Why I was disappointed by the Jillian Johnson Facebook tempest, and why it really matters
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Jason Baker: Correcting the record on the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project

This guest post, written by Jason Baker, originally appeared at OrangePolitics.org. We're reprinting it here with permission. It's a full-throated response to the Indy Week's cover story last week on the Durham-Orange light rail project. 

As always with guest posts, the opinions expressed here are those of the original author -- but heartily seconded by your editor here. -KSD

The June 29, 2016, “Off the Rails” INDY Week piece by David Hudnall, which discusses the Durham-Orange light rail transit project (DOLRT) is a poorly researched opinion piece that does a tremendous disservice to INDY Week readers, residents of Durham and Chapel Hill, and—most importantly—current public transit riders in Durham and Orange counties who stand to benefit greatly from a significantly enhanced bus and rail transit network with DOLRT at its core.

Hudnall’s piece mistakes anecdotes for data, ignores significant differences between Wake County and Durham-Chapel Hill, ignores the ways in which current low-income residents travel today—and what that tells us about the usefulness of DOLRT—and, finally, skips reasonable fact-checking of anti-rail project critics’ claims with publicly available documents, including past INDY Week stories on DOLRT.

In an effort to correct many of the misrepresentations of facts, and errors made by Hudnall, below are excerpts from his piece with added context, data, and information so that readers can get an accurate understanding of DOLRT, the benefits it will provide for our community, and why light rail will meet the needs of Durham and Orange Counties and move us forward.


To get to work under the envisioned D-O LRT plan, however, Wells would have to take a thirty-minute ride on the Roxboro Street bus to the Dillard Street station. She'd then wait for the light-rail train to arrive, take it approximately forty minutes to Chapel Hill, then walk five minutes to the Wilson Library.

Her commute time would nearly triple, from a half hour behind the wheel to an hour and fifteen minutes on public transportation—assuming her arrivals at the bus stop and the train station are well timed. And so she says she's unlikely to wake up at 5 a.m. just so she can take the train to work. Neither would most people.

Hudnall is eager in his article to criticize the light rail for not doing enough to help low-income residents, yet he continually uses inappropriate metrics to evaluate how the light rail performs. Those who depend most on transit either do not own a car or live in a household with fewer cars that full-time workers. Rather than comparing the DOLRT line to a car trip, the correct metric is to compare a trip on DOLRT to a trip on today’s current bus network. For Ms. Wells, the current bus network shows a trip of 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 28 minutes, giving light rail (Hudnall cites 1 hour and 15 minutes) a time savings of 5 to 13 minutes each way over the current bus service for this trip. (View this trip to Wilson Library on Google Maps.)

And before you navigate away from Google Maps, plan a trip by transit from the Holton Center in East Durham to Home Depot in Patterson Place. You’ll see it is 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 11 minutes, with a transfer from one bus to another at Durham Station. Now consider swapping the 42-minute bus trip from Downtown Durham Multimodal Center to the Home Depot in Patterson Place for a 21-minute trip on light rail, both with a 2-3 minute walk to work at the end of the trip. This trip has been shortened to 44 to 50 minutes, a significant time savings over our current transit infrastructure.

Specifically, light rail saves this passenger 21 minutes each way. What does a shorter commute do for someone? Harvard University says it does more than virtually anything else to help someone escape poverty. The New York Times wrote in 2015:

In a large, continuing study of upward mobility based at Harvard, commuting time has emerged as the single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty. The longer an average commute in a given county, the worse the chances of low-income families there moving up the ladder.

The relationship between transportation and social mobility is stronger than that between mobility and several other factors, like crime, elementary-school test scores or the percentage of two-parent families in a community, said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the researchers on the study.


The trip into Chapel Hill will be considerably breezier, though, for a future resident of One City Center, the giant hole in the ground in the center of downtown Durham, soon to be a twenty-seven-story mixed-use condo building. For that privileged urban denizen, it's just a two-block walk to Durham Station. Likewise, Duke students will have their pick of three on-campus stops to get them to and from a Bulls game or a show at Cat's Cradle. The Ninth Street stop on the D-O LRT is exploding with nearby apartment options—if you can spend $1,500 a month for a one-bedroom.

