is dealt with effectively (all transit board members should be elected and not appointed). Add the in expanded and enhanced local and express bus service extending out to the greater region, and that's the vision that the politicians and the people will be asked to support and finance, likely fall '09 or spring '10.

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See the image attached to ChiefJoJo's post depicting the initial proposed light rail alignment through downtown Raleigh.

Perhaps I should clarify - I mean 7 downtown stations in each direction - for a total of 11. I imagine (hope?) that they'll consolidate. No need to have so many stations 3 blocks apart from each other. I'd love to see a tunnel instead of trains in mixed traffic on the surface, but that would blow the budget and I doubt if it is or has ever been under consideration.

Thank you!

Also, just from Glenwood South to the civic center and a few stops in-between, it would be most awesome to have this/a system underground, off of the street, way cool! :wub:

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I think we could certianly see this project pick up speed and get a bit more ambitious with a mass transit-friendly administration coming into power, being they will feel more confident about getting some funding. I also hope (and I would imagine they are) they are watching for a potential stimulus bill that would provide money for infrastructure. If they can get it far along enough, they could possilby get a piece of that pie. Aside from that, I think it would be a major blunder to not put a station at RDU. All the cities would benefit from it no doubt and it would be a great perk to highlight for Raleigh in advertising the RCC. It would also spurn a bunch mor hotel projects around a rail station near the RCC.

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... it might just be the longest continuous LRT line ever planned.

As a system, LA would of course blow us out of the water, but for a single line... we might win the prize. The LA Gold Line plus all of its planned and proposed extensions would come in a close second, at 51 miles. But If the LA downtown regional connector is built, and blue lines trains from Long Beach are through-routed onto an extended gold line to Ontario Airport, that would probably weigh in at well over 60 miles, which would beat us.

Still, that gives you an idea of the enormous scope of this planned light rail line, and also of the vast sprawly expanse and low density of our metro area. (How many million people live between Ontario and Long Beach by way of downtown LA, vs. the 1 million people that live between North Raleigh and Chapel Hill by way of downtown Raleigh and Durham?)

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I have in my mind that LRT station footprints are smaller than DMU mostly because there are more stations, and because the target customer is a walk-up and not a park-and-ride. Do the station footprints in fact differ in size? With 11 stations downtown, and based on the old DMU station plans, it would almost be one continuous station through downtown. LRT's I have seen...Charlotte, and Denver, have more like oversized bus shelters, which is perfectly fine I think.

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I would imagine they will take a different approach to the stations depending on the part of town. For instance, a walk up and ride would not really work as you get closer and closer to 540, as subdivisions are spread too far out and most people won't use them if they have to walk a long distance to them. Walk and ride works well for areas like North Hills, DTR and the like, but would be largely unworkable on Capital and other similar roads. Those areas, I would imagine, will get stations, but larger ones that are centrally located with parking.

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See the image attached to ChiefJoJo's post depicting the initial proposed light rail alignment through downtown Raleigh.

Perhaps I should clarify - I mean 7 downtown stations in each direction - for a total of 11. I imagine (hope?) that they'll consolidate. No need to have so many stations 3 blocks apart from each other. I'd love to see a tunnel instead of trains in mixed traffic on the surface, but that would blow the budget and I doubt if it is or has ever been under consideration.

Sorry in advance for this dumb question, but can Light Rail trians run underground or do they then become subways? When I think of Light Rail, I think of those trains with ugly over head powerlines. :sick: Can Light Rail run with the power below or at grade? I am assuming that subways are Light Rail trains that simply run underground?

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I think we are talking about two things here. One is the platform and the other is the transit zone or station area. The platform is a function of the size of the train set, such that they match... 3-car set = 3-car platform with the floor of the platform matching the vehicle floor, etc.

The station area is the TOD, park & ride lot, etc. Generally speaking you would want to encourage walk-up stations (that is no supplied public parking) in areas that either have a good amount of exisiting supportive, walkble urban development, or in underutilized areas where TOD is encouraged thru local land use plans, policies or ordinances. You would have park & ride stations in outlying suburban areas where there may not be a strong market for TOD, especially early on in the development of a system.

One place where you will see a walkup station is NCSU. There are thousands of people & jobs withing a short walk of the station right now and no space to put any parking even if you wanted to, so it's going to be a walk-up station. Then, you have the Triangle Metro Center near RTP, which is essentially a greenfield TOD where higher density development is planned. Finally, you might have a station near I-540 where a parking deck could be built to serve commuters.

