Light Rail vs. Monorail : what works Best for Raleigh


#21

triangle-transit-train-design-01


#22


#23

Hey, wasn’t that the old idea for light rail?


#24

And then everyone quickly became a NIMBY
Very sad and such a waste…:pensive:


#25

There’s a lot of discussion of technologies in this thread, but it’s more important to think about what transportation problem you need to solve before deciding on the technology you need to solve it. And the same technology can provide very different kinds of lines.

  • Mainline rail technology can provide limited-service regional rail (like most North American commuter rail) or high-speed rapid transit (like Paris’ RER or Berlin’s S-Bahn).
  • Metro technology can provide ultra-high-frequency rapid transit (like the NYC and Toronto Subway) or regional rail (like BART and Washington Metro).
  • Light rail technology can provide anything from rapid transit (like Link in Seattle) to corridor surface transit (like Valley Metro Rail in Phoenix) down to local circulators (like most North American streetcars). And many light rail lines mix-and-match service types.
  • Monorail technology is useless for anything with more than a handful of stops, or Walt Disney World. (Okay, you can make some technology decisions before you have identified the problem.)

If you pick the technology and say “hmm, where can we use this?” you’re likely to end up picking the least useful form of the technology. You might pick monorail, and end up with a low-ridership inconvenient loop through downtown (like Detroit, Jacksonville, or Sydney). You might pick heavy rail, and end up with a system that’s way too expensive to maintain for the service levels it provides (like Washington). You might pick light rail, and end up with a slow and easily-blocked streetcar (like Seattle), or regional rapid transit that really should be faster (like Seattle’s heading for with ST3).

So let’s try spinning the question a bit: what are the transit corridors that really need investment? (Start, end, and points in between.) Are they paralleled by a railroad or a street? What operating speed do they need to attain? How far apart do the stations need to be? (Remembering that closer stations lead to lower speeds.) How much frequency can the corridor justify? Once you know the corridor and its characteristics, then you can start thinking about appropriate technology.


#26

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https://www.miamidade.gov/transit/images/system_map_mover.png&imgrefurl=https://www.miamidade.gov/transit/metromover-stations.asp&h=681&w=296&tbnid=7LBtseSDRtgiWM:&q=metromover&tbnh=186&tbnw=80&usg=__bn3pGl1196kz1U4RamjOUBgjNwM%3D&vet=10ahUKEwjUwt2BuIncAhXQqlkKHR84A_4Q_B0I4AEwFw..i&docid=h77Zk9OIJpWqMM&itg=1&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjUwt2BuIncAhXQqlkKHR84A_4Q_B0I4AEwFw


#27

Lot’s of enjoyable reading, thank you!
Question…
With all that said what would be your plan for the future? How do you guide growth or are you just waiting for it to guide you?


#28

I had goggle TTA light rail trains and this is what came up along with other trains.


#29

@leafstorm: It’s more important to think about what transportation problem you need to solve before deciding on the technology. […] If you pick the technology and say “hmm, where can we use this?” you’re likely to end up picking the least useful [vehicle]. […] Once you know the corridor and its characteristics, then you can start thinking about appropriate technology.

Thank you. I thought this thread was about “what works best for Raleigh”, so I’m glad we can get back on topic and actually talk about the problem we’re facing (not being trigger-happy about premature solutions).

@DowntownRaleighGuy: what would be your plan for the future? How do you guide growth or are you just waiting for it to guide you?

I think that depends on how you answer Leafstorm’s question at the end of his post. If you haven’t addressed the growth that already exists and what people need today, you can’t just ignore that and build for tomorrow. With that said…

@leafstorm: what are the transit corridors that really need investment? (Start, end, and points in between.) Are they paralleled by a railroad or a street? What operating speed do they need to attain? How far apart do the stations need to be? (Remembering that closer stations lead to lower speeds.) How much frequency can the corridor justify?

I think the easiest way is to try to answer the questions “where do people need to go?”; look at demographics (who lives where), locations of businesses and attractions, and where the worst congestions are (not because of congestion itself, but because it’s a sign lots of people are going to the same places).

For Raleigh today, I think the corridors we need are organized, regularly-spaced, and unstable.

Most existing landmarks and routes are connected by existing buses and roads. Cameron Village, NC State, WakeMed, North Hills, Crabtree Mall, State Fairgrounds, the 440 interchange with US-1 etc. all seem to be basically connected to each other in two organized ways:

  • along I-440 in a ring, and;
  • in a hub-and-spoke layout with lots of traffic being funneled into Downtown Raleigh.

Because of how roads were historically planned out here, most hotspots seem to be regularly spaced out 1/2- to 1-mile intervals or based on intersections with interstates/Capital Blvd.

If you also want to talk about possible needs in the future, Dix Park and Centennial Campus could be more of a central location (especially if Apple or Amazon comes?), and the Cargill site and Atlantic Av. area could become more developed. I think this still follows the same pattern as above, but you just have more destinations… because of these new developments (and also risks that industries or local restaurants/businesses in Raleigh could change at anytime), things could quickly change over time.

In light of this, a transit system that works for Raleigh may need:

  • more than one line (monorails struggle with this, among other problems)
  • be able to handle potential moves in stations in the future (this would be poison for light rail)
  • have stations that are closely spaced together (nope for commuter/rapid rail), and;
  • handle significant numbers of people going between the same places (not a forte of ecoPRT or Elon Musk’s Boring Company skates)

Looking at this, I think what works best for Raleigh neither LRT or monorails.

Places like North Hills and Crabtree may be around for a while, but the way they will grow and stick around might not be the same 20 or 30 years from now; our transit system needs to be as flexible as the city itself is. With this in mind, it makes sense that a planning commission found back in 2013 that a Raleigh light rail route won’t make sense.