With these sentences, Hudnall—who, according to LinkedIn, arrived in Durham a mere seven months ago in December 2015—reveals that he knows very little about where low-income residents live in Durham. Under federal law, GoTriangle was required to document the concentration of low-income and minority populations along the DOLRT corridor. You can see the data and a map on pages 8-9 of chapter 5 of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Here’s the map:

Enviro_justice_pop_dolrt_corridorThe blue cross-hatched areas show high concentrations of low-income residents. Yellow areas show high concentrations of minority residents. While Hudnall focuses on new buildings with high rents, he completely ignores the substantial numbers of low-income residents living in existing buildings in most of the corridor. Both Durham and Orange counties have approximately 25% of their population considered low-income, but the DOLRT corridor is 43% low-income. Hudnall misses public housing developments like the Damar Court and Morrenne Rd communities, just across Erwin Rd from the Duke campus and within walking distance of the LaSalle St rail station. He misses the census block groups near the MLK Blvd and Shannon Rd light rail stations where the Durham Neighborhood Compass reports a median income of $31,037 compared to the county average of over $52,000.


...UNC and Duke, whose students are less likely to rely on public transportation…

This statement is inaccurate. Both the Duke and UNC student bodies are very heavy users of public transportation. The Duke Transit system has roughly 16,000 boardings per day. That’s why they have extra-long buses like this:


And experience lines to board like this on East Campus:


To put that ridership in perspective, Duke Transit carries more passengers on most weekdays than the City of Asheville system (population, ~83,000 people), the City of Winston-Salem Transit Authority (population, ~240,000), and roughly the same amount of passengers as the City of Greensboro (population, ~280,000).

Chapel Hill Transit, with the second-largest number of transit boardings in North Carolina after the Charlotte bus and rail system, conducted a ridership survey earlier this year and found that 55% of their 25,000-plus daily boardings were made by students (p.54).


Durham County passed a half-cent sales tax for this purpose in 2011, and Orange County followed suit in 2012. But the then-Republican-heavy Wake County Board of Commissioners refused to take action. Durham and Orange pressed forward, collaborating on what is now the D-O LRT. Both counties continue to collect taxes for the project.

This statement by Hudnall completely omits the fact that the referenda in both counties funded much more than the DOLRT line, and that significant bus service improvements have already been delivered in and between both counties. Improvements made so far on GoDurham, GoTriangle, Chapel Hill Transit, and Orange Public Transit are detailed here on a GoTriangle website.

Additional improvements are coming in August. GoDurham will extend service later on Sunday evenings. GoTriangle will extend regional service to Carrboro for the first time and double the number of trips per hour in the middle of the weekday between Durham and Chapel Hill. The INDY Week covered these improvements recently in an article written by (you guessed it) David Hudnall.

Additionally, planning for an Amtrak Station in Hillsborough is also underway as part of the Orange County plan.


Nowadays, Ford articulates his gripes about D-O LRT in the context of social justice. "It takes people from one prosperous node—UNC, in Chapel Hill—to another, Duke, to another, downtown Durham," Ford says. "There won't be any real affordable housing on that line, no matter how much local governments try to make that happen. We're putting all this money into a pet project for an elite group of people."

Just like Hudnall, Dick Ford is not aware that there are low-income residents in places along the DOLRT line other than the Dillard St and Alston Avenue areas.


"The ridership projections for the Durham-Orange LRT stretch credulity, with estimated daily boardings of 23,000. This is in contrast to the Charlotte LRT system, with daily boardings of 16,000—which has been static since inception in 2007, while the population has increased 17 percent…”

It is possible that David Hardman, who wrote this quote that Hudnall cites, does not know the current Charlotte line is shorter than the DOLRT line will be. The existing Charlotte line is about 9 miles long and has 16,000 boardings per day. DOLRT will be 17 miles long and have 23,000 boardings. Longer lines tend to have more passengers. The Charlotte line is currently being extended because of its success, and a new section to UNC-Charlotte will open in 2017.


“...These ridership projections are further inflated with the working assumption that 40 percent of households in the Durham-Chapel Hill corridor will not own automobiles in 2040, which flies in the face of current ownership levels and assumes a tectonic shift in public behavior."

