Fishwrap on hiatus this week
Project 20/10: Local media strains under economic pressures (#16)

Project 20/10: TTA rail derailed (#17)

It wasn't a bad morning to head to Raleigh to do some research at the state archives. A quick DATA bus ride downtown to the Durham Station transit center, then a walk across the sweet pedestrian bridge over Chapel Hill Street to catch the TTA rail line. Then it was on the light rail system for a quiet ride past downtown and East Durham, before the ride along the rail corridor through RTP, Cary, the NC State area and finally downtown Raleigh.

Tta_rail  And an enjoyable trip it was, having time to catch up on the morning newspaper while typing away on the laptop. The train was clean and well-traveled, with a mix of daily commuters and families making their way along the region. 

Most impressive: the Triangle Metro Center, where office and retail space is really filling up in what's now being called the modern heart of RTP as light rail has created a new dense center between the cities.

...wait, I'm totally kidding. We don't have a stinkin' rail system here.

Yes, the scenario above is what many dreamed of in the Triangle, worked for for years. And at the end of the 1990s, it was widely thought that Durhamites and Raleighites would be shuttling along a rail system well-established by the time 2010 rolled around.

But a funny thing happened on the way to a rail system. The project got shot down after the Federal Transit Administration changed the rules for federal New Starts funding just as the Triangle Transit plan was about to be evaluated.

A few years later, transit supporters have regrouped, creating the STAC plan for a mix of rail and bus service in the Triangle. 

But there's plenty of reasons to believe that the core concept of the 2000s plan for transit -- a direct-connection run built out between North Raleigh and Duke via Cary, RTP and Durham -- will end up being replaced by a set of regional transit systems that might just link up, someday... and leaving RTP last when it comes to the kind of dense, transit-oriented development the Park needs most.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The TTA effort got under way in the 1990s and seemed to be on a roll in the early 2000s, with the authority having acquired most of the right of way for the planned route, which would have snaked from north Raleigh along the Capital Blvd. corridor, down to downtown Raleigh, west to NCSU and Cary, then up through RTP and into Durham, terminating at Duke University.

But cracks in the armor began to appear.

First, cost escalations spiraled -- thanks, no doubt, to the worldwide construction boom raising prices for concrete, steel and other necessities. 

At the same time, the Triangle Transit Authority lacked any revenue stream dedicated for transit save for a rental car tax, which brought in only about $7 million a year in revenue at the start of the decade.

In 2004, as costs spiraled to almost $860 million, the TTA eliminated the Duke Medical Center station and three north Raleigh stations, focusing instead on a $664 million core rail service plan. And the plan's use of a shared rail corridor with freight traffic led to skepticism and higher design and construction costs to incorporate passenger rail into what had been hoped to be an inexpensive way of reusing an existing right of way.

But there was a further wrinkle to come.

The Federal Transit Administration changed the rules of engagement for evaluating rail projects under its "New Starts" program, throwing TTA down a switchback from which it would not return.

The agency lowered the cost-per-hour of travel time saved threshold, under which the TTA plan had previously qualified, to a level at which it no longer met the federal requirements for funding.

As the Indy's Bob Geary noted, the feds also had an issue with the modeling figures TTA used to calculate ridership and traffic delays, which at one point foresaw an eyebrow-raising four hour trip time on I-40 between the two cities.

Most galling, the feds changed the rules of the game shortly after approving Charlotte's rail proposal, which was set for consideration only a few weeks before the Triangle's.

Which is why today you can ride Charlotte's Blue Line from uptown to I-485 along the South Boulevard corridor -- and see tens of millions of dollars in new commercial and residential development to boot along the line.

Meanwhile, it's crickets in the Triangle. With federal funding out of the picture, 60% of the funds needed to build the program disappeared overnight.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What's the future for rail transit in the Triangle?

The first step lies in getting a funding underpinning. One key to Charlotte's success was their half-cent local option sales tax dedicated to transit, which provided a stable local funding source to improve rail and bus service.

Late in the decade, conservatives tried to repeal the tax through a referendum, a move opposed by Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (who lost his '08 bid for the governorship) -- and a move that went down to a 70/30 defeat that signaled broad public support in Metrolina for transit.

Now the ball is in the Triangle's hands, with governments in Wake, Orange and Durham counties willing approval this year to put the same local-option tax on ballots here.

