GoTriangle Regional Rail Plan

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GoTriangle Regional Rail Plan

CarolinaFan
Planning is underway for Regional Rail:

"The Triangle commuter rail project would:
-Run up to 43 miles along North Carolina Railroad Company corridor.
-Connect West Durham to Garner or Clayton.
-Stop at downtown Raleigh, N.C. State, Cary, Morrisville, Research Triangle Park and downtown Durham
-Carry an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 passengers a day.
-Return $5 billion in GDP and 50,000 jobs over 20 years for every $1 billion invested, according to APTA."

https://www.readyforrailnc.com/

Plans include five Durham stations at:
-West Durham (LaSalle Street?)
-Downtown (Brightleaf/American Tobacco area)
-East Durham
-Ellis Road
-RTP Regional Transit Center

https://www.readyforrailnc.com/project-overview/proposed-stations/

I think this is a critical need for the future of the Triangle. There is a limit to how much can be done to move traffic on I-40, both in terms of space and cost. Regional rail would give commuters an option not available today, and would support a much denser development pattern - both housing and jobs - near the proposed stations. With 600,000 people expected to move to the Triangle over the next 20 years, - including 90,000 to Durham - we can't keep spreading out.

As we saw with light rail, success of the project will depend on cooperation from the NC Railroad, Norfolk Southern, and CSX, and money from state and federal governments. Using the NC Railroad corridor should take interference from Duke out of the mix this time.

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Re: GoTriangle Regional Rail Plan

Steve
Thanks for sharing!

I think this has a much better chance of actually happening since the right of way and rails is owned by the NCRR.

Amtrak is planning (assuming it gets the funding) to "enhance" the line between Raleigh and Charlotte, which would include this portion from Raleigh to Durham. That should be helpful for this project (though it will be competing for track space with more Amtrak trains as well).

Regular rush hour trains between these big destinations will be very convenient. Hopefully this gets done!

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Re: GoTriangle Regional Rail Plan

CarolinaFan
In reply to this post by CarolinaFan
Register Now for Nov 18th Webinar on Proposed Commuter Rail Stations

Greater Triangle Commuter Rail: An Inside Track on Proposed Commuter Rail Stations

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_PCiiv4lnT-eB46xQjYWJ6Q

Topic
Greater Triangle Commuter Rail Webinar: An Inside Track on Proposed Stations

Description
Are you READY FOR RAIL in the Triangle? We are hosting a virtual presentation and Q&A on the Greater Triangle Commuter Rail, Thursday, Nov. 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. Project planners will be on hand to provide an overview of the project, where it stands in 2021 and what to expect next.  
 
Attend to learn more about the proposed rail stations:
 
Where might they be located?
How will they connect to other modes of transportation such as bike/ped/transit?
Will there be parking provided?
What could a station potentially look like?
Will there be a station/connection to the airport?
 
After the presentation we’ll have a live Q&A session where our panelists will answer questions submitted during and after the presentation.

Time
Nov 18, 2021 06:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)
CarolinaFan wrote
Planning is underway for Regional Rail:

"The Triangle commuter rail project would:
-Run up to 43 miles along North Carolina Railroad Company corridor.
-Connect West Durham to Garner or Clayton.
-Stop at downtown Raleigh, N.C. State, Cary, Morrisville, Research Triangle Park and downtown Durham
-Carry an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 passengers a day.
-Return $5 billion in GDP and 50,000 jobs over 20 years for every $1 billion invested, according to APTA."

https://www.readyforrailnc.com/

Plans include five Durham stations at:
-West Durham (LaSalle Street?)
-Downtown (Brightleaf/American Tobacco area)
-East Durham
-Ellis Road
-RTP Regional Transit Center

https://www.readyforrailnc.com/project-overview/proposed-stations/

I think this is a critical need for the future of the Triangle. There is a limit to how much can be done to move traffic on I-40, both in terms of space and cost. Regional rail would give commuters an option not available today, and would support a much denser development pattern - both housing and jobs - near the proposed stations. With 600,000 people expected to move to the Triangle over the next 20 years, - including 90,000 to Durham - we can't keep spreading out.