This is another quote from Hardman, and is also another example of failed fact-checking on Hudnall’s part. This talking point is a repeat of a misreading of the official DEIS documents by Alex Cabanes, seen here in a Facebook comment on September 29, 2015, made in the comments section of a News & Observer article.


Fortunately, Jeffrey Billman debunked this claim in a previous INDY Week article, stating:

“For example, they have claimed that GoTriangle is assuming 40 percent of area residents will be carless by 2035. Not so, he says. Instead, the agency estimates that 40 percent of light-rail riders will be carless, which makes more sense.”

Unfortunately, Hudnall did not take the time to check his own paper’s reporting on this controversy. It’s this type of basic error that should cause all readers to ask “what else did Hudnall miss?”


A Charlotte Observer story from earlier this month noted that Uber is likely contributing to declining ridership in Charlotte. Judith Mellyn, a Downing Creek attorney who grew up using public transportation in New York and voted for the half-cent tax back in 2011, says her son, who lives in Charlotte, used to take light rail to events in the city. Now he uses Uber.

"And I think that will obviously evolve into things like driverless vehicles, driverless buses—a way of getting around in the future that won't be tied to these fixed stations," Mellyn says.

Here is an answer to this comment in pictures:


(link to original image)



The point of these photos is to show that access to dense job centers is first and foremost about fitting a lot of people into limited amounts of valuable urban space. High-capacity vehicles get the job done, carrying many people to work without taking up nearly as much space as those people would in cars. Having most people arrive at places like UNC Hospitals and Duke University Medical Center in cars carrying just one or two people is fundamentally a physics problem: You can’t fit all the people in if they all bring 2600 pounds of metal around them. Buses overcome this problem to a certain point. Trains will enable us to overcome this problem for generations to come.


“...And none of the groups who looked into this came back and said light rail was the right investment for Wake County."

Gardiner continues: "We went into the process from a vulnerable position. If the community would have come back and said, 'We want light rail,' that would have been fine with us. But they didn't. They looked at the facts and said, 'We can't get the mileage and geography and service we need out of our public transportation system if we spend our money on a light-rail line. There's no flexibility. It's a big, growing, sprawling county. And with buses and BRT we can get service out to these places that need it. We would be giving up service goals in exchange for a toy we can feel good about.'"

Hudnall portrays the comments of a Wake County employee talking about decisionmaking in Wake County as having implications for Orange and Durham counties. The communities, and their transit systems, are quite different. While it is exciting that Wake County finally has a transit plan, it is also worth noting how Wake County’s transit system is very, very far behind the system that exists in Durham and Orange counties (which is another great reason for the Wake plan- to catch up!). FiveThirtyEight did a comparison of how 290 American cities compared by transit usage, dividing trips on area transit systems by annual population to calculate trips per person per year. With 43.4 trips per person, Durham-Chapel Hill placed a very respectable 21st, just ahead of both Denver and Salt Lake City—both of which are much bigger cities with multi-line rail networks. Raleigh, on the other hand, came in 195th, narrowly beating out Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Scranton, Pennsylvania, with 7.2 trips per person.

Orange County has a rural buffer, and Durham has limits on where it will extend water/sewer service. Wake County has comparatively few limits. For a county like Wake, which is not focusing land use planning in urban districts and continues to build new highways like the I-540 toll road, a system that can spread out with less frequent service over more land makes more sense. The same is simply not true for Orange and Durham counties.

In closing, a lot of the mistakes in this article could be chocked up to a new guy in town not doing his homework. But for a paper that proclaims to fight for social justice, and given that most people riding transit today in Durham and Chapel Hill have incomes well below the median income, (slide 10) INDY Week needs to take a harder look in the mirror and ask itself why it couldn’t be bothered to talk to low-income residents or people of color who ride transit in Durham and Chapel Hill about how they travel instead of letting several older, wealthier white residents with a clear agenda speak for them.

Given that the Herald-Sun faced appropriately stiff criticism from Bull City Rising for doing the exact same thing less than a year ago, INDY Week should have done better than this.



