Traffic

Planning expert: Raleigh not suited for light rail

Posted March 15, 2013
Updated March 16, 2013

— An urban transportation expert on Friday advised Triangle officials to rethink the push to create a regional transit system, saying it wouldn't work in Raleigh.

Triangle Transit wants to combine 14 miles of light rail, 17 miles of commuter rail and a beefed-up bus service to handle Wake County's growing traffic congestion.

"The commuter rail plan and the light rail plan just don't make sense to me," said John Pucher, a professor in the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He is a visiting professor this semester at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the Department of City and Regional Planning.

Pucher has more than 40 years of experience in transportation planning. He supports alternative modes of transportation, but he said planners often underestimate cost and overestimate ridership projections.

"It's just so difficult in this very decentralized, very sprawled metropolitan area," he said.

David King, general manger of Triangle Transit, said that the region is expected to grow by 1.5 million people over the next 20 years.

"Where are they going to go?" King asked. "The road system can't support it."

He said rail stations could help manage that growth, concentrating "as much as one-third" of the new residents near transit hubs.

Pucher said King and other local transit advocates are "assuming a lot."

"I'm not convinced," he said.

John Pucher, transit expert Wake right to hold off on transit tax vote, expert says

Light rail and commuter rail are more justified in Orange and Durham counties, where there are more walkers and bicyclists, he said. Other factors that support more transit there are a favorable route between the cities and tight parking around the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and North Carolina Central University campuses, he said.

Durham and Orange counties plan to start collecting a half-cent sales tax for transit projects next month. Voters in Durham County approved the tax in November 2011, and Orange County voters approved theirs last fall.

Wake County commissioners have balked at putting a transit tax on the ballot, saying the area has other, more pressing issues. Advocates are frustrated, saying all they want is for a chance to vote on it.

"The county commissioners of Wake County, in a way, have done the right thing," Pucher said. "I don't think you can expect the voters to understand all the details and analysis."

A better option for Wake County would be a "bus rapid transit system," he said. The system essentially allows buses to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes on area highways, which he said is more efficient, flexible and cost-effective than rail systems.

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  • Bill Brasky Mar 18, 3:49 p.m.

    "Again, where would you put the rails????"

    We will need railways eventually. Do we go ahead and set aside land for building it, or do we allow the land to become more developed, therefore displacing more people and businesses?

  • InTheNo Mar 18, 3:00 p.m.

    An expert from Jersey :) If we can do it as well as they've done it in Jersey maybe Raleigh will be good enough for people from Jersey to move down here.

  • InTheNo Mar 18, 2:49 p.m.

    It's hard enough to get down Capital now without having a rail system lines cross over the road. Pardon the pun but that train already left the station.

    You have heard of elevated trains and subways, right?

  • InTheNo Mar 18, 2:44 p.m.

    Urban spraw does not lend itself well to light rail.

    david46

    March 18, 2013 9:04 a.m

    Have you ever been to Charlotte? Just look at it on a map. Charlotte ain't NYC.

  • nighttrain2010 Mar 18, 1:51 p.m.

    Oh no we won't be getting a tax payer funded choo choo that no one will use?

    >>The commuter rail plan and the light rail plan just don't make sense to me," said John Pucher

    Well it doesn't make sense to me either John. Of course I won't be in the position to use it and I'll still be funding it with my taxes.

    >>A better option for Wake County would be a "bus rapid transit system," he said

    No a better option would be for the government to stay completely out of the transportation business.

  • Relic Mar 18, 1:48 p.m.

    "Raleigh could definitely use light rail along Capital Blvd. From Wake Forest to downtown"

    Again, where would you put the rails???? There's nowhere "along" the Capital Blvd. to put them without buying up millions of dollars of personal property, moving homes and businesses, etc. It's hard enough to get down Capital now without having a rail system lines cross over the road. Pardon the pun but that train already left the station.

  • Relic Mar 18, 1:43 p.m.

    "This guy cannot be an expert, he must be getting paid by Raleigh's Paul Coble and Tony Gurley to say this."

    "a professor in the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He is a visiting professor this semester at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the Department of City and Regional Planning."

    Sounds like an expert to me. I'd wager he would be hard-pressed to tell you who Cobel and Gurley are. He's from an area that has had transit systems for decades. "Ideal for light rail"??? Where are you going to run light rail tracks throught? All the apartment complexes that surround Raleigh?

  • corey3rd2 Mar 18, 1:23 p.m.

    What we really need is a toll road from Holly Springs to the Research Triangle Park that charges $4 one way. I bet people of Wake county would spend all day driving that road. Shame they never built it.

  • atc2 Mar 18, 1:14 p.m.

    This is rediculous!!!!!!

    I travel to metro areas all the time, Raleigh and The Triangle are ideal for Light Rail! This guy cannot be an expert, he must be getting paid by Raleigh's Paul Coble and Tony Gurley to say this.

  • gkgreene Mar 18, 12:45 p.m.

    I constantly hear the promotion of light rail in Wake County but when I look at the dispersion of both home and work locations throughout the county, it seems difficult to recommend the use of light rail.

    Including the factor that as neighborhoods age over the years the origin / destination routes will be dynamic which again seems to argue against a fixed transportation mode such as light rail.

    Agree that a bus system would be better for our region - the question becomes how to provide lanes in the major arteries to reduce the typical time required for trips. Difficulty with this is that no planning has addressed any type of major thoroughfare outside of the loops - need some "spokes" in these wheels without stoplights

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