Ballantine opposes regional rail

Republican gubernatorial candidate Patrick Ballantine is quoted in today's Raleigh N&O as opposing regional commuter rail in the Triangle. Ballantine argues that it is a waste of money for the state to support Charlotte's proposed light rail system as well. Says Ballantine in the N&O: "Right now you're not going to be able to take people out of their cars -- despite the traffic. That takes an incredible cultural change that we're not ready for."

Democratic Governor Mike Easley supports state investment in both systems. The N&O Article quotes Easley's Secretary of Transportation: "There appears to be a great deal of wisdom in providing public transportation through additional bus service in rural areas and urban areas, and in the light rail piece for Charlotte and Raleigh."

I think Ballantine is the "incredible cultural change" that I am not ready for.


This is BIG news. Until now, I had considered just not voting for the governor's race due to my opposition to the death penalty (and both of the opponent's all-too-supportive messages about it. But this signals that Ballantine wants to regress back to the mindset of paving as much land as possible without adjusting to the new reality on the ground in our somewhat dense urban areas.

So please, please, please swallow the bitter pill and vote for Easley. It would be such a shame to have both the Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham public transit lines not become a reality, especially since so much time and energy has already gone into the planning.

Is this really a surprise to anyone?

NOT ready for a "cultural change"? Think light rail is money well spent?
Well, before you go off and "swallow the bitter (TAXHIKE MIKE) pill"....consider this...we "enjoy" a HIGHER state tax rate than a lot of Yankee states and have a whole lot LESS to show for it!
Lower my taxes first, bring in some more jobs, reduce the size of state government then, MAYBE we can talk about some high flying transportation projects.

The proposed cost of rail systems for Raleigh and Charlotte are way over $1 BILLION combined. That to serve less than 1% of the commuting public. The money comes from the same pot that paves and expands roads.

In fact, according to the American Dream Coalition, “No rail system outside of New York carries as many people as one freeway lane.”

The Center for Local Innovation polled voters in Raleigh, and 59% are opposed calling it a bad investment.

The TTA hired a transportation consulting company to help justify the Triangle system, and the consulting company came back and said the Triangle is too spread out to benefit from the system.

You think the rail system is good for the environment? What about the millions of gallons of gas people consume while stopped at train crossings?

Incidentally, the newly introduced Houston light-rail train hit four cars during testing at crossings and then hit another one on its first outing. The Houston City Council then spent $110,000 in local money to block off several intersections (preventing cars from crossing) to prevent more mishaps. And to top it all off, they shut down the train during the Superbowl festivities for safety concerns. But I thought moving drunken partiers safely to their destinations would be a good rationale for the system?

I could go on, but this gives you some fuel for thought. I won't even mention Madrid, and the effect terrorism could have on ridership.

(Facts lifted via John Locke Foundation, N&O articles, and checked out with other sources. I used to be for the system until I studied the FACTS.)

Mark's discovery is not exactly news. We editorialized about this in early September. The piece is available at (subscribers only).

Also of note locally are Easley's and Ballantine's respective positions on the pay of state employees. We have editorialized on that subject no less than three times.

The first is at, the second at, and the third at

I'm not up-to-speed on Easley's advocacy for public transportation. Is he on the verge of implementing a rail system? If Easley is not elected, are we doomed to increased auto-dependency?

I need some real light at the end of the tunnel if I'm ever going to vote for an all-pro walking-waste-of-time like Easley. As far as I can tell, Easley's best contribution to North Carolina has been not showing up for work until late morning and thus limiting the damage he could do.

>Is he on the verge of implementing a rail system?

The governor himself is not on the verge of implementing the TTA rail system. TTA began the process of designing and financing a regional rail system for the Triangle over a decade ago. Current plans call for Phase I "to be operational by 2007, using self-propelled, bi-directional, diesel rail cars using the existing railroad rights-of-way to cconnect Durham, RTP, Cary, Raleigh, and North Raleigh." (

It's worth noting that for various reasons, the current plans have been scaled back from the original Phase I plan, shrinking the proposed route from both ends by eliminating the two stops on the North Raleigh (along Capital Blvd) end and the stop at Duke University (moving the terminus on the west end of the line to 9th St).

Funding, as always, remains a critical issue. The project is to be paid for with 50% federal, 25% state, and 25% local funds. The federal funds seem secure. There are two dedicated sources for the local funds: the rental car tax, and the $5 per vehicle we pay in the Triangle for our car registrations above what everyone else in NC pays. While these sources are secure, the tech bubble/Bush recession has caused rental car tax revenues to decline, so the amount of revenue available is less than once projected.

There is no dedicated source for the state funds. The TTA rail project (and likewise the one in Charlotte) are at the mercy of the Board of Transportation (ultimately the legislature) for the state funding. So far, only planning and design money has been spent (I shouldn't say "only" -- it's still a significant chunk of change), but the construction bills will start showing up within the next year.