Wow. This article is a steaming pile of crap. Full of lobbyist language and cherry-picked data, and a hatchet job on a journalism professional who raised valid critiques. Save your ad hominims for the Orange County side of the line, Mr. Baker.


Wow. This article is a steaming pile of crap. Full of lobbyist language and cherry-picked data, and a hatchet job on a journalism professional who raised valid critiques. Save your ad hominims for the Orange County side of the line, Mr. Baker.

Michael Bacon

"Wow. This article is a steaming pile of crap. Full of lobbyist language and cherry-picked data, and a hatchet job on a journalism professional who raised valid critiques. Save your ad hominims for the Orange County side of the line, Mr. Baker."

Irony is dead.

Jessalee Landfried

Thank you for this piece! Much needed dose of reality.

Ruby Sinreich

So glad to see Jason's response! Most of us don't have time to research all these issues, even when we read an article that smells as fishy as this did.

Rodney Derrick

I sold my car in early January. Not only does this mean significant savings by itself, there is an amazing amount of stress reduction. Much better to ride the bus or the future transit, and leave the driving to the driver. You can read a book and relax. Sure, you may have to walk a few blocks, but look around, that is a good thing and would be good for lots of folks who do not exercise, and yes, the current bus system configuration almost doubles the time require for most trips, but really, it might expose you to a broader cross section of your community.

Paolo Shirazi

I spent virtually all of my twenties not owning a car. I biked and used public transportation. Years ago, as a grad student, my field of concentration was briefly transportation planning. I believe in public transit.

But rail in the Triangle remains as dubious a proposition now as it was back in the nineties when it was first wisely rejected. Even under the best of circumstances (e.g., being in an area with a significantly higher and denser population than the Triangle and with far more traffic congestion than we have here), multipolar systems are always going to have the odds stacked against them. And funding from a regressive sales tax makes the whole scheme even less likable.

As a Durham resident watching the gentrification-fueled migration of low-income residents from 27701 to outlying zips such as 27704, I found the following from the Indy's discussion of Charlotte's failing light rail experiment to be particularly interesting: “Though the city is extending the line, ridership has declined—4.3 percent in the last year—even as the city's population has grown. [A]ccording to The Charlotte Observer, 'the accelerating gentrification of center city neighborhoods [is] pushing [Charlotte Area Transit System's] core ridership—low-income blue collar workers—further out toward the suburbs''." Of course, the father out from the city core these low-income residents go, the less likely they will be served by a light rail system.

Light rail in the Triangle is a white elephant waiting to happen. An expensive showpiece for all of the carbon-hating “progressives” in the area to get all misty-eyed about. And it's a bad idea.

Dick Ford

We need to be practical. Durham needs a transit system. Light rail is not feasible in the current situation. Durham leaders should start right now developing Plan B which can be a reality.



Dick Ford

Doesn't Washington pay for 80% of BRT, obviating the need for funding from Raleigh??


@Dick Ford, I agree. Time for a reboot.


Outstanding work Jason. But duck, here comes the Nimby attack wave. The documentation about the census income data and the fact that the federal government requires that sort of analysis certainly debunked idea that the rout didn't include concerns for "transit dependent communities." This would be a great transit backbone to an outstanding transit system that would help to reshape the Durham-Chapel Hill MSA.


Disqualifyinbg opinions because of 'nimbyism' is exhausting and infantile. Plus, the current alignment is flawed for numerous reasons no matter who bothers to stand up and say so.

Gerry Cohen

No Dick Ford, Washington does not pay for 80% of BRT. I think it maxes at 50%

Alex Cabanes

Gerry, per FAQ @ http://nscstudy.org/faq/

What will be the local share of BRT Investment?
Local capital investment would be between $12 Million and $50 Million. Federal funds would provide $50M – $75M.

Dick Ford


MAP 21 of the American Transportation Association is one of my sources. On page 15 it states: "Federal share: In general, the Federal share of net capital project costs will not
exceed 80 percent, except under a “special rule” for fixed guideway BRT projects,
where up to three such projects shall receive a Federal share of at least 80 percent."

I'd be glad to look at your sources. Thanks.