Given the current recession, though, there's not likely to be a rush to do so. Best-case for such a move appears to be 2011, and even then, there's a need to stabilize both the jobs-and-income picture and political support for doing so.

The bigger question from Durham's perspective: what gets built first, and where?

After much navel-gazing and study, a regional committee of planners and citizens in the Triangle came together for the STAC committee report. The "Special Transit Advisory Committee" ended up recommending a new approach to rail and bus transit in the region. For rail, the same diesel-unit trains proposed in the TTA plan are in dark blue, with light rail in light-blue.

Stac_recommendation
 

Importantly, while the STAC recommendations end up at much the same rail-corridor point as the initial TTA plan -- with the addition of service along the 15-501/NC 54 corridors between Durham and Chapel Hill -- they would phase the plan in differently.

Instead of starting with the Raleigh-Durham connection, the City of Oaks would start with a transit system connecting north Raleigh to downtown and over to the NC State area and Cary, but omitting RTP from the picture for the time being. And Raleigh's segment, thanks to that city's higher population, would be built years before Durham and Orange saw such a system.

Durham and Chapel Hill would work on their own connectivity plans, meanwhile, with a possible light rail line from Alston Ave. to Duke and down 15-501 to Patterson Place the first build-out area.

Yet RTP in such a scenario could end up being served last by high-frequency light rail traffic, relying instead on less-frequent commuter rail trains connecting outlying communities from Burlington to Goldsboro through Durham, RTP, and Raleigh. That service could in theory happen much faster than light rail could, but without frequency of service would be unlikely to galvanize big increases in development densities or much transit-oriented development. (See more in BCR's fall 2008 story on commuter rail plans.)

As the N&O's Bruce Siceloff noted in a must-read story earlier this month:

The sprawling Research Triangle Park lacks the density to generate as much transit traffic.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker says commuter trains could be "a viable alternative to having the Triangle Transit light rail to Durham right away." But Durham Mayor Bill Bell has qualms about joining forces with N.C. Railroad to launch the rush-hour trains.

"That means we've got to put money into their proposal to make it happen," Bell said. "And is it really feasible, after you do that, to come back and talk about light rail later?"

Note the back-and-forth between Meeker and Bell. Right there, and in the phasing of the two proposals, sits one of the more intriguing parts of this story.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

One of the knocks against transit in Sunbelt states is the idea that most residents moving to our area prefer their single-family home on a quarter-acre of land to some kind of downtown density.

But it's a chicken-and-egg problem. Without a strong transit system, there's no mechanism to make higher density supportable.

The strong development interest along Charlotte's transit corridor demonstrates that a smartly-planned rail line can reshape residential preferences, supporting in-fill dense development that revitalizes core cities, increases tax revenues, and supports local business.

Bell gets that. And so does Meeker.

And to my mind, the push by Meeker and Raleigh's leadership to build transit first in the capital area is a clear power play, an attempt to drive disproportionate growth, jobs, and corporate relocation to downtown Raleigh.

RTP's proximity amidst the center of the region, as we've talked about here many times before, seems to chafe with the Raleigh half of the world, some of whom have griped -- as in this New Raleigh post by failed City of Oaks mayoral candidate Lee Sartrain -- that RTP should be minimized in a world in which Raleigh should become the center of the metro area, with Durham joining Wake Forest, Clayton and Chapel Hill as the suburban edge.

Of course, that argument ignores the small problem that UNC and Duke's collective brainpower drive much of the reason for the arrival of high-tech and life sciences firms, and the source of many of those firms' workers.

But transit-oriented development density is a way for Raleigh to leap ahead in turning the polycentric Triangle towards a more Raleigh-focused region.

Mind you, there's no disagreement here that RTP needs more density -- a subject we'll return to later on in a look at the top stories of the decade.

This Lego-map from this year's Urban Land Institute Reality Check event, which shows residential population in yellow blocks and jobs in red, shows the screwed-up hourglass design of the region, which distributes a healthy number of jobs over way too large an RTP land area:

Reality_check_triangle

Both Raleigh (with state government jobs) and Durham (with Duke and downtown businesses) have higher employment densities than RTP.

As commutes and traffic gets worse, and companies shift from large single-site models to leaner, thinner, more flexible business models, the demand for more flexible housing units with large numbers of apartments and leasable office space will likely drive tomorrow's job picture.

And that's the play that Raleigh is certain to want to make with connecting and incentivizing more residential, commercial, and retail density.

