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Raleigh group proposes electric transit on elevated tracks

Posted March 29, 2012
Updated March 30, 2012

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— About 67 million vehicles pass through a 2-mile radius around the North Hills development in Raleigh each year, causing traffic delays, parking problems and other headaches for drivers. A new public transit option could take a chunk of that congestion off the road.

Personal Rapid Transit map Midtown Raleigh transit map

The Midtown Raleigh Alliance says an urban transit system in the area would allow drivers to ditch their cars for a smoother ride in lightweight, four-passenger vehicles that run on tracks.

“They are electric, so they are silent on an elevated track – (a) driverless, computer-controlled track,” said Martha Grove Hipskind, executive director of the business group.

The vehicles, known as PRT or Personal Rapid Transit, would not run a schedule. Instead, passengers could get in and select a destination. The cars would travel up to 25 mph and offer non-stop, door-to-door service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“You get on at the hotel, and you're going across the street for lunch … It will go straight there,” Hipskind said.

The path of the track would loop around an area from North Hills at Six Forks Road to Duke Raleigh Hospital on Wake Forest Road. London's Heathrow Airport uses a similar system.

Raleigh group proposes electric transit Raleigh group proposes electric transit

“We believe midtown is the ideal model test location,” Hipskind said. “You would be able to come to midtown and try transportation that only seemed like a dream.”

For now, it’s still a dream that has a long way to go before a shovel hits the ground. Midtown Raleigh Alliance leaders say they’re not sure how much the project would cost, and they are still trying to figure out how to get funding.

Kilar Meyers, who works in North Hills, said she thinks the new form of transit could save people time and money.

“Traffic can be congested, especially around lunch time, because everyone wants to get away from the office for a little bit,” she said. “About 10 to 15 minutes in traffic, find a parking spot … it can be time consuming.”

48 Comments

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  • mswayze Apr 5, 2012

    less exensive would be continuous right turn intersections instead of four way stops. Seems every traffic jam I've hit in wake county is because of left turns and traffic lights.

  • dmccall Apr 2, 2012

    PRTs are WAY more likely to be ridden than large occupancy vehicles like light rail. If something like this could be developed that could travel 90mph avoiding stops between origin and destination, then we will see people begin to opt of our of cars. Imagine getting from North Hills to the airport in 10 minutes.

    No present alternative is a "sustainable" choice. 99% of people will opt for cars and traffic, the environment, and people's productivity will not improve.

  • Fun Mar 30, 2012

    Instead of spending to dig tunnels under Lake Boone and Glen Eden and build bridge over 440 for green ways, the indebitness could have been better incurred to serve the mass public. Tunnel under Six Forks. Just poor allocation of resources and leadership under Mother Meeker. Certianly poor plannings in developement of North Hills- Just think best is yet to come- its not built out yet!

  • kdvr2000 Mar 30, 2012

    Well I think all the comments are legit to be honest. I think if you read this will be mostly or all private funding with maybe US Government funding with I doubt any funding from the state so that eliminates the argument of increase taxes. North Hills is a private campus like Disney or any other similar campus so why can they not build something to attract something. Also our area has some of the best educated minds in the country we are always looking at ways to improve other cities and countries why can we not put our minds to good use right in our back yard. Let Raleigh become the leader for the future of transit. Also I feel that because you may not go to north hills does not mean it may be good for the city as a whole for visiters, jobs, and people wanting to move here. I say if you do not support or like something(IE. Tolls, taxes etc) then do not use them, but remember when you want something later you may not have the support you need.

  • abbynork Mar 30, 2012

    It is good to see that group doing such wonderful planning. They should be allowed to build that project. I hope they have lots of money.

  • JustAName Mar 30, 2012

    "How many years do you think it will take to replace EVERY car on the road with a driverless car?" - smcallah

    That will be a great day, because I'll still have my manual drive car and all of those driverless cars will move to the right lane to automatically avoid me as I pass them.

  • LucaBrasi Mar 30, 2012

    "Luca proves that you fail to even admit there is a problem with transit and it doesn't matter if you are talking foot, bike, bus. My guess you never use it or never had to... jjsmith1973"

    I grew up in Chicago where you have to use the mass transit (bus and subway) to get around the city. A car there is a ball and chain and the mass transit there runs 24/7. It's not a 9 to 5 Monday thru Friday operation. You appear to have a "Field of Dreams" approach to this..If you build it. they will come.

  • smcallah Mar 30, 2012

    "A solution that requires generating more electricity. Will that be generated using coal or nuclear power?"

    What kind of question is that? Raleigh is powered by a nuclear power plant now, one that wants to add two more reactors in the future.

  • smcallah Mar 30, 2012

    "why not around the airport? I like that it requires no drivers who would strike for extraordinary pay, and in Raleigh, electric power is NOT coal power buy greenhouse safe nuclear."

    Did you read the article? They mention the traffic around North Hills because it is a popular destination with many businesses and restaurants around the area they are talking about.

    The airport is in the middle of no where compared to North Hills. There is not much close to the airport for something like this to make sense.

    They want a small area, 2 mile radius they mention in the article, and a busy area to make this viable.

  • smcallah Mar 30, 2012

    "A few years ago I would have thought this was a great idea. But with the recent advances being made by Google in driverless cars, these PRTs are going to quickly become obsolete."

    How many years do you think it will take to replace EVERY car on the road with a driverless car? That's not going to be any time soon. Most features like this begin in luxury cars, and don't filter down to affordable cars until much later.

    And even if there are some driverless cars on the road, for the foreseeable future, the majority will still be cars with drivers. Still causing the same traffic delays, just now with driverless cars stuck in the middle of it.

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