Traffic

Dropping Rail Plan Left Triangle With Unanswered Questions

Posted June 18, 2007 1:21 p.m. EDT
Updated June 18, 2007 7:29 p.m. EDT

— 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.