Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

cltbwimob

Commuter Rail for the NE corridor

33 posts in this topic

The HSR funding will go toward completely double tracking the line all the way to Greensboro, adding grade separations, ensuring that the tracks are capable of handling high speed trains, and the Gateway Station. With all the projects to be covered by the HSR funding, I think the only thing that CATS would have to do is add 5-7 stations (there are Amtrak stations in Kannapolis and Salisbury) and purchase rolling stock. This would be relatively low cost compared to having to build a line from scratch, and would cost even less if every town where the train stopped built their own stations.

I think this would be a good solution for several reasons. One is the relative low cost and possibly quick buildout. It could serve as an intermediate solution until the BLE is built, and then the two could operate in tandem. This would be especially helpful since Carolyn Flowers said that 2019 is now looking like an "optimistic" completion date for the BLE. Furthermore, since it would provide an intermediate solution to the NE corridor, the BLE could even be put off for a few more years and allow CATS to build the Red Line with the money they already have.

Does anyone else think this could happen?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Commuter rail and light rail serve different transit markets. It's like the difference between express bus and enhanced local bus. And since express buses currently don't stop in NoDa or on UNCC campus, I question the market for such alternative.

Commuter rail to Cabarrus County may still make sense. Someday. That County would have to help fund any line's construction and operations. And Iredell's hesistance on the North line hasn't helped there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have long felt that staying on the rail corridor would have been a better choice for the whole NE line compared to using Tryon Street. Now that the area between City Blvd and Harris is being developed with mega-box stores (Walmart and IKEA) far from the street, it makes even less sense to have the line on Tryon.

A station at John Kirk and Old Concord on the line is actually CLOSER to most of the UNCC campus buildings than the current on campus station planned for the BLE and there is also a lot of dense housing there.

It wouldn't even need to necessarily be designed as commuter rail either. It could just be new light rail tracks on the corridor just as they plan to do for half of it anyway. Then there is ample opportunity for connections with Amtrak which with the planned higher frequency acts like a commuter line to Concord and Kannapolis. It would just have been a matter of staying on the NCRR corridor for 5 extra miles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Commuter rail and light rail serve different transit markets. It's like the difference between express bus and enhanced local bus. And since express buses currently don't stop in NoDa or on UNCC campus, I question the market for such alternative.

Commuter rail to Cabarrus County may still make sense. Someday. That County would have to help fund any line's construction and operations. And Iredell's hesistance on the North line hasn't helped there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The 2003 monograph that Staffer linked to also hypothesizes a Charlotte-Concord NCRR commuter rail line in its traffic predictions. Accommodating this along with all the planned HSR and freight trains would probably result in needing a third track at a few locations on the line (which is not yet planned for construction). Concord seems a little short for a commuter rail line however. Salisbury might be a better terminus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An hourly commuter route from Gateway station to Salisbury on the cheap has much merit from my perspective. I think the NCRC would benefit greatly from such service and Concord has made it clear in the past they desire a rail connection to CLT. Given the willingness of Cabarrus to participate, and the low cost of the line (equipment, crew and stations), the NE service would serve as a model for multi-county cooperation -- if successful perhaps it would convince Iredell to reevaluate their neglect of the red line. Unfortunately, the multi-county issues works both ways, I am not sure Rowan would be willing to contribute to such a service.

It would be really cool if the blue line extension could be slightly realigned to provide for a UNCC / 485 interchange point between it and the commuter line. Such a connection would provide the only direct connection between the LRT and the heavy rail service which goes to gateway station. I will admit such a connection would likely be cost prohibitive but would significantly improve mobility in NE Charlotte.

My view from fantasy land is that it would be great to eventually see the equipment from the NE commuter line run Salisbury -- Gateway -- Old Coliseum (if redevelopment happens) -- 485 Blue line interchange -- downtown Pineville -- Fort Mill -- Rock Hill and see the Red line equipment run Mooresville -- Gateway -- Mt Holly -- Gastonia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^If desiring a Charlotte connection between BLE and a Cabarrus-Rowan CR, such station could go at 36th, Sugar Creek, or Old Concord Road without any realignment of either. Such station wouldn't be much different from Derita as an inner-suburbs stop on the way out of town.

