Bus Rapid Transit in Raleigh


Without a doubt! In order for it to be meaningful needs to be separated out from traffic, etc. Will require political will - I believe it will happen but will require the community advocating for best solution if / when the politicians have a hard time making those calls.


While I understand that many want lightrail, the unfortunate truth is that we lack the overall size and dramatically lack the density required to make these tracks feasible (even when considering environmental damages of driving). In addition, rail infrastructure has no secondary use, unlike BRT. Also, given that the age of autonomous electric vehicles is probably not too far away, hitching the region’s future to last century technology (i.e. rail) seems unwise. BRT seems like a reasonable hedge.


It’s funny when people say rail is a “last century technology”, but they don’t consider cars to be that as well (cars were invented in 1885). Autonomous cars won’t solve congestion problems. Even if every car on I-40 is replaced with an autonomous car tomorrow, there are still going to be a ton of vehicles taking up space. The best way to reduce congestion is to remove vehicles from the roads.


Cross posting my reply to this from another forum.

This is crazy.

I wasn’t happy about how state share has been reduced from 25% to 10% but it is what it is: what do you expect from an all-Republican legislature.

I could also honestly understand a rule that no state funding can be spent until a project has all its local and federal sources in hand. Let the agencies put up their own money during the planning process so the state doesn’t pour money into a project only to have it fail due to losing its federal grant application. This is actually what happened back in 2005 - state money was spent on planning, property acquisition, and even some utility relocation work, and then the project died. As a major source of funding for transit projects, this condition would be understandable as a right-leaning legislature’s prerogative (although no such condition exists for most roadway projects). So, if the federal grant application fails, then the money allocated to the project by the state can be reallocated elsewhere - nothing lost on the state’s behalf except a few man hours of planning staff time, which would also be nothing unusual since committed roadway projects get cancelled or rescheduled all the time.

But saying you can’t even submit for prioritization before all other funding is committed is a blatant attempt to kill all state involvement in transit capital projects. It’s so blatant I think it might not be truly intentional, and that even right-leaning legislators would consider an amendment. Possibly the people who drafted that bit don’t understand how the New Starts process works.


I agree that commuter rail is just a beginning. The corridor could eventually be upgraded to regional rail (eg RER in Paris region) and expanded north as well as west to Apex and east to Knightdale and Wendell, all along existing rail corridor. Though this shouldn’t detract from rapidly increasing and expanding the frequent bus network within Raleigh. The proposed frequent network (shown above) is a major improvement to the status quo, but is only the start. We need to double it again in the following 10 years while implementing additional useful features such as all door boarding and fully electric buses.


But the problem isn’t congestion in and of itself. There are costs associated with congestion. Namely, lost productivity when stuck in traffic, higher emissions, higher rate of accidents (turns out this is actually highest cost of driving). But, with autonomous EV’s we’d avoid these problems for the most part (assuming people can work when the autonomous car drives and a cleaner electric grid). And we wouldn’t have to spend billions in infrastructure to put rail in a sparsely populated region.


Well, maybe that’s true, it’s still very early on in testing autonomous vehicles. And I wouldn’t say this is a sparsely populated region. Spread out, for sure, but that’s because of how auto-dependent our society is. Let’s focus less on hoping cars can save the day (that’s been the idea for over a century and we’ve got major problems because of it) and figure out the best way to build cities for all residents, not just those who choose to own or can afford a car.


I don’t think we can assume autonomous vehicles will “solve” congestion. It will probably work just like building more highways - creating more capacity. Creating supply in a constrained market will lead to induced demand and will lure more people out on the road. Congestion remains constant.

On the same note - transit has the same effect. If you take users off the road, there’s already a line of folks ready to take their place. It is more efficient than single occupancy auto, and incentivizes walkable development, but it won’t solve traffic. The only thing that seems to work is limiting access. Red lights on the entrance ramps, tolls, congestion pricing, ect


Now you’re talking my language - let’s push for some congestion pricing and use the revenue to pay for, well, just about anything education, infrastructure, low-income housing,… Given that a lot of the congestion is to/from RTP, which has a lot of high paying jobs, this would actually be a pretty progressive tax. And in terms of density, Raleigh has about 3200/mi^2. Compare this to other similar cities that are currently in the process of building out their rail service: Seattle - 8400; Minneapolis - 7,700; Denver - 4500. And, Denver’s ridership is struggling with some of their new lines.