The state funding angle is where the Governor can/will have an impact. If the governor's budget proposals don't include the money, or if the Governor's appointees to the Board of Transporation don't include rail funding in their spending programs, then the state essentially will be giving up on the project, leaving the TTA/local governments to pick up the remaining 25%. And although the Governor has a strong say in this, as with most things in NC state government, ultimately the Legislature can override the Governor's wishes if can muster sufficient majorities. (The federal government has a process called a "Full Funding Grant Agreement" which more-or-less commits federal dollars in future years. There is a multi-year process for getting one of these approved, depending on design work, local support, Congressional appropriations, etc. The TTA is on the cusp of receiving it's Full Funding Grant Agreement -- expected by the end of the year, according to

As someone who first served on a TTA study group in 1993 and has been more or less involved in the years since, I will offer my assessment of who can claim what portion of the responsibility (or blame, depending on your view) for the TTA rail project being in it's current state (numbers may not add up to 100% due to rounding):

TTA board members, other Triangle residents who volunteered their time to the effort: 40%
Former TTA General Manager Jim Ritchey: 8%
Other TTA staff members: 21%
Former State Sen. Wib Gulley: 4%
General Assembly: 6%
David Price (through his efforts on the House Appropriations Committee): 7%
Congress: 9%
Other Federal Government: 3%
NC Board of Transportation: 1.5%
Gov. Hunt: 0.4%
Gov. Easley: 0.01%

Richard Franck

I can think of lots of reasons not to vote for Ballantine (the creepy-looking blond kid that shows up in some of his ads being enough for me - "Firestarter", anyone?) - his lack of support for light rail in RTP ain't one of them. Charlotte's a different matter - I can see it being at least somewhat successful there. But count me among those that believe that RTP has grown in a way that doesn't lend itself to a light rail solution for traffic problems. By all means, vote for Easley anyway - I'd rather continue to have him not do a whole lot than have Ballantine come in and enthusiastically do bad stuff.

I guess I am more prepared to deal with the incredible cultural same than with the incredible cutural change. Sad state of affiars, though, Mark - it's true.

Also, Ruby, this is a surprise to me -that Easley supports light rail.

There are tons more reasons not to vote for Easley. His policies have hurt our state and hurt Orange County. The 4 million he stole from Orange County, the 2 million he stole from Chapel Hill, losing our AAA bond rating, his shabby treatment of state employees, his affiliations with the video poker industry, his excessive use of state property for personal business, his lack of support for the gay/lesbian community, his endorsement by the NRA, and the list goes on.

Easley is just another bubba good-ole-boy who cares less about our environment than he does about being governer. Vote Easley? No thanks.


I think you are a creep to attack the looks of a five year old girl. Maybe you have been drinking too much plutonium.


Patrick will be at the GOP picnic in Hillsborough this weekend.

Bring you SUV...

Drive with Pride!

Best, Damion

I'm biased in favor of light rail, even at a medium-term loss (vs. costs in extra road construction and use). But if TTA paid for a study and couldn't get that study to say what they wanted, then I'd be interested to read more about it. If you have a link, or a couple of key words for searching, I'd be eager to read more.


I read that in either the N&O or Triangle Business Journal about a year ago. Maybe even both covered it. I would just search on TTA on both sites. You need to pay to read old articles at N& unless you are a subscriber, and I am not. Otherwise I would read the old articles.

The problem that the consulting firm posed was based on the spread out nature of our area.

I am in favor of train systems. I could not have made it in Manhattan 12 years without rail. I use rail systems when travelling to Boston, Chicago, D.C., etc. I have problems with the rail in the Triangle based on the reasons I have sited.

On top of that, I don't think this issue is worth trashing Ballantine over. While it's an important issue, I think it's small in the scope of all of the reasons Ballantine is a better candidate than our current Governor. If it were in reverse and Easley did not want the rail, and Ballantine did, I would not change my vote or opionion.

Has anyone ever been to Arlington, VA? Granted, the circumstances aren't quite the same, but that city was as sprawling or more so than the Triangle until the metro "retrofitted" the area and allowed for high density. As a consequence, traffic is much better than it previously was and the economy is humming, especially around the metro stations. I understand that each area is different, but I feel that it's unfair and disengenuous to make the argument that an area must already be densely developed to be able to accomodate and have mass transit succeed. Chicken or egg?

Rickie's right about that. A century or so ago, the city of Chicago was in the habit of constructing traffic lights at new, unused intersections, because it anticipated the growth that would require them and that would be eased by their being already in place.

I'd like to respond in bulk to several items on this thread, which I missed when it first appeared.

First, as to Ballantine's opposition to urban rail projects in North Carolina- I would point out that he is not only in conflict with major metropolitan leaders (government and business) of both parties in the Triangle and Charlotte on this issue, he is also in conflict with Senator Elizabeth Dole, who has been a strong advocate for both projects at the Federal level. So Ballantine's first task on this point, if elected, is to explain to Senator Dole, a former Secretary of Transportation, why she's been wrong for several years.

For those against “high flying transportation projects” without lowering taxes, did you know that according to the General Accounting Office, the Northern Wake expressway had one of the largest cost overruns for a highway project in the nation between 1988 and 1993?

Several other NC highway projects also made the list. Please see page 23 of this report.

As for ToddtheBlog, if he once supported the regional rail project before he discovered “facts” from the American Dream Coalition, he may want to read about the litany of problems in the research produced by their one full-time employee, Randall O'Toole. O'Toole is a local control advocate, who ironically, travels nationally telling other people how to live. Mostly, he tells them to live without rail transit.

Todd Littman, who has been published in numerous scholarly journals and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board, has debunked many of the problematic criticisms in O'Toole's research.

To learn more about the benefits of public transportation in terms of travel time savings due to congestion reductions, I would encourage everyone to examine the gold standard of urban congestion research, the TTI Urban Mobility Study, conducted by Texas A&M university. Start at page 10.

The accident-prone Houston system runs in the middle of a major street in downtown Houston, and most engineers say the signage developed for the system is quite confusing. Minneapolis recently opened their system and has been far more successful. Comparisons to the TTA project here are irrelevant because 90% of the TTA rail line will be built in NCRR right-of-way.

Finally, the post about the rail money coming from the same pot as roads (at the Federal level) is incorrect. The Federal New Starts program, from where the federal portion of the TTA and Charlotte projects will come, is run by the Federal Transit Administration, not FHWA. If the Federal money does not build rail in NC, it will not return to build roads here instead. It will build rail in another state. You can learn about the New Starts program here.


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