Raleigh's play to be first with transit, as a result, isn't just about the viability of such service under existing density models along transit corridors.

It's about reshaping, rebuilding the Triangle -- ultimately, about liking the shape of an I-540 circle quite a bit more than the region's trilateral visage.

Which means it's about all of Durham's tomorrows, and those in the Research Triangle Park as well.

All of which makes the coming years' talk over transit one of the most important stories to watch.

Comments

Jonathan

Jonathan

I really like the idea of the light rail system. I think you could get enough density with work hour traffic and night traffic. I know if I could catch a rail to Raleigh's downtown district and then have the last run around 2:30 am, I along with many other young professionals / college students would use it all the time.

I like the fact that it is running from Duke, downtown Durham, NCCU, RTP, Raleigh, and NC State, but why isn't there anything for RDU? With all the business people, college student, and families flying in and out of RDU,I would think there would be enough traffic to prove profitable.

It would be really interesting to see the project numbers, cost structure, potential profit for this system, and brainstorm how something like this can be done in the triangle. I think we have a great example by looking at Charlotte.

GreenLantern

"One of the knocks against transit in Sunbelt states is the idea that most residents moving to our area prefer their single-family home on a quarter-acre of land to some kind of downtown density."

But it's a chicken-and-egg problem. Without a strong transit system, there's no mechanism to make higher density supportable."

Are you psychic Kevin?? Before I even read your magnificent article, I was thinking the exact same thing!

I would just like to point out that Charlotte is perfectly designed for commuter rail. The major employement center is downtown, the center of a series of spokes, not least of which is a fairly wealthy spoke due south that parallels car-congested routes like Independence Blvd. In between, young urban hipsters populate several rail-side condos and apartments, along with retail and entertainment tailored to them, make the light rail system much preferred over waiting through traffic light after traffic light. Even some of the more working class neighborhoods to the east would find a rail spoke more attractive than a bus line or car to to get downtown. Getting to the airport or to University Research Park from the exurbs would require only a quick detour to the downtown hub at a reasonable right angle or greater versus a highway route.

Charlotte's furthest suburbs, near Matthews for example, might find it easier to hop onto I485 to get to the airport or to URP, but to get to downtown would require them to get on I85 which is constantly backed up, making light rail extension to the suburbs a wash except for those that live very near the rail line or park & ride lot.

Until the Triangle, or more accurately, the Quadrangle (Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Chapel Hill) encourage residential and commercial development along the proposed rail route, a light rail system would be difficult to leverage cars off the highways. People would have to know that at some future date, a rail line would pass near their homes before choosing to live there versus a suburban plot with .25 acres. Since most of us only live in a place for no more than 10 years, it's hard to argue that buying a home next to a commuter rail line will offer the kind of appreciation in value versus a quiet cul-de-sac in the suburbs, or a older fixer-upper downtown, especially if there's nothing else to do around the neighborhood. Even if the light rail route is fixed and built soon, it wouldn't take many more cars off the highway, as those who move from the suburbs to a new home along the rail route would just leave behind another more-affordable suburban home for someone else who would have no choice but to use their cars while they're living here and working at their temporary high-tech job in RTP. The best scenario would only offer to bend the curve lower in the form of fewer trips to RTP from the major cities. I don't think that would be worth the billion-dollar investment.

It's a utopian idea to think that we can match the success of densely-populated major cities, or metro areas shaped geographically as Charlotte. To me, the better solution is expanding bus transit to the suburbs without necessarily having to travel to a downtown hub. For example, if we had a bus or vanpool from Grove Park/Ravenstone/Brightleaf to RTP every 30-minutes from 6-8am to loop around Alexander Drive/Hwy 54/Miami Blvd, to supplement the downtown bus service, it would help out a lot. For Durhamites in the east and south of RTP, avoiding right angles and less to our destinations are key. For commuters from the north and west, it's a far easier sell, especially if the rail route is extended to Hillsborough and most of the commuters live in a small downtown area with other things to do there.

There are all sorts of pie-in-the-sky scenarios for light rail and extended bus service, but around the Quadrangle it won't be fully utilized as long as there are so many destinations that don't cross a central hub as it does to a greater degree in Charlotte. The worst thing about the light rail plan is that it doesn't offer service to RDU airport. Therefore, I don't think light rail will be successful here.