Actually, the Durham side isn't "NIMBY" at all. We need it in more backyards for it to be viable and worthwhile. The current proposal includes Duke and the downtown area and skips out on most of the residential areas and low-income areas. Yes, it does include some pockets of low-income people, but it doesn't include a sizable amount of Durham for the cost nor does it take people where they need to go. Many of us supported a Triangle-wide light rail system (plenty of people need to get to RTP or Raleigh for jobs), but no longer support a Downtown Durham to Chapel Hill route as an efficient use of taxpayer funds to help low-income people. Durham could improve its bus systems and commute times citywide for much less than the cost of a light rail transit system designed to take people out to eat in Chapel Hill or brewery-hopping in Durham.


The DOLRT's biggest weakness is poor marketing, making it pukeworthy in the best scenario.

The problem is automobile traffic. Two sources, local and regional. One solution. Density. Light rail will (conditional: COULD) consolidate the lame ass 15-501 corridor offering redevelopment including 'mixed income' housing on the absurdly devalued property (as it is now 'developed')

The universities are the biggest employers, it makes sense for them to be anchors.

The biggest error I believe Mr. Davis has made was saying the Fearrington Road alignment is 'crucial'--just nonsense from another world, unless I'm wrong.


Right. DOLRTs biggest weakness is LRT because LRT is fixed and expensive. Spending most of the two county transit tax money on a 17 mile greenfield corridor involving many new at grade crossings is lame indeed.

DOBRT on the other hand has a nicer ring to it.

It makes more sense to link the length of 15-501 from EF to Durham using BRT. Link in the new UNC facility in Hillsborough, Durham Regional and perhaps Mebane too. Give good reliable access to the places where the medical services are decentralizing to. Use the transit taxes for more than commuting, between two universities. Make transit investment flexible rather than fixed then you will really get increased ridership and density. Use electric buses and they will be greener than LRT. Design the system to meld better with disruptive transit technologies and you will have an investment in the future.


but this fails to acknowledge that the source of the problem is the growth pattern essentially decreed by automobiles. that makes the lrt being 'fixed' an advantage, not a weakness. none of whatever happens should/needs to use currently green space (though a line to NCCU down University might around Forest Hills)

..and I think I partially (completely?) misidentified the stretch of alignment, it's more Pope than Fearrington?


@root; Not clear on what you are saying regarding the Pope road area. The plan is to come down Fearrington (past Patterson's Mill) and then highway 54 to the Friday Center, then cut across Findlay to UNC Hospital. The point I am making is that Chapel Hill through form based coding has made a decision to encourage development in the EF area. It is irresponsible to not link that development with a concurrent major transit investment. I do not see any way a inflexible light rail line is an advantage for taxpayers, transit users or everyday drivers.

What is “the problem” as you define it? I think that cutting new paths through green space and adding in at grade crossings (when the DoT is spending huge dollars to eliminate same) is much more of a problem than the growth pattern as it relates to automobiles. Bypassing existing development in the name of some promised density down the road is misguided. As much as it is fashionable to hate roads these days roads enable the work-a-day economy in ways that light rail never can.

The DOLRT honesty factor has been abysmal. I object to the bait & switch of selling DOLRT as a transit investment when it is really primarily an economic development plan. Yes, all transit has an economic development component, but this is 1.8 billion dollars for 17 miles of inflexible transit between "if you build it he will come" compact neighborhoods that have little hope of being affordable for anyone but top tier earners.

The ony thing Mr. Bakers may above underscores is the population that will be displaced by development.

Ridership projections made by GoTriangle should give pause to anyone with basic math skills.


what's the 'EF'?

Alex Cabanes

So many misleading statements. Let's start with “Both Durham and Orange counties have approximately 25% of their population considered low-income, but the DOLRT corridor is 43% low-income.”, as University students will be classified as ‘low-income’ residents since most are not working or are reporting low income during summer jobs, so this statistic is artificially skewed due to student population at UNC and Duke University.

In addition the DOLRT project will not serve NC Central University (our nation’s first public African-American liberal arts college) or Durham Community College (an institution that provides affordable, technical and career education).  These educational resources strengthen our local business community with the wide reach of their programs, particularly offering accessible, low-cost acquisition of life and job skills to our citizens. The disconnect between DOLRT direct service to these educational and job opportunities does our community and local businesses a grave disservice.

