Dropping Rail Plan Left Triangle With Unanswered Questions

Posted June 18, 2007

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— Even with a huge increase in funding and creative alternatives, the Triangle's traffic woes are only going to get worse.

A blue-ribbon commission is taking on the daunting task of what to do about it. Commuter rail is still stuck at the station, but trains still may figure in the solution.

The vision had been a sleek, modern commuter rail system passing Triangle traffic on the roads. The reality was that the federal government questioned the Triangle Transit Authority's plan, and it was pulled off the table.

The question is what to do now?

Transportation planners say that the average commute in the Triangle now takes 41 minutes If we don't invest more in alternative transportation, buses, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and even commuter rail, the planners predict, average commute time could jump to 66 minutes in about 20 years.

The Special Transit Advisory Commission’s job is getting a transit plan back on track.

Ed Johnson is one member of the commission.

“We had a nice piece of the pie, but didn't have a good idea of what the pie really ought to look like, and that's what this group is trying to do with this fresh look at transit,” Johnson said.

The group is discussing better bus service, HOV lanes, car-pooling, and where people live.

“Hopefully, we'll come up with some transit solutions, and people will start to see that it makes sense that they can live close to a transit area and commute and do things like, and it will take a little pressure off the road system in the bargain,” Johnson said.

Charlotte opens a commuter rail line in November, and the man who led their successful bid for federal funds urged the Triangle not to give up on rail.

They're talking about the right kinds of issues, exploring, (they) understand the forces that are at work demographically, financially and politically, and I would say that it provides a great opportunity for the future here,” Ron Tober, chief executive officer of the Charlotte Area Transit System, said.


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  • daphod Jun 19, 2007

    "As I’ve pointed out before in public forums:..."

    Sorry for not researching your previous posts!

    People are doing this every day in many cities. you're talking about costs when there isn't even a solid proposal yet. For God sakes give it a chance before you dismiss it.

    And yes, trains are typically more reliable than buses in terms of schedule. If you're a frequent rider, you can usually buy a month-long pass that includes all mass transit (including parking).

    And the 30MPG? Perhaps if you have a hybrid, don't hit a lot of stop and go, don't encounter accidents, drive with a light foot, ...

  • daphod Jun 19, 2007

    WXYZ, whyn don't you Google "sudden oak death" and find out what really happened to the oak trees in Raleigh.

    So, let me get this straight - you prefer paving a LOT of roads, the accompanying parking lots, big box development and lots of cul de sacs, right? That approach is actually destroying more natural land! It makes more sense to concentrate high density development to predetermined areas versus letting sprawl take its natural course.

    What most people fail to see is that the sprawl that we have now is not necessarily less expensive than a rail system in a tax perspective. Think about how much water, sewer, gas, electric, telecom infrastructure needs to be build to service communities father and father away from the centers of population. Then factor the construction of the roads, streetlights, etc.

  • daphod Jun 19, 2007

    night-hunter -at- earthlink -dot- net, your economics don't make sense. Most cities with networked rail/bus systems have day passes that are very cheap. It's $5.00 or $5.50 in DC. It was $5.50 for the VTA in San Jose. All day, as much as you want. It actually encouraged us to get out of the hotel and explore - something we would never have done in a rental car!

  • daphod Jun 19, 2007

    enderby - the demise of the Rust Belt predated the arrival of transit by several years. I lived up north for 16 years. I remember watching my friends' parents decimated by layoffs at the steel mills, general motors, dunlop, occidental chemical, and so on. This was the late 70s/early 80s, when heavy industry began to leave. In the mid-late 80s, light rail concepts started springing up along very primitive routes, but they became more of a tourist focus than getting people to work.

    If you're against "retrofitting" a train system, then you're effectively damming the Triangle to second class city status. There's no way the roads will keep up with growth. When that happens, watch people and businesses leave, downtown Durham/Raleigh stagnate yet again and housing prices fall. Maybe some want this to happen - I don't know.

    One employer I worked for decided against expanding a design center here because partly of transportation issues - RDU, no mass transit, congested roads.

  • JennyT Jun 19, 2007

    I'll ride that 8-foot gator!!

    Seriously, how about tax incentives for telecommuting?

  • enderby Jun 19, 2007

    daphod - I half agree with you - high taxes, congestion, and a non-mobile workforce caused in part by forced unionization caused the demise of the NE. I know, I lived there for ten years. Boston , NYC, and Toronto have successful trains, but the areas were not retrofitted to try to accommodate them. Those cities also have bus service. That would be more realistic here. I remember the start of the Northern hemorrhage - it started with ideas like trains to nowhere.

  • nighthunter Jun 19, 2007

    if a really high speed mag-lev elevated monorail system that reached all of the outlying areas were developed with appropriate local parking/mass transit subsystem in place, by 2050 it might actually pay for itself.

  • nighthunter Jun 19, 2007

    Assuming an efficient vehicle getting 30 mpg at the current price of gas at $3.20/gallon, this equates to $4.74 one way or $9.48 round trip. Not counting maintenance cost and depreciation of the POV, this means that in order to attract riders to a mass transit system the TOTAL cost of the process would have to be less than $10 per day

    If one projects that same 44.42 mile commute at $5.00/gallon, that’s only $14.8 round trip even if it’s taking 66 minutes.

    Oh, and incidentally, current side trips, to lunch, to shopping during lunch, or enroute before and after work, are pretty well eliminated, decreasing the business volume in a number of places.

    And, on top of all this, a regional Mass Transit system does not eliminate ANY of the private and commercial passing through traffic, or the local commercial freight, delivery, or service traffic.

    On the other hand, if a really high speed mag-lev elevated monorail system that reached all of the outlying areas were developed with approp

  • WXYZ Jun 19, 2007

    Oops, I meant to say: Once upon a time there was a rule in Raleigh, that no shopping center Parking Space could be more than 100 feet from a tree. And no commercial or residential structure could be higher than the trees. Raleigh used to be called the "City of Oaks". Now the trees are being taken down and replaced by high density commercial and residential structures.

  • nighthunter Jun 19, 2007

    As I’ve pointed out before in public forums:
    First I would have to drive to the train station and park. Cost of parking? Will there be enough parking?
    Next I have to pat to ride the train. Cost? Is the Train 100% reliably on time? (TTA isn’t, CHT isn’t) How much time does it take?
    Then I have to find transportation from the terminal to my destination. Cost? Bus service? Time involved?
    Then at the end of my day, I have to find transportation BACK to the train. Cost? Time?
    Travel on the train back to my station of departure. Cost?
    And finally return to my POV to drive home. Time? Any other cost?

    In order for any Mass Transit system to be cost effective, it MUST either be far cheaper for the individual to travel that route, or it MUST be far less time, or both. Assuming the current estimate of 41 minutes commute time is correct, this means that if one assumes the speed limit of 65mph, the average distance traveled one way is 44.42 miles. Assuming an efficient vehicle getting 30 mpg