GreenLantern

I've often put forth the idea of a Figure 8 rail line that would offer the folks in Chapel Hill and North Raleigh a more direct, parallel route to I40 and I540/Alexander Drive to RTP, which would also connect to RDU airport. Given the fact that more Chapel Hillians are transit friendly than others, there's no question the rail spur would be used to avoid going to the hub in downtown Durham. Given that I540/US70/Alexander is becoming a traffic nightmare, a parallel rail route to RTP and RDU would make more sense than diverting to the downtown hub. With a few strategic park and ride lots, folks living along Creedmoor Rd or would find it more appealing than I540.

Of course, this plan would at least double the cost of light rail. More people would use it per mile however, and more cars would be taken off the busiest roads.

JeffS

You don't have to encourage development along a rail corridor, you only have to build the rail and stand back and watch the development sprout up - after proper zoning of course.

-------

What is it with you people and the airport? I will say it again... the person wanting the rail to go to the airport is the person that isn't going to be riding the train on a regular basis. Take a cab and quit whining about RDU.

JeffS

Good article BTW, up until you started the Raleigh vs Durham rant.

Steve Osborne

I always say we overate the benefits of competion while neglecting the needs for cooperation but this time I would say that Raleigh's power play might be a good thing because I also believe in Christopher Alexander's notion of interlocking strong centers. The Grand Paris will be built on that notion.

The most efficient transportation network for the whole region would be one where
1. The east side and the west side of Durham Main street are connected with mixed-used revitalization and pedestrian friendly streetscapes;
2. The RTP with it's 27% vacancy would fill some of the empty space with the kind of urban infill that would create local businesses and jobs with access to parks and lakes, and attract companies the way Minneapolis St-Paul does with the Minnesota Liveable Community Act instead of strictly depending on corporate tax exemptions to convince ouside companies to come here.

For that kind of network to exist, each center must develop its own strength and its own blueprints for independant liveable communities.

Kevin Davis

@Jeff: Sorry if it came across as a rant; that wasn't my intent at all, actually.

I tend to think that from a Raleigh perspective, it's very fore-sighted and smart of Raleigh's leadership to want to pull more jobs and density into their core. After all, state government jobs give a nice base of economic stability for the downtown, but for Raleigh to capture the imagination in the way that, say, Austin TX does, I'm sure they'd like to see VC firms, video game design companies, startups, etc., along with more established firms setting down roots within the heart of downtown Raleigh... not in RTP or Cary.

Raleigh's leadership is on the right track to make smart growth-oriented decisions... for Raleigh. To bludgeon both General Motors and "Lil' Abner," the sense seems to be, "what's good for Raleigh is good for the Triangle."

I suspect if you asked Raleigh leaders what's more important to them -- the long-term health of RTP, or of downtown Raleigh -- they'd answer the latter. And, why not?

If you move the center of job growth in the region to Raleigh, you strengthen home and commercial real estate values and the tax base. And, Raleighites might say, Wake County will add more people in the next 15-20 years than the entirety of today's population in Durham and Chapel Hill -- so, why keep RTP as the central point of economic interest?

(All of which is to say nothing of the broader interest from other communities in drawing more jobs out of the "Park" -- which I'll define to include Brier Creek, NC 55, Cary/I-40, Morrisville, and south Durham -- and out to Alamance, Granville, Johnston, and Chatham counties.)

So, my point isn't to bash Raleigh. It's to say that there are regional pressures natural to happen around where growth happens.

RTP's presence at downtown Durham's door is a huge help to the growth of our community. The two things that worry me about that future in a long-range (20-40 year) period are:

a) the failure to add nodes of density and more flexible-use spaces, and

b) lack of transit service.

We'll come back to point (a) when we reach the top ten of the countdown.

Jonathan

I never understood why buses never really took off with the business professionals. When you're in DC, Philly, or NYC you will find business professionals in suits sitting right next to a homeless person on a rail system, that is to say everybody uses the rail system. I can be in the same city on the bus line and you will rarely see any of well dressed people riding the bus.

To the point of a rail line to RDU, all I will say is a light rail needs to accomplish all the tasks I want to do. Right now the Triangle is personal car driven transportation because of the sprawl. If I can only ride a rail for one task like going to work, but have to drive my car to get groceries or go to the movies. Then I would drive my car to work, it is more convenient than riding a rail.

But if I could get up in the morning walk or bike to the rail station, get some coffee while waiting for the train to arrive, go to work in the park, catch the train after work into Raleigh for dinner with friends, then stop by on my way back home to pick up a few groceries, followed by a short walk back to my house this would be great.