As we saw with light rail, success of the project will depend on cooperation from the NC Railroad, Norfolk Southern, and CSX, and money from state and federal governments. Using the NC Railroad corridor should take interference from Duke out of the mix this time.
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Re: GoTriangle Regional Rail Plan

Durham_Transplant
I really want to be more enthusiastic about this project but I just think it falls short in a few key areas:

—No direct connection to the airport. This is really a massive one as I just don’t think it’s very competitive to expect someone to take a train and then a shuttle. Maybe if you’re all the way in Clayton but from my house which would be fairly close to the West Durham stop it takes maybe 20 min to get to the airport and with the opening of the East End Connector could avoid the problematic parts of 147/downtown.
—No significant concentration of jobs/residential along proposed route outside of downtown Durham and downtown Raleigh. This is really just a factor of not having a centralized critical mass of population but still problematic for a transit option primarily oriented towards commuters.
—Doesn’t really improve connectivity across the Triangle for leisure activities. Like I never go to Raleigh for a night out because it’s a nightmare to get to and from. Taking a train would be ideal but it doesn’t seem like the commuter rail would really support that (TBD based on final plans I guess).
—Study says it could have ridership up to 10k people/day. Is that a significant impact in a region with 2MM people? Doesn’t seem like it but I’m really not sure how to judge.

I would love to see more effective public transit options here and if this does happen we will likely see more dense development along the corridor if this does happen. Just afraid this falls under the “too little, too late” category.
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Re: GoTriangle Regional Rail Plan

elevatoroperator
I hear the airport critique all the time and it just doesn't make any sense. Connecting the airport to the commuter line isn't realistic, and if it were, it would have been made a priority decades ago. This has been studied to death.

To begin with, the commuter rail is being built on existing rail corridors to keep costs feasible. RDU is located 3.5 miles outside this corridor, and 7 miles of greenfield alignment to connect to RDU would practically double the cost of the entire commuter rail project – heavy rail in other cities has cost anywhere from $251 million per mile in San Jose to over $2 billion/mile in New York.

I’m lifting these next points from the dtraleigh forum, which has great discussion on this. Even if we could raise an extra billion+ dollars to connect to RDU, the other main issues are that:

- With the exception of a corner of Brier Creek, there is a 2 mile radius around the airport where there is nothing other than empty undevelopable land and airport facilities. So we’d be spending all this money for miles of new rail with nothing on it but an airport stop.
-Serving RDU on a through route from Raleigh to Durham involves either a massive detour adding miles and many minutes to the route, or forces you to bypass RTP.
-The runways are oriented exactly perpendicular to the straight route between Raleigh and Durham, and the terminals are sited right between them. To get there you have to either build a tunnel ($$$) under the whole airport, have a slowness and tight curve so trains can turn around and get back out, or else travel parallel to the runways for upwards of 2 miles, exactly perpendicular to the direction you want to go.

In any scenario, a detour to the airport would add many minutes to a commuter line that is intended to primarily serve people commuting between Raleigh and Durham. At a certain point, you lose any efficiencies in taking the train instead of car, and an airport connection would likely make the route unattractive to daily riders. With all this in mind, I fully endorse the current approach. I hope we'll get a rail connection in the future, but it makes more sense as a BRT line for now.
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Re: GoTriangle Regional Rail Plan

elevatoroperator
In reply to this post by Durham_Transplant
Re: concerns about a lack of density along the route: valid for sure. But downtown Cary and RTP are quickly becoming denser hubs of activity. And as you correctly pointed out, the benefit of rail is that it creates the opportunity to upzone along its route to build denser transit-oriented development.

My hope for the commuter line is that it incentivizes dense, walkable development outside of just our downtowns to support more transit. This is just a start, a backbone to a larger transit plan throughout the Triangle. Too little, too late? Absolutely! But better now than never.
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Re: GoTriangle Regional Rail Plan

Durham_Transplant
In reply to this post by elevatoroperator
To be clear, I’m not saying it SHOULD connect to the airport under the current plan. I just think it’s really unfortunate that it’s not possible because that would provide a lot of utility to folks across the Triangle.

I certainly agree that utilizing the existing infrastructure makes the most sense as far as feasibility and economics.