I Believe

Ruby Sinreich's picture

It's exciting to see the Town move forward with plans to develop a transit hub downtown. (I know most folks probably wouldn't use the word "exciting" to describe this, but that's how you know I am a geek.) The Triangle Transit Authority has already started Phase 1 of it's regional rail plan, which will connect downtown Raleigh, north Raleigh, Cary, RTP, and downtown Durham. Chapel Hill will be added in Phase 2, along with the airport (which should have been in Phase -1, but that's another rant).

It's hard to believe everything that is being planned for the town's parking lot 2 (at the corner of Columbia and Rosemary Streets). In addition to this underground transit hub, it's supposed to include shops, apartments, and a multi-story parking deck across the street (here's a sketch of one possible site plan.). As hard as it is to picture this really hapenning, I find it even harder to imagine how regional transit can serve Chapel Hill without either running through the middle of town, or being connected to a hub in the cneter of town. And you know all those peopel who libe in nice house next to the University don't want a rail line in their naighborhoods. But we need that transit, so we've got to make it work somehow - therefore: the transit hub.

I know some of you will think this whole regional rail business is pie in the sky... the Triangle's too sprawled... people prefer cars... transit is for poor people (oops, did you say that out loud?)... no-one will ride it, etc. But there's only so much congestion and expensive gas people will take before they start looking for alternatives to I-40. My concern about it is that if we don't believe this will work (see excuses above) we will only do it half-assed and therefore ensure that it can't work.

It's time to put on our Visionary Thinking Caps and figure out how to make this happen.

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7 Comments

I also keep hearing about

I also keep hearing about phase II and a couple of things trouble me. Folks I have talked to seem to think getting rail into Chapel Hill would be nearly impossible due to the grade and the well-heeled, politically connected neighborhoods such a line might have to cut through. Second, the phase II wouldn't start for at least another 15-20 years, right? Aren't there any elected officials out there willing to step up and say this isn't acceptable? If the rail line does work, our little section of the Triangle is going to be left out in the cold waiting for a bit of the action...

Cool site, Patrick!

Cool site, Patrick! Unfortunately, the results I got were a little frightening. I love regional rail -- grew up riding the Metro in DC, used the El every day in Chicago during grad school -- and am a supporter. Ruby's right: something's got to change radically to make regional transit at all useful to people in this corner of the Triangle.

Based on the calculations of that web site, the _shortest_ route from the corner of Columbia and Franklin, to the corner of Millbrook and Leadmine (where I've got some friends -- not all of north Raleigh is a vast wasteland) would take me 2 hours and 19 minutes, and the longest was more than 3 1/2 hours. (There were three different routes to choose from.) It takes me no longer than 30 minutes by car in most kinds of traffic, and 45 minutes if there's heavy traffic.

We took the Metro into DC, and I took the El to my classes in Chicago, because it was quicker and more pleasant than the alternative. I could walk to my stop in Chicago, but back home we used to have to drive 10 minutes to get to the stop, because they'd run the line (the Red Line) along a major auto corridor (Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Ave). We were happy to take that little jaunt over to the station on the Pike, rather than driving.

So, here's my question: Is there going to be a regional rail station in Phase II near Meadowmont, or not? I've been web surfing and reading every damned memo/report/MIS/1-40-NC54 study I could find, and I can't find definitive word on this. All I see is a little yellow dot on their map in the vicinity of Meadowmont, and another one further on along the same corridor (presumably on campus). I confess to being hopelessly ignorant an uninformed, so please help me. I assume the current Council would slit their wrists before letting the rail system get as close to town as the University campus, but is the vicinity-of-Meadowmont site still viable?

Signed,

Loves to Read on the Train

Duncan- You're right that

Duncan-

You're right that North Raleigh is a hard area to serve with transit. However, try your search again during peak hours and you'll find it's not nearly as bad. If you start your trip at 4:00 you can make it in as little as 1 hour 10 minutes. You'll find similar trips available in the morning rush hour, too.

Meadowmont is very likely to see whatever higher-quality transit connects to UNC in the future. It is included in the NC 54 fixed guideway study, but more importantly, it looks like it is also in the adopted 15-501 corridor specified in the DCHC MPO's long range transportation plan.

Take a look at this webpage: http://www.dchc-mpo.org/pub_home.asp, download the 9.3 MB document, turn to page 35, and look carefully at the southernmost stretch of the red line. At this time, that's the most likely path for fixed guideway transit.

Patrick, OK, I read

Patrick,

OK, I read (skimmed) that report. (How many reports are there?) Fixed guideways can be rail or bus-rapid-transit, but I can't tell which mode they're leaning toward for the I-40 to Carrboro Plaza route via 15-501 (which I assume will run along 54 much of the way). It _is_ clearly marked "fixed guideway," which is good news. If not rail, it must be bus rapid-transit, right? (Unless it's HOV lanes on I-40, but that's not the issue at hand.)

Bus rapid-transit sounds good too, so long as we don't end up with a system that's just a dedicated right-of-way marked off by a thick white line on the pavement, and our old buses. That would seem like riding the bus, and as shallow as this sounds, one of the appeals of riding rapid transit is that the experience is fun -- or, if it's not fun, at least it's appreciably faster than the car _and_ the bus over long distances.

One other thing: what's the reason that report is called the "Financially Constrained 2025 Long Range Transportation Plan"?

The biggest reason TTA Phase

The biggest reason TTA Phase I Regional Rail is not going to RDU is cost.

To get the Regional Rail train to RDU, we would have to build 2 flyovers across I-40 to get the trains in and out. The Final Environmental Impact Statement for Phase I found that access to the airport would raise the Phase I cost by $152 million dollars. In a project of $750 million dollars, that's roughly a 20% cost increase.

Ridership, however, was predicted only to rise by 3.5% with that addition. At the same time, an alternative serving RDU would also have cut South RTP out of the line, a major employment center.

I'd encourage citizens interested in the rail project to visit TTA's Rail FAQ page at http://www.ridetta.org/rrfaq.html or to attend one of the upcoming TTA Regional Rail Open House events. More information on the open house events can be found at http://www.ridetta.org/news_Open_House_Events_6-04.pdf

Finally, if you have yet to try out the new online regional trip planner, please visit http://www.gotriangle.org/ to plan a trip via transit.