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Triangle Transit unveils plans for Durham-Orange light rail

Posted May 3, 2012

Triangle Transit

— The future of mass transit began taking shape in the Triangle Thursday as planners unveiled specifics about a proposed 30-mile light rail that would connect Wake, Durham and Orange counties in the next 10 to 15 years.

The Durham and Orange county sections would be completed first, organizers said, and would begin at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, end at North Carolina Central University and have 15 stops in between. The proposed transit map does not yet include Wake County's plans.

“Wake is moving right along. They’ve got more options to consider, so they’re still weighing options,” said Damien Graham with the Triangle Regional Transit Program.

The estimated cost for the light rail proposal through Durham and Orange counties is about $1.4 billion. Durham already passed a half-cent sales tax increase. Orange and Wake counties have yet to hold their referendum to pay for the local portion.

 Future of mass transit takes shape in Triangle Future of mass transit takes shape in Triangle

“Anytime you’re talking about an investment the size we’re talking about, it’s a significant piece of infrastructure. It takes a long time to develop this," Graham said.

Transit organizers say if everything goes to plan, construction could begin as early as 2020, and it could be operational by 2025 or 2026. 

“I think it would be beneficial to so many people, and it would just help the economy,” said Triangle resident Jerra Collins.


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  • hardycitrus May 4, 2012

    Plus without the Washington subway, they would need another $10 billion dollars in local roads to carry the additional car traffic. like there have been studies to make the whole Beltway double decker, which is not going to happen, but they'd need something like that. Mimimum, another 8 lanes right through DC. Billions just for the land.

  • ahblid May 4, 2012


    It’s not about breaking even. No transportation method breaks even; they all get subsidies from roads to buses to planes. It’s about what loses the least amount of money and therefore costs the taxpayers less to subsidize.

    Up in DC, those subways moved 287.3 million rides at a total cost of $787.3 Million. That works out to a cost of $2.74 per ride. Up in DC it costs $4.34 per ride on a bus. So if there was no subway, it would have cost an extra $459.68 Million to get the job done. That’s $1.247 Billion to move all those people by bus, as opposed to $787.3M by subway.

    Did you want that much larger bill?

    I sure don’t! I like lower taxes.

  • hardycitrus May 4, 2012

    The DC subway carries about 1/3 of the people that want to ride it, but it followed the starfish pattern of the original DC road system minus the Washington Beltway. So traveling 10 miles east-west may require a trip all the way downtown and changing trains.

  • hardycitrus May 4, 2012

    DC Metro had to meet all kinds of conditions in the design stages, avoiding all sorts of monuments and federal stuff. And they intentionally skipped both the poorest neighborhoods until last, and they skipped the rich area (Georgetown) entirely, but now Georgetown wants it! And it did not include a river crossing from the VA to MD suburbs, and it did not reach BWI or Dulles airports, and it did not even connect PG and Montgomery county. Everyone was a afraid blacks would come pouring out of the subway and ruin their property value! Instead, property values zoomed near the stations.

    And because so much of had to be underground, current capacity and expansion is limited by the tunnels. And of course the whole main Metro station is below sea level at the National Mall, and the train to Reagan International goes under the Potomac River.

    Yes the DC subway is a monster, but that it the result of endless state vs federal, state vs state, and country vs county politics!

  • babedan May 4, 2012

    Wow the subway lost only 300 Million and still moved more than 2 times the number of people the bus did. Let's see the subway lost less than half the amount of the buses yet moved twice as many people. Meaning, the subway would have to move what 4.5 times or more people than they currently do just to break even and look at how many people use the metro in the DC area. Probably more than the entire population of the 3 counties combined.

  • hardycitrus May 4, 2012

    I see a lot of posts that remind me of Homer Simpson: "If we recycle, the terrorists win!"

  • jjsmith1973 May 4, 2012

    @PickantoherID, I agree that, that is an issue here as well and you are correct about that

    SW3090: So you think only unproductive people take mass transit? What a statement.

    Ahblid: Thanks for the info. I have read a lot of those facts too. I just didn't take the time to list them, thank you for doing so. I honestly think that a lot of people in the area seem to think the way SW3090 does. So, I wonder if it will ever happen. I like it and I notice every time I go to a place that has had light rail and a good bus system all the people that use it. Which is a dynamic of everyone in those areas. I think it is a good thing.

  • ahblid May 4, 2012

    babedan wrote: "What would loss of this system be"

    A lot less. They're not building a system the size of DC's Metro.

    Besides, the real money loser in DC is the buses, not the trains. In 2010 riders on the subway covered 61.96% of the total costs of $787.3 million to operate the subway. Riders on the buses paid 19.47% of the total bus operating costs of $557.5 Million.

    The subway lost $300 Million, but moved more than 2 times the number of rides that the buses moved, while the buses lost nearly $450 Million.

  • ahblid May 4, 2012

    yankee1 wrote: "Another way to steal more taxpayer money for a liberal slush fund!"

    Here's why you're wrong!


  • ahblid May 4, 2012

    TheAdmiral wrote: "The fact of the matter is that it only works in densley populated cities."

    According to the US Census Bureau, the population density of Durham is 2,126.6 people per square mile. The pop density of Chapel Hill is 2,710.0.

    The population density of Salt Lake City is 1,678.0 people per square mile. Out in SLC they already have 3 light rail lines, with a 4th slated to open late this year. Their 3 lines carried 13.4 million rides in 2010, and at lower cost to the taxpayers than the buses.

    Every time someone stepped on a light rail train in 2010, it cost the taxpayers $1.31. Every time someone stepped on a bus, their average ride cost the taxpayers $4.02.