Population density doesn’t mean as much without the context that all of the traffic from Raleigh to RTP funnels along a single highway, which is already at or beyond capacity. If you could turn 70 north of 440 into something resembling Capital downtown — a pseudo highway — that would alleviate some of the pressure.

A congestion tax on people who work in RTP won’t solve much of anything beyond incentivizing the people who work in RTP to live in Durham or somewhere else close by, which will take money out of the city center.


Population density (or lack thereof) is exactly the reason we need to build out a useful bus network first. I used the term useful on purpose as this is the key criteria for getting someone to actually “use” it. Frequent all-day service to and from all of the key destinations and along all the major corridors. Combined with land use changes and reduced parking, the bus is actually quite the game changer.


“Useful” bus network is a contradiction in terms. Buses are inherently unreliable (rarely are on schedule). They take up valuable lane space when you are driving rather than commuting. They’re subject to some of the standard traffic difficulties (closed off lanes thanks to accidents). They don’t scale. They’re also slower than rail, either in actual mph or because they’re not subject to streets and red lights.

If Raleigh continues to grow at its current rate, by the time light rail is finished population density will likely be in line with that of other cities that use light rail. It’s a forward looking solution, rather the inevitable rush to catch up that will occur if this opportunity is lost (in addition to people moving to Durham or North Raleigh to get away from the awful commute on 40). It will also revitalize interest in RTP, which is sagging in part because the commute is terrible and because the area is inherently lacking in cultural interest.


Apple loves some saggy RTP


I disagree, as there are many bus systems around the world that are indeed quite useful. While you are correct in your assertion that buses do suffer from traffic difficulties, these can be greatly helped by utilizing dedicated lanes and signal priority. The idea that buses don’t scale is a little misleading as, they are inherently scale - a vehicle that can transport 50+ passengers in the space of a few cars. Of course there can be longer buses that hold as many as 200 passengers as well. A single bus lane can move thousands of people per hour, reaching nearly the levels of light rail.

That said, I’m not opposed to rail, in fact I’m for it, but I believe that the bus is an incredibly important component to a well developed transit system. I dare say that there is a high functioning transit system in the world without a high functioning bus component.


Dedicated BRT lanes, priority signalization, bus on shoulder, etc are all tools to be implemented as a result of the Wake Bus Plan currently being developed. Bus and rail together are needed, but to say bus is unreliable is not looking at the whole picture.


Buses ARE unreliable. Looking at the whole situation doesn’t affect that. That’s simply what they are. And unreliability will affect people being able to, you know, rely on them when they go to work.

Rail is far more reliable. And being a separate system will leave the roads to expand on their own (as they’ll HAVE to do as Raleigh continues to expand).


Joe, can you provide some data to back that up? Your statement seems general or based on just a few experiences which is negligible in the scheme of any bus system overall.

I could argue that driving a car is unreliable because when I expected to get to my destination in 20 min but traffic made it 30.

Let’s include data and references with our statements rather than generalizations. Anecdotes are good too but they are one-off experiences.


Driving is also unreliable. But you can always choose to leave earlier. And you have the privacy of your own space in addition to flexibility (driving somewhere to lunch, stopping on the way home). Buses run on a schedule (or at least, they’re supposed to), are subject to the same traffic, leave you unable to drive somewhere at lunch or on the way home, and no privacy.

I don’t see the need to inject data here as no one in the thread has. Even some of the proposals generated by the cities offer little more than google map estimates for commutes rather than the results of actual studies on the matter. I’ve lived in bus reliant cities before, and they were hated by everyone I knew.


You know many of your concerns apply to trains as well, right?

You can take an earlier or later bus, get off at a different stop on your way home or take another bus out to lunch. Also, GoTriangle offers an on demand shuttle in and around RTP. Buses, cars, and trains all have their drawbacks, but you don’t have to act like buses are the worst thing in the entire world. For many of your fellow Triangle residents, a bus is their only method of transportation.


I’m not acting like buses are the worst thing in the world. The worst thing is doing nothing as the traffic continues to get worse. But I don’t approve of a plan where buses go first and then rail goes after. They should be developed in parallel, with trains being given priority, as ultimately that is the long term solution to rush hour. Buses will be more useful for commuting inside the belt line, especially on weekends, as non-peak travel times get worse (they’re fine right now).