I like the way the route is setup with the above picture. All I would add is a connector from the Triangle Metro center to RDU. I guess I love big city transportation and I need to just move to one.

Kevin Davis

@Jonathan: Lots of people have asked about the RDU connection.  The short answer is that theres no existing train tracks to serve the airport, and theres nothing to serve *along the way*.  Ideally you want rail systems to connect densely populated nodes, not to run through greenfields where development cant happen and wont happen.


Cities have generally not gone to much effort to connect airports via their rail systems. At least as of a few years ago, LaGuardia was a train to Queens then a bus, and you couldnt get to JFK at all, though thats changed with the AirTrain connection.  The idea is that you really arent flying in and out of there much, and you can serve the traffic well with cabs and auto drop-off.  Much different than daily commuting where you will be going to a destination 5 days a week most weeks.

Your point on who commutes comes back to a big debate over whether DATA should try to attract might be called riders of need -- those who ride due to affordability, disability, or other circumstances -- or riders of choice, discretionary passengers who choose not to use their cars.

Personally, Ive used DATA in the past and would do so again.  The biggest reason I dont ride is that the 30-60 minute frequency doesnt work for me with my schedule.  If I miss a bus, I need to know I can catch one in 10-15 minutes, not have to wait 30 minutes for the next one.

Some authors have written about the hidden costs of being poor; for riders of need on transit, this is one.  On the flip side, without a dedicated funding source (like the half-cent tax), where does the funding come from?

(Weve talked about this issue here before; for background, see http://www.bullcityrising.com/2008/12/data-considers-nearterm-transit-improvements-farefree-service.html, or http://www.bullcityrising.com/2008/12/still-more-analysis-of-durham-v-chapel-hill-on-the-transit-farefree-front.html, or http://www.bullcityrising.com/2008/07/data-ridership.html.)

CJ

Even through the City of Raleigh is adjusting its future land use plan to increase density for mass transit; I see those plans never coming into reality. Unfortunately light rail itself in Raleigh and Wake County may never come into reality. Even though the urban voters in Raleigh may support a referendum for a sales tax increases for transit, those voters in suburban Wake County will not support it just to benefit Raleigh. A resident of Fuquay- Varina will not get any benefit from a rail line in Raleigh. Look at the recent school board election over there. Wake County overall is too conservative. I feel that a transit sales tax referendum would have a better chance of passing in Durham and Orange Counties. I don’t feel that there is enough unity in Wake County for them to become leaders in the mass transit movement.

GreenLantern

Chicago's O'Hare is set up nicely with rail transit to the city. It helps that there are suburban and exurban neigborhoods that parallel the expressway. Again, using other major cities as an example isn't fair when compared to the four distinct urban centers in the Triangle.

RDU is in the center of the Triangle, and one can argue that it "parallels" the I540 loop and the RTP based traffic coming in from northern Raleigh. One can also argue that over half the population will be left out if the current map of rail service is all there will ever be. The most transit friendly folks in Chapel Hill and some of the highest concentration of RTP workers and business travelers in North Raleigh are left out, or must travel out of their way to pick up everyone else in between the two city centers when they can just as easily take the interstate. That's why a Figure 8 that serves all four cities, with plenty of connecting bus service, could draw more support.

I don't agree that airport travelers as a whole can be dismissed just because individuals don't travel each and every day. They are a very large part of both resident and visitor day trips as a whole, and more likely to leave the car behind in the garage or the rental car at the airport. Taking a cab is an expensive option for most, and whether a cab or personal car, it's just another vehicle on the road.

If you want more business travelers to ride public transit, you can't just serve the community that can't afford the other options, such as moving workers from East Durham to Duke hospital. Connecting centers of residential wealth on the outlying areas with the employment centers of RTP and the transportation hub of RDU is essential if you want their support. Bus transit from park and ride lots to towns like Fuquay and Zebulon are another component that needs to be addressed and budgeted in any light rail proposal. Once the total costs of rail and bus service are factored in, the cost will be too high for us to bear alone.

Since it won't work for me and the majority in any city or county in the Triangle, I have no reason to support it, and will probably campaign against it. I won't pay $300,000 for a 1200 sqft condo no matter how close it is to a rail stop. With ever-tightening credit, neither will many others who currently live in the suburbs or those whose salaries arent' keeping up with the taxes and government spending on boondoggles like this that only help a few.

