GoTriangle Commuter Rail 2023 AMA

Representatives from GoTriangle’s commuter rail planning project will be back the DTRaleigh Community on Feb. 3, 2023 from 11am to 12pm EST! It turns out it is physically and financially realistic to have all-day regional rail between Durham, Cary, Raleigh, and Garner, but there’s a few design compromises and delays that would have to happen to make it possible.

Click here for an interactive summary of what a future upgrade for our region could entail.

If you’re new to this website, please be sure to make an account (it’s free!) so that you can post questions and be a part of our community! Anyone in the public can read this thread, but you must be a signed-in member to participate.


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I’ll kick things off!

I’ve noticed that ridership projections for the Eastern and Central options are equal at about 4000 daily boardings. I’m assuming this is working off of existing development and transportation patterns and not factoring in potential transit-oriented development. As I’m sure you know, proper TOD could dramatically influence those numbers, especially with consistent all-day headways.

That said, will the prospect of TOD and its influence on ridership be taken into consideration when selecting a corridor? Similarly, how much of a push will there be to encourage municipalities on the corridor to implement TOD in station areas? I have very high hopes for this project and want to see it succeed, but it’d be really unfortunate to spend such effort and resources only to end up having two-thirds of the stations looking like this:

Thanks so much for doing this again and for your continued efforts to increase transportation options and reduce car-dependency in the Triangle!

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I’ll take a stab at some questions, too. But before that, thank you, again, for willing to come back and talk to us, @GoTriangle!

I recognize that several of these questions are very blunt and probably difficult to answer. However, please know that as a regular GoTriangle rider (and as the person who helped facilitate this AMA), I mean this as a genuine question with no intentions except to strengthen our region’s chances of having serious mass transit infrastructure.

  • Assuming that our counties decide GTCR should be pursued, why should Triangle residents (continue to) trust GoTriangle as an institution?

  • And similarly, if the GTCR does proceed into project development, why is GoTriangle a good sponsor or lead agency for this project?

Click here for additional clarifications for the above question.

It sounds to me like there’s a default assumption that GoTriangle has to be the operating agency of the GTCR just because it’s the regional transit agency. However, some of us in this community wonders if this is true or useful. There’s some structural changes that you could imagine would let GoTriangle launch the project successfully -such sharing the lead role with a partner whose strengths are GoTriangle’s weaknesses.

For example, you could start a public-private partnership with a developer (somewhat like recent efforts by Florida’s Brightline) or even Norfolk Southern’s real estate division to optimize opportunities for transit-oriented developments (one key reason why transit companies in countries like Japan can be profitable without government intervention).

Alternatively, you could see how seriously our state wants to execute its state rail plan and public transportation strategic plan by passing the ball to the state. This could be done by transforming the NC By Train brand into a full-fledged, state-supported rail agency just like Virginia’s VPRA, New Jersey Transit, or Connecticut’s CTrail.

Click here to see additional context for the above question.

In the last AMA from 2021, the topic of level boarding came up:

I noticed that GoTriangle worked on this in more detail (thank you!), and this is noted deep in the report’s appendix where there’s a discussion on how we could try to prefer 22/25/48-inch-high (level boarding-friendly) platforms over 8-inch-high (freight-friendly) ones.

It’s also noted that gauntlet tracks could help build stations in space-limited parts of downtown and eastern Durham, but “there are no active gauntlet tracks on NS territory, and it has been advised by NCRR that NS strongly discourages the use of gauntlet tracks”.

With all of that in mind, it looks like one (of many) tough design-related decisions we’ll need to make in the future is whether (and how) the GTCR will provide level boarding for passengers with mobility challenges. It get that that seems inevitable, unfortunately, because of the complicated track constraints.

  • What is general vibe of GoTriangle staff involved in this study on whether we’ll be able to move forward with more investments in this project and/or making something actually happen? Is the staff generally optimistic, internally? Or are y’all more cautious and wary of external stakeholders?
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Has any thought been put into branding the train line at key high-visibility locations? For example:

  • the rail bridge over 440 along Hillsborough
  • the bridge over I-40 near Miami Blvd

This may seem silly, but I think sexy branding is important in general, and especially at high visibility locations like highway crossings. Reference: Brightline

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That’s a great idea they could advertise it as “The crawl below us frustrating you well we’re riding with style”.