Once you reach 485, you might as well stop in Harrisburg instead. There is no I-485 station on the North line. Hence, I see a NE commuter rail line with stations at NoDa, Harrisburg, Concord, Kannapolis, and Salisbury. Maybe a mostly park-and-ride station at I-85 between Concord and Kannapolis, but the line should stop in walkable places or where development will be transit-oriented, so you get ridership for two-way operations and hourly or less frequency.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


For a commuter rail line, stations should generally be 3-5 miles apart. I'm not too familiar with the area, but this is an example of how I would do it.

Blue is the minimum stations I would have, which works out to an average of about 5 miles between stations. This plus the 90mph NCRR would result in pretty quick travel.

Red are stations that could be added if more local stations are desired, perhaps with the understanding that some trains will not stop at all stations. Adding these in leads to an average of 3.5 miles between stations.

Milepost: Station

0: Gateway Station

3.6: Sugar Creek (or 2.7: 36th)

9.2: UNCC

13.7: Harrisburg

18.4: S. Concord/NC49

21.3: Concord (Cabarrus Ave)

24.3: N. Concord/Mall/Hospital/I-85

28.4: Kannapolis (Amtrak)

30.3: N. Kannapolis

32.0: Landis

34.4: China Grove

39.7: Peach Orchard Rd (I-85 Park/Ride)

44.0: Salisbury (Amtrak)

45.6: Spencer

49.4: Yadkin (I-85 Park/Ride)

Notably, those last two stations (or perhaps even just one of them) could be added without any impact to travel time from Salisbury and points south. Turning trains would be much easier in Salisbury or Spencer though, since there's a wye right there.

Really the NCRR serves such a dense corridor that local service with stations every 5 miles or so along its entire length could be warranted, eventually.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a map I threw togethor showing the population density (red and orange colors) along the rail lines from the 2000 census. It seems very obvious to put comuter rail in the NE corridor. Also service to Gastonia seems to make a lot of sense.

Click to enlarge.

Rb21O.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^I think of Eastfield station as more within its planned TOD than on I-485, but I'll give that one. But in light of Eastfield, why couldn't the I-485 area transit village stretch between N. Tryon (US-29) and University Blvd. (NC-49)? If that were the case, then walkable development could be the bridge between BLE and NE-CR stations.

But then you can't have transfers, you ask? Very few people, if any, are expected to ride the Red Line in from Lake Norman then transfer to the Blue Line via Gold Rush, other bus, streetcar, or walking. Likewise, Plaza-Central is expected to be accessed someday via streetcar on Central or rapid transit on Independence. And the Plaza-Central stops/stations will be located even closer in proximity than the Gateway Station will be from the Transit Center in Uptown. Based on these stronger transit destinations lacking easy transfers, I think I-485 in the vicinity of US-29 and NC-49 would work fine with two different lines. UNCC could always run a shuttle to/from the I-485 CR station if there were any demand.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

TOD still generates cars. I'm not sure folks would want to see little Old Concord Road lined with density. North Tryon can absorb growth better, as well as being closer to I-85.

As for North Tyron being "big box land," the new Walmart is between stations and the IKEA outside the quarter-mile walk. There is still plenty of vacant land along the "weave" to have TOD right at the station. And if Carolina Pavilion at I-485/South is any indication, it may not be so terrible to have some big boxes within a half-mile of stations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Thanks for the map thetrick, it really speaks volumes. And thanks to everyone who pointed out that a blue line transfer can be done for "free" at 36th or Sugar creek. And finally, thanks to orulz for sharing his amazing knowledge of all things rail.