Kevin Davis

@GL: Ideally, the creation of more infill development helps the entire community by getting more people to live closer, and fewer pressure to sprawl a community further and further from job centers. That is, for those who desire to live in the Zebulons and the like of the world, it should keep their commutes from getting worse when theyre competing for lane space against (say) the people commuting from Wilson or Rocky Mount.


There will still be plenty of suburban growth. But getting more people to live closer to the core reuses existing infrastructure like roads and utilities, helping everyones commutes and tax bills.

So, even if youre not living in that condo -- you benefit, too. Or so goes the theory.


I dont disagree with you about the figure-8 idea, which in fact has worked its way into several plans at different times. My sense is that kind of I-40 route would be a future addition. Also, one of the highlights of the STAC report is a massive increase in bus service precisely to provide those feeder routes to rail.  That said, transit-oriented development follows steel (rails), not rubber (tires), making a mix a necessity to have the desired impact.

Khalid

Since I've been living in Cleveland for the last year and a half, I have taken the "Rapid" (light rail) from the airport to my neigborhood (near Shaker Square...approx. 40-45 mins - 30 mins driving - but cheaper and didn't need to inconvenience anyone). I have used the bus to get campus for a week while my car was acting up (I felt like a true southerner when trying to read the bus schedule). I've taken the Bus Rapid Transit on the Euclid Corridor from Case Western to Cleveland Clinic which runs every 10-15 minutes.

People usually choose the path of least resistance but its also nice to have options. Also the present state of the Triangle is spread out but most people thought it would be crazy to think that Raleigh and Durham could be less than 5 minutes apart but Briar Creek is down the street from the communities on Page Road.

When comparing Raleigh and/or Durham to Detroit in 1959, it is better put things in context. The city of Detroit has been struggling for many years even in the boomtimes of the auto industry. This was not only due to suburban flight but the jobs that followed them. I can speak more specifically about Cleveland which has followed a similar plight as Detroit. Cleveland has over 50 cities and towns within one county fighting over every company relocation. They also have almost as many school districts, mayors/councils, police depts, etc. When times are good this flawed system works to some degree with winners and losers. The suburban cities are beginning to lose population just like the rest of the city and they are realizing that they are all losing in the midst of the "competition".

The next 50 years in the Triangle need to be shaped our multiple urban core (RTP, Raleigh, Durham, etc.) From a traffic standpoint it is also beneficial having multiple business districts versus one main one. Atlanta has multiple business districts and the largest one is off I-285 in the Perimeter area and not Downtown. The problem is that the only to get around in Atlanta is via the highway hence an ever-expanding and -congested highway system. They also have a severely underfunded transit system and a lack of regional planning.

In 50 years will we look like Cleveland or Atlanta? Some will hope Atlanta but that is short-sighted...I hope in 50 years the TRIANGLE will be a model regional coordination and growth just like people look at Research Triangle Park. We have to make the investments now though...

Todd P

The Bush Administration's constantly changing rules and moving goalposts killed the original TTA plan, along with the insistence by CSX and Norfolk Southern that they would not share tracks with TTA. The railroads then demanded extra clearance between their tracks and TTA's.

Having to build their own tracks was a big extra cost added to TTA's plans, and pushing them to the outer edge of the RR ROW greatly increased the engineering costs even more. It is ironic that now the railroads want to push regional rail that runs on the existing tracks.

Regional rail with just 8 or 10 trains a day will do little to promote dense development near Durham's rail stations. Bill Bell is right to question whether supporting regional rail would come at the expense of the TTA plans that would help Durham the most.

Durham needs the TTA rail plan implemented so that a new form of development will take hold in Durham - denser development along the rail line like what has been seen in Charlotte. Durham's line should extend to Page Road in RTP whether Raleigh's does or not so RTP workers will have a choice - a quick train ride home to Durham, or daily traffic jams on I-40 heading to Raleigh.

Jonathan

@BCR: I agree with you about RDU. I thought they were constructing there own rail line not using or sharing an existing line. That's not a big problem like you mention LaGuardia when I was up there a few months ago was not connected to a rail line. I had to catch the M60 over to the yellow line to get into Manhattan. Having a shuttle drive down airport road and up 54 to the Triangle metro center wouldn't be a problem at all. Also thanks for the links they did clear up some questions.