“… this effort fails to provide service to either Durham Technical Community College or our higher education neighbor and partner, North Carolina Central University. … Light Rail Project fails to adequately serve the nearly 20,000 individuals who enroll in at least one class at Durham Tech annually, nor our over 800 full-time and part-time employees”  — Dr. William Ingram, president of Durham Technical Community College, correspondence to GoTriangle, 10/12/2015

Uber in pictures is likewise misleading on so many levels. If you look at UberPool (car pooling, on-demand @ http://ubr.to/29U1Rn2) as an example where you can rideshare as you go to work would eliminate half the cars since both you and your passenger are going along the same corridor. So each UberPool that would reduce traffic patterns by 2:1 or more if you picked up additional passengers. The idea isn't the car, rather being able to use software algorithm to dynamically match capacity and demand.

As an example, Uber and Gilt are selling passes for unlimited uberPOOL rides in New York City. @ http://tcrn.ch/29wU3UC “The deal is being called a “commute card” and can only be used Monday through Friday during commuting hours (7-10am and 5-8pm) in Manhattan. These are the same hours during which Uber offers $5 flat rate uberPOOL rides in NYC. As a refresher, uberPOOL is Uber’s carpool product where the company matches you with riders headed the same direction … this deal means commuting in an uberPOOL is cheaper than taking the subway.”

Uber impact already reducing Lynx ridership based on recent Charlotte Observer article, especially the 'choice riders' that DOLRT is seeking (Some Charlotte residents jump on Uber over train in South End @ http://bit.ly/1X6VONZ). From the article:

Chris Walker, who lives at the Silos South End apartment complex, is one of thousands of people drawn to living within a stone’s throw of the Lynx Blue Line.

Walker likes being close to the light-rail line, but he doesn’t actually use it all that much.

“I have lived here a year and a half, and I have taken the train twice,” said Walker, whose apartment is less than a quarter-mile from the New Bern light-rail station at the southern-most part of South End. “We Uber instead. For $5, you can get uptown. It’s easy.”

Kaitlin Flanagan, who works in SouthPark, says she sometimes takes the train uptown, but she almost always uses Uber to get home.

“I prefer Uber, especially if there is a big event going on,” she said.

Deanna Bencic, who works in south Charlotte, doesn’t take the train to work.

And if she’s going out with friends, she doesn’t take the train – even when it’s an option.

“If it’s four or five people, then we always use Uber,” she said.


@root apologies. EF = Ephesus-Fordham. The area near East Gate and University Mall on 15-501.

@Alex Cabanes indeed. Uber is point to point. Always more popular than multi-modal public transit. Uber, Lyft et.al. are highly disruptive to transportation and the effects we are currently seeing are only the beginning. Complimentary technological and social changes promise to upend the automobile ownership model completely.

Alex Cabanes

Let's do the math ... South End ridership increased 30% while population grew 160%. LYNX does not appear to be receive for long term success if it can’t attract rider at a faster rate than growth. (Charlotte Observer - Some Charlotte residents jump on Uber over train in South End @ http://bit.ly/1X6VONZ)

Meanwhile, Charlotte CATS overall ridership continues to decline ... "In September, ridership was down 5.6 percent compared with the same month a year earlier.

Lynx Blue Line ridership was down 7.5 percent. Ridership on regional express buses, which bring commuters from neighboring counties, was down 13.2 percent." (Charlotte Observer @ http://bit.ly/29NBiAc)

"CATS is facing stiff crosswinds at the moment. Low gas prices aren’t helping. And as highly-regarded as the Blue Line is, ridership in the hot South End district isn’t growing at nearly the same rate as the population there. Some residents instead prefer ride-sharing services like Uber, the Observer’s Steve Harrison recently reported.

On top of that, there’s the accelerating gentrification of center city neighborhoods. That’s pushing CATS’ core ridership – low-income blue collar workers – further out toward the suburbs, where bus routes cost more to operate." (Charlotte Observer @ http://bit.ly/1tsUppm)


'Not clear on what you are saying regarding the Pope road area.'