The think I am puzzled by is that no one else is discussing this. While I have no idea how much such a project would cost (the Music City star was started with just $41 million and I think some of that went to track improvements -- cheaper than our 2 mile streetcar stub) It appears to be a cost effective solution to several problems: I-85 congestion, connecting the NCRC to UNCC and uptown and, perhaps most significantly, allowing Cabarrus and Rowan to make some planning adjustments to reduce the rate of sprawl. When you throw in the benefit to improved access to uptown and the possibility of a willing model for inter-county cooperation this project seems to good to be true. What am I missing?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^Thanks for pointning out the cost of the Music City Star, you beat me to the punch. I think that cost effectiveness was the one of the biggest kickers for me when I was thinking about this. With all the money going toward HSR in the Charlotte region (roughly 1/3 of the entire amount allotted to NC) the feds are practically building a commuter rail line for the region...if we just capitalize on it. Furthermore, the MCS in Nashville has a daily ridership of about 900; I am almost certain Charlotte could eclipse that number by a long shot...I would expect several thousands. I think the combined population of Rowan and Cabarrus Counties is about 325k. That figure coupled with the population along the route in Mecklenburg, especially if there is a stop in the 485 UNCC area I think would be plenty to justify a line which I would think will cost less than 50 million to build. And CATS may not even have to do all the funding if each town built their own station. CATS could just build 1 or 2 stations in Charlotte and purchase the trains.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Music City Star was an extremely low-cost, low-value proposition which in turn has generated little in the way of results. The cost per mile was cheap because the railway was already pretty much abandoned and the service goal was only 3-4 trains in both the morning and afternoon, with top speeds of 59 mph.

Charlotte wants to run many more trains than Nashville, using bidirectional trips, running at 79 mph, over a rail line that is NOT abandoned.

The differences in the base case to be improved are considerable; so should the project costs be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been googling the daylights out of it and I can't find any substantive information or studies on commuter rail along the NCRR. The only mention I can find is a very vague NCDOT study from 1997

http://www.bytrain.o...ts/commuter.pdf

Maybe it’s been overlooked due to the existing passenger service? Maybe by competing with the Piedmont service they would kill each others ridership?

Honestly it seems almost too obvious. You only have to add maybe one or two stations to start, base your equipment and maintenance facility in Salisbury/Spencer where land is cheap, and so is labor. Trains run south in the morning and north in the evening and get maintenance overnight.

Ok so let’s shoot some holes in this…

Todd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^ I don't think the existing passenger service will affect it that much. Those trains are more for intercity travel, and I doubt very few if any people purchase AMTRAK tickets to ride from Salisbury or Kannapolis to Charlotte on a daily commute. In addition, there are only 3 trains that come through Charlotte on a daily basis...not really enough to serve a commuter market, especially when 2 of those trains continue onward to Atlanta and New Orleans. I think it may have not made much sense prior to HSR funding due to single tracked sections many at grade crossings and no station in downtown Charlotte. However from what I understand, all those issues should be ironed out with the roughly 180-200 million dollars of HSR funding for the Charlotte region.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Quick fact

There are 174,610 people living withing 1 mile of the proposed Charlotte to Salisbury route and 552,385 people living within 5 miles. This is based on the 2000 census, so you would have about a 30% increase to make it current for 2010, so about 718,100 within 5 miles of the route.

Todd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Music City Star was an extremely low-cost, low-value proposition which in turn has generated little in the way of results. The cost per mile was cheap because the railway was already pretty much abandoned and the service goal was only 3-4 trains in both the morning and afternoon, with top speeds of 59 mph.

Charlotte wants to run many more trains than Nashville, using bidirectional trips, running at 79 mph, over a rail line that is NOT abandoned.

The differences in the base case to be improved are considerable; so should the project costs be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There has been talk (at various times) of commuter service from Greensboro -- Raleigh -- Goldsboro (can't find the proposals at the moment, one was called EastTrans if memory serves). I believe most of the service was planned for single track routes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.