When I was in school in Greensboro I used to bus to go to school every day (7, and 13) the route to me 45 minutes compared to ~20 to drive. Over a 2 year period I have had the bus coming 15 minutes early to 30 minutes late, so my biggest problem wasn't the extra 25 minutes that it takes for me to ride on the bus, but the extra on average 15+ minute wait for the bus. Plus times on a bus varies based on traffic, and I have seen bus drivers pass people waiting at stops countless times.

I love public transportation, but I have never ridden on the DATA. I think what you touch on Kevin is "That said, transit-oriented development follows steel (rails), not rubber (tires)." I don't ride the DATA because there is no direct route to work, food, and entertainment. After reading about the DATA bus the thing that I really took away was the findings from the US DOT that said

"The NHTS found that 49 percent of all passengers who ride transit wait 5 minutes or less and 75 percent wait 10 minutes or less. Nine percent of all passengers wait more than 20 minutes... Higher-income passengers are more likely to be choice riders and choose to ride transit only if the service is frequent and reliable. In contrast, passengers with lower incomes are more likely to use transit for basic mobility, have more limited alternative means of travel, and therefore, to use transit even when the service is not as frequent or reliable as they may prefer."

Without a rail system and looking at how sprawled the Triangle is I don't see any bus system working for the long term. Developers do not think bus routes when building, there are not that many corridors where a single bus line can service all the needs of the community. I will even say there will never be one because individual traffic would become too jammed and the city would then be forced to slow development. Without a corridor or a rail line where buses can off shoot to surrounding areas, they delay will be to long for 90% of people who have a car. Basically if you have to go to the depot the wait time will be to long.

looking forward I don't know if the rail line will work out in the triangle. I really see some great potential, but it will have a large upfront cost, and slow results. However, don't start complaining to me about sprawl, everybody driving a car and how it is bad for the environment. Unless you make bus only roads, a thought, you can't have the population density for Durham. You will never get large amounts of the population to live in a closer area just because it's good, I would think you need very dense corridors, but I am 22 and schooled in embedded electronic systems, what do I know?

Simon Karpen

@Jonathan writes: I never understood why buses never really took off with the business professionals.

From my experience visiting and living in parts of the country with both forms of transit, there is an incredibly simple answer here: time.

Business people feel (generally correctly) that their time is valuable. A trip on a train is often faster than driving, and train services tend to be very consistently on-time without any worries about traffic or weather. Bus services are generally slower than driving, and are frequently delayed (especially here) due to traffic and weather. The previously mentioned frequency of service is also an issue; you have to plan around the bus schedule, which doesn't worry for many professionals.

In fact, in my experience with alternative commuting in the triangle (not doing it now, unfortunately), a bicycle was generally a faster way to get from point A to point B than the TTA bus, and was much less likely to leave me stranded than TTA's horribly managed connections and bus routes that stop running too early for the occasional "stuck at the office".

Robert Glenn

I clicked on the links below and they are out of date. Can you fix this? Great stuff!!
http://www.bullcityrising.com/2008/12/data-considers-nearterm-transit-improvements-farefree-service.html, or http://www.bullcityrising.com/2008/12/still-more-analysis-of-durham-v-chapel-hill-on-the-transit-farefree-front.html, or http://www.bullcityrising.com/2008/07/data-ridership.html.)

Jonathan

You need to remove the commas for the first two and period + end parenthesis for the last one.

http://www.bullcityrising.com/2008/12/data-considers-nearterm-transit-improvements-farefree-service.html

http://www.bullcityrising.com/2008/12/still-more-analysis-of-durham-v-chapel-hill-on-the-transit-farefree-front.html

http://www.bullcityrising.com/2008/07/data-ridership.html

John Tallmadge

@Simon Karpen writes: "...was much less likely to leave me stranded than TTA's horribly managed connections and bus routes that stop running too early for the occasional "stuck at the office".

I'm part of Triangle Transit's management team, and I want you to know that we've been making significant improvements in our connections between bus routes over the past 18 months. Upcoming changes to bus schedules next week should make them even better.

As a Durhamite, you'll also be interested to know that we've started evaluating ways to break up the large loop routes connecting Durham, Chapel Hill and RTP with separate routes in each corridor. That should improve the on-time performance in each corridor and create better connections at Durham Station. The trade-off is that individuals who travel through the transfer locations (not yet determined) would have to transfer. Service concepts will be put out for public comment in late January or early February. Our goal is implementation in August.

We welcome feedback on what needs to be improved in our system. Anyone can provide us feedback at http://triangletransit.org/contact/feedback/

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