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'Reality Check:' Triangle needs more transit

Posted February 27, 2009
Updated April 27, 2009

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— Getting the Triangle to cooperate on creating a regional transportation network will be key to preparing for an expected influx of 1 million people by 2030, according to a group of community and business leaders studying the area’s growth.

More than 400 local government, business and nonprofit leaders and residents met Friday on the last day of the "Reality Check" summit in Raleigh. They discussed the Triangle's infrastructure and economy and concluded that improving regional transportation is the most important way to support that population influx.

“The decisions we make today are the decisions that will be defining the next several decades of growth in this region,” said Rick Weddle, with the Research Triangle Foundation.

"It's never too early to do strategic and thoughtful planning," said Charles Hayes, with the Research Triangle Partnership. "We need to make this part of the world a better place than it is now and competitive in the global economy."

Conference gives 'Reality Check' on Triangle growth Conference gives 'Reality Check' on Triangle growth

Some exercises appeared to be fun – a comedy sketch and teams making regional maps that had Lego blocks and yarn representing homes, jobs and transportation – but participants said it was all serious business.

"It is a game, but you will see that it’s a very serious game," said Fred Day, former chief executive officer of Progress Energy. "It’s about creating a vision for this region for the next 20 to 30 years.”

Legos show Triangle's potential growth Legos show Triangle's potential growth

Conference organizers say the large-growth predictions – putting the Triangle on track to be larger than present-day major metropolitan regions like Charlotte, Atlanta and New Orleans – make it necessary to make plans now, particularly for housing, jobs and infrastructure.

"Everyone's thinking the same way," Raleigh's planning director, Mitch Silver, said. "We want to do it now and not like Atlanta, which is growing and then figuring out how to retrofit."

Those resources must be shared and the growth spread equally around the region, participants said. And the best way to do that, they said, is creating an efficient, regional transportation network.

"Our citizens are crying out for alternative options," Raleigh City Councilman Thomas Crowder said. "I think people who sit on Interstate 40 in congestion in the morning and the afternoon or people on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh – those folks are looking for alternative modes of transportation."

The summit's plans call for light rail to be a large part of the Triangle's future transit.

"If we had a light rail downtown, imagine the number of people who work in RTP (Research Triangle Park) who would literally walk from their house to the station, get on and (stay) on top of their laptop all the way through the commute out to RTP," Raleigh real-estate broker Ann-Cabell Baum Anderson said.

Previous plans for light rail in the Triangle have failed, mostly recently in 2005 when federal funding fell through for the Triangle Transit Authority's plan for regional rail.

Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, though, said that she plans to push state legislators to pass a bill to create more intermodal transportation.

"It (the conference) made me realize how important that legislation will be to providing funding options and coordination options for our region and, also, for the whole state," Ross said.

Participants said the conference's findings should provide a blueprint for growth in the Triangle for years.

"We kind of have the marching orders to figure out how to work as a region. It's been there before, but this gives it an impetus to work quickly," Silver said.

The reality Check conference was cosponsored by the Urban land Institute,  Washington-based development-industry think tank, and Triangle Tomorrow, a program of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership.


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  • colliedave Feb 27, 2009

    If the current transit yahoos can't design a bus system that works, how can we expect them to design a rail system that works? I live off Capital Blvd near I-440 and most of my activities are in the North Hills area which is a 15 minute at most car trip. To get to the same area by bus would be at least an hour.

  • NE Raleigh Feb 27, 2009

    What future growth? The Triangle is losing jobs and more homes are going into foreclosure every day. Where will these individuals be working?

  • cheerioponylove Feb 27, 2009

    I was one of the 300 participants in this. The legos were used to make counting and moving people and jobs easier. They were based on growth projections so they limited us (meaning we couldn't magically add jobs or take away people.) They make it sound like a game, but it was actually really hard.

    This was not paid for by government. They had corporate sponsors who paid for everything - you can see them listed on the Reality Check website if you google it. There was a mix of people, but I met more business people than anyone else.

    Water and land conservation were taken very seriously. In fact, most groups put down conservation (marking it with green yarn or markers) and transportation (orange and purple yarn and markers) first. Our group made sure to keep large green areas around streams, rivers and lakes.

    I can pop back on here if you guys have specific questions about how this worked.

  • dnguyen68 Feb 27, 2009

    They should get together and Sims City game :-)

  • jon2four Feb 27, 2009

    I suppose everyone would be happier if community leaders paid a consultant eight hundred thousand dollars to this for them.Box of legos twenty dollars or less.

  • fn2binaz Feb 27, 2009

    The apathetic being led by the inept.

  • ncwebguy Feb 27, 2009

    Once again, for the WRAL illeterati, here are the water sources already being planned for:

    - An additional 13 million gallons/day in 2010 from Lake Benson (bottom of story)

    - Little River resivour in East Wake

    People are complaining that the *politicians* are out of touch? Why think when you can complain!

  • jaredg Feb 27, 2009

    you guys crack me up

  • LabTech Feb 27, 2009

    This just in: one of the participants in today's workshop accidently got the lid off his sippy cup and spilled his Kool-Aid. After looking at the mess for a minute everyone agreed that it would make a nice lake.

  • 37 Feb 27, 2009

    Leaders, please turn in your computers and use this Etch-a-Sketch. You will hardly notice the difference.