Our gracious website host had written on one of the many threads about this,saying that corridor was ‘crucial’-I think of Farrington as being on the north side of I40 and Pope as the south, which I think more accurately reflects the proposed alignment.

'The point I am making is that Chapel Hill through form based coding has made a decision to encourage development in the EF area. It is irresponsible to not link that development with a concurrent major transit investment. I do not see any way a inflexible light rail line is an advantage for taxpayers, transit users or everyday drivers.'

I’ll adopt this as a case in point. I actually grew up in the ‘EF,’ and will $oon make a lot of money rapping about it, and this is the head eating ass answer to your next question….

'What is “the problem” as you define it?'

Aesthetics and the dissonance of abysmal design. Retrofitting the ‘major transit investment’ of the entire 15-501 ‘bypass’ can conceptually transfigure what is already ‘inflexible’-our infrastructure and ‘urban’ environment.

'As much as it is fashionable to hate roads these days roads enable the work-a-day economy in ways that light rail never can.'

You think that because the car IS (has become) such an integral part of the economy-sadly, I believe.

I'll add that the pathetic flooding of the entire Bolin Creek/Camelot Village to Eastgate, which seems to occur about every 10 years-is a good reason for 'form based coding' and another GOOD reason for the light rail to go through there and provide additional impetus to it's redesign/redevelopment.


@root I think we arrive at agreement from different places. There is a "storm water improvement plan" floated in a bond that passed last year for EF. Not sure how it will turn out.

I am not sure what alternative you had to the rise in automobiles during the last half century, but I agree that whatever you say the automobile has been overdone.

I am not at all sure that a majority of people agree with the changes in EF. That is a hot topic. The most moderate voices I hear say there is a lot of improvement needed (especially in infrastructure) for the EF development to work and that the former mayor and TC left the town holding the bag on a lot of things. That's a discussion for another day tho.....

It will be interesting to see what the people who want to replace Mayor Bell say about this DOLRT transit debacle. An awful lot of money has been spent with not very much to show for it.


Mr. Carbanes- I appreciate the scrutiny and skepticism you provide for the 'low income' statistic and hope you consider all your statistics with such objectivity. I haven't been to Charlotte since a Grateful Dead concern in 1984, I think it was, so I'll withhold judgment.

Do you oppose all light rail, DOLRT specifically, or only the current alignment?


@root BTW Just so we are clear, No matter what the path, I support BRT, oppose LRT and support the state effort to limit and reexamine it for the same reasons I have stated all along.....

BRT is superior because it is lest costly (more can be served for the same investment dollars).
BRT is much more flexible because uses existing infrastructure and right of ways and
BRT is far more compatible with new and future technologies.


I think your conceptualization of the problem as logistical rather than structural will prove disadvantageous. I would be interested in learning how you visualize the manifestation of 'new and future technologies' you mention (being imminent?)



I argue both are a problem.

The current path of DOLRT sucks for everyone except developers (who the whole thing is for anyway). It does not serve the existing businesses and introduces new at grade crossings that the DoT is currently spending a lot of money to eliminate. So we agree completely on the structural miss.

Mr. Bakers chart above includes a significant number of UNC and Duke students in it's calculation of "poor" and I argue that they are (as I was) temporarily poor, but its as cynical to include them in the 43% low-income count to justify DOLRT. DOLRT will displace the less well off in favor of the rich close to the stations as has every other LRT line. The claim that DOLRT serves the poor or transit dependent is simply balderdash.

Logistically I argue that BRT is superior for a long term investment. BRT in separate lanes with smart streets (sensors) enables both driverless buses and driverless cars to efficiently co-exist on the same path. This enables and smooths the introduction of driverless cars and maximizes their efficiency because these vehicles do not need to coexist with piloted cars. Driverless vehicles and buses enable a much more flexible (on demand) network as well as the ultimate: point to point transit without the burden of ownership. This technology is being deployed now and will be routine *before* DOLRT can be built.

Since DOLRT has no contribution to make in this areas and thus will be obsoleted, Personal vehicle ownership likewise will decline in favor of highly efficient on demand point to point transportation.