Light rail can run underground. The term light rail refers to the system technology and applies irrespective of whether it operates above or below ground. It just so happens that they generally run above ground, as it's MUCH cheaper. IIRC, there are even LRT systems in Europe that do not have the overhead wires, but are instead powered by in-ground electrification, but I believe it's rare though. Subways (metros, heavy rail systems or rapid rail systems) like those in DC or Atlanta, can and do run above ground too, usually outside the city center, but always in exclusive ROW, given that they are powered by an electrified third rail between the steel rails.

I rode on the blue line in Portland, OR, which actually runs through a deep tunnel and has a station 260 feet below ground.

300px-Washington_park_MAX-Stn1.jpg

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WRAL has a story about the transit plan. This is following the CAMPO meeting orulz referenced above, where transit was discussed. Though the story focused on the opposition, it seems a light rail based regional plan around the STAC vision has the backing of the vast majority of the region's mayors. All we need now is the state authority and a referendum, and we'll be ready to move ahead, likely with good state and federal partners.

PS - I doubt the accuracy of the $700-800M for the 17 miles of light rail from Cary to Spring Forest Rd. I don't think we have a good handle on that yet.

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well, yes, we're all enamored of light rail, but any light rail project is going to take a long time to get going. we put the dmu plan on the shelf as a completed design, at least from 9th street to government center. also an issue is that only ns has signed off on light rail in the corridor; we haven't heard from csx yet, who are more resistant to transit so far. it was only with some difficulty that access for dmu was secured in the corridors. with a big infusion of money we could start turning dirt in very short order on the dmu project, or even just parts of it.

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You do have a point about CSX, though I hope somebody has at least broached the subject and found that they were willing to negotiate. In the past, wasn't liability and insurance in the event of an accident the primary sticking point? I fail to see how that's so incredibly different between DMU and LRT. The insurance may cost more from our perspective for LRT due to lower crashworthiness standards, but if the transit agency accepts all liability and has insurance to cover it, then CSX shouldn't care whether it's DMU or LRT, right?

How long does the EIS for the DMU line have left before it expires and would have to be updated?

Is there any reason we couldn't just lay the tracks and build the stations as designed for the DMU line (few minor modifications) and add the electrification on top of that? Or would the electric wires have too big of an impact and necessiate a whole new FTA new starts process?

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How long does the EIS for the DMU line have left before it expires and would have to be updated?

Is there any reason we couldn't just lay the tracks and build the stations as designed for the DMU line (few minor modifications) and add the electrification on top of that? Or would the electric wires have too big of an impact and necessiate a whole new FTA new starts process?

It is my understanding that it has expired already and has to be updated irrespective of whether we have DMU or LRT. With that in mind, I believe that LRT would add some extra time to the documentation process, given that the technology is different. Also, the designs will have to be revised, but one would hope that much of the existing project, including stations and parcels assembled by TT (Cherokee) would be utilized under an LRT scheme, so I would wager that it will take some more time to get going than the DMU project, but it's not akin to starting over.

While it's a bummer to likely have to wait a bit longer to turn dirt, in the long run, it's smarter to get it right the first time. Otherwise, we will be stuck with a product that may not be best matched to the region's long term vision, both transport and land use. I still have my doubts about the viability of a continuous 56 mile line, but the potential for building LRT in Raleigh/Cary & Chapel Hill/Durham has a lot of benefits (as I've mentioned before):

-->All electric power could enable use of renewable energy sources; has flexibility to go off the railroad corridors where it makes sense; will be cheaper to operate over time than DMU; single LRT-based system enables savings and simplicity in vehicle/equipment purchases, maintenance facilities; enables potential for seamless expansion of system to other areas (not in existing RR corridors) we've not as yet considered (such as North Hills, Crabtree, or to the south & east of Raleigh).

I still think the shared track CR along the NCRR should still be evaluated to link Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville and Durham thru RTP in the short/medium term while LRT is being built on either end of the region.

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Since any portion of the system west of Duke/9th Street was going to be light rail, the whole system might as well be. The benefits of one system, maintenance yard, etc. would probably outweigh the benefits of the hybrid LRT/DMU system. And it makes it somewhat flexible to add lines like Six Forks westward from Atlantic, and toward the RBC Center/Crabtree from the Fairgrounds.

The system could be used to showcase green technologies along the line as well -- solar collectors on top of stations and shelters that could generate enough electricity to light them (with LEDs from Cree) at night and feed excess capacity into the light rail itself (via Progress Energy's NC Green Power)... Adding touches like that could make it an easier sell to the new administration eager for new public works projects (instead of corporate handouts) to help stimulate our state and national economies.

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