Why would we spend 1.8 Billion of our hard earned transportation dollars on a dying technology, particularly one that does not serve the transit dependent?


you do not mention the central structural problem and your conclusion that 'DOLRT has no contribution to make..[sic?]' reveals some fundamental shortcomings of understanding in how fixed rail can be used.

Alex Cabanes

Yet another example of how technology (including software algorithms that dynamically match passenger demand and capacity) is already having a positive impact on transit and the environment. Car2go debuted in Seattle in December 2012.

Urban mobility study finds Car2go removes more vehicles from streets & reduces emissions http://ow.ly/3JAJ302rAUN ....

A first-of-its-kind study on the impact of the one-way car sharing service Car2go has found that the transportation model reduces the number of cars on city streets and cuts air pollution. In Seattle, one of five cities studied, each Car2go vehicle removed an estimated 10 vehicles from city roads — more than 6,300 vehicles total.

The study released Tuesday by the University of California, Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) was conducted over the course of three years in Calgary, Alberta; San Diego; Seattle; Vancouver, B.C.; and Washington, D.C.

Here’s a snapshot of Seattle data, where Car2go boasts more than 82,000 members:

* In 2015, Car2go Seattle reduced overall vehicle miles traveled by up to an estimated 34.2 million miles.
* Each Car2go Seattle vehicle eliminated up to 14 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
* Car2go Seattle also prevented up to an estimated 9,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from polluting Seattle’s air.


Columbus OH has abandoned their LRT efforts in favor of disruptive technologies like driverless vehicles: http://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/news/2016/07/14/columbus-will-leap-frog-lightrail-as.html

“The fact that Columbus is without rail might actually have helped its case in the smart-city competition, as it is the test case for new transportation methods that could scale to similar cities.”


I'm glad you both recognize the problem as too many vehicles on the road (and pollution). It'll be interesting to see if you take your arguments in the supply side angle and think this will stimulate more demand? It will also be interesting to see how long it takes Tokyo, NYC, SF and the Acela corridor to wake up to your genius.

Alex Cabanes

@root, couple of items. I was not defining the problem as 'too many vehicles', rather was highlighting a recent study that documents environmental changes that can be achieved in a relatively short period of time using technology (in this case with free-market participants in less than 4 years) at lower prices to direct consumers and society overall. Also, the cities you cite have substantially larger population densities than our area. In order to have "mass-transit" like Tokyo (which operates at a profit with 170% farebox recovery vs DOLRT projected 20% farebox recovery), you need mass (aka passengers).

If you look at UberPool (car pooling, on-demand @ http://ubr.to/29U1Rn2) as an example where you can rideshare as you go to work would eliminate half the cars since both you and your passenger are going along the same corridor. So each UberPool that would reduce traffic patterns by 2:1 or more if you picked up additional passengers. The idea isn't the car, rather being able to use software algorithm to dynamically match capacity and demand.

As an example, Uber and Gilt are selling passes for unlimited uberPOOL rides in New York City. @ http://tcrn.ch/29wU3UC “The deal is being called a “commute card” and can only be used Monday through Friday during commuting hours (7-10am and 5-8pm) in Manhattan. These are the same hours during which Uber offers $5 flat rate uberPOOL rides in NYC. As a refresher, uberPOOL is Uber’s carpool product where the company matches you with riders headed the same direction … this deal means commuting in an uberPOOL is cheaper than taking the subway.”


Alex, thanks for the reply but they do get exhausting with your relentless propagandizing. I find the summary you provide does not well represent the article you linked to (and then hyped)

However, that you acknowledge that rail serves density well is good enough for me, and I think instead of you (and plurimus) advocating for the failed development pattern of sprawl and 'flexible point to point' options one could 'leap frog' the abstraction of infinite space and get real.

Also, the externalizing of cost and the idea that driverless/automated rideshare will be cheap/free and serve the low income demographic you've hitched your fairytale to so far.... I'm sure your right.


@root I think the difference might boil down to being "for" an alternate, vs. just simply "against".


of course, which is why political positioning resting on phantasmal pretext is so corrupt.


@ root,

A text without context is a pretext. Plenty of concrete alternative context has been provided and restated.

The phantasm is in your mind.

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