Side note/edit: I wonder if this is why Raleigh ended up going for BRTs? I think it makes the most sense, but I’ve never really thought about why (aside for the cost) until I wrote all that.


#30

Ok Keita,
What is your answer as to “what would work best for Raleigh”?


#31

I think BRTs would work best (see new edit). It has the capacity/frequency/speed of light rail (with exclusive right-of-ways and signal priority), has the double benefit of making regular buses more efficient (if you have exclusive bus lanes), and costs less to move stations if you need to.

Sorry, I could’ve sworn I wrote that.


#32

I think the easiest way is to try to answer the questions “where do people need to go?”; look at demographics (who lives where), locations of businesses and attractions, and where the worst congestions are (not because of congestion itself, but because it’s a sign lots of people are going to the same places)

I realize the above, more or less addresses this, but the lilt is different when you outright think in terms of ‘coming from’ too. Nobody makes a sole trip from, say Crabtree to NH. But they do go from Quail Hollow to NH. Can the dispersed residential sector be enticed to get on a rail line?

For Raleigh today, I think the corridors we need are organized, regularly-spaced, and unstable .

Most existing landmarks and routes are connected by existing buses and roads. Cameron Village, NC State, WakeMed, North Hills, Crabtree Mall, State Fairgrounds, the 440 interchange with US-1 etc. all seem to be basically connected to each other in two organized ways:

  • along I-440 in a ring, and;
  • in a hub-and-spoke layout with lots of traffic being funneled into Downtown Raleigh.

Because of how roads were historically planned out here, most hotspots seem to be regularly spaced out 1/2- to 1-mile intervals or based on intersections with interstates/Capital Blvd.

This spoke pattern is mostly dumb luck with minimal planning. Millbrook got a little extension, Capital was built in segments starting in the 1850’s through the mid 1990’s, Atlantic was shoved in from an industrial rail access to almost becoming a limited access highway (the good old north/south expressway though Oakwood), but this was all ad-hoc, knee jerk stuff. This sincere lack of planning is a good part of why figuring out a viable rail transit situation is so difficult. It’s still country blocks out there.

‘quickly’ and ‘change over time’ sound like opposite situations no? I’d have to see the integral, as things can certainly change quickly in time…but it’s the ‘over’ part… Regardless, do you have examples of cities actually moving intracity rail stations? I’ve never heard of such a thing. My gut says stops could be added, but not likely moved. It’d take quite the unraveling of an area for a once viable transit stop to no longer be viable. If that is the case, I think you’re talking 100 years out due to circumstances we could not possibly predict now.

  • more than one line (monorails struggle with this, [among other problems]

Of course monorail struggles with multiple lines…ha. Get it? Badabing.
.

No offense but you must not be from around here. Raleigh is going with BRT or else we’ll end up with a solid GOP set of County Commissioners again. Or else the legislature will gut our funding in every way possible on everything Raleigh gets from the State. They will forcibly gerrymander the troublemakers out of existence like they are doing elsewhere in the State. I believe officials here are waiting for the right political atmosphere before making any public mention of such a thought. I’ve been here since the days of Fetzer and Coble. Raleigh had it’s own babbling executive with Fetzer. Coble was more like a Phil Berger. Stone faced and efficient. This is why Raleigh tries to sneak in progressive tidbits here and there at a rate that nobody will notice…or be able to campaign against…


#33

That’s where the idea of a transit hierarchy comes in. Conventional bus lines feed higher-capacity transit - enhanced bus, tramway, light rail, metro, or regional rail. Higher-capacity and higher-speed lines also have a longer walkshed. You might not walk all the way from Quail Hollow to Falls of Neuse for a conventional bus, but if there’s something faster and more frequent, you might. (Or you could bike.)

Two other factors:

  1. Single-family homes are still the dominant housing product in Raleigh, but even without higher-capacity transit I don’t think we have enough land for that to remain the case in the long term. Higher-density housing would naturally gravitate towards our high-capacity surface lines and to rapid transit station areas.
  2. Most people have one regular trip to an arbitrary location per day, which is their work/school/church commute. For groceries, shopping, etc., you just need to get to the closest one, not a particular one which could be anywhere in the city. But this is an argument for concentrating unique citywide destinations in downtown, where the transit access from anywhere is the greatest.

I’d agree with this evaluation. Transit stations with high-quality service are generally self-perpetuating: people and businesses are encouraged to locate there because of the transit service even when they would abandon it in the absence of service.

I would agree that commuter rail’s stop spacing is too wide to serve Raleigh alone, but I think a commuter rail/regional rail system for the whole Triangle would be beneficial. (Definitely from Raleigh to Cary, Durham, Garner, and Wake Forest.) If regional rail is well-coordinated with the surface transit network, it doesn’t need to stop at every activity center, just the really major ones (which are unlikely to move).

In terms of speed, heavy rail with wide stop spacing is the only service that can compete with driving over distances like Raleigh to Durham, except for freeway buses. And freeway buses have very difficult choices about stations: stop directly along the freeway (which requires very expensive stations, from which not much is walkable), exit the freeway to stop somewhere walkable (which is a severe penalty to travel time), or don’t stop at all (which limits the markets a single line can serve). The difficulty of placing stations is why the 100, 105, 300, CRX, and DRX all run along the same stretch of I-40 at rush hour.

There’s definitely a cost savings in BRT over LRT since you don’t need to install track, signals, overhead wire, etc. The ability to have routes continue past the BRT infrastructure is a great benefit too. But the order-of-magnitude cost is controlled by the quality of the right-of-way, not the technology. A transit line with exclusive lanes, signal priority, and high-quality stations won’t cost that much more to put trains on rather than buses, especially since trains can leverage some right-of-way efficiencies that buses can’t. (It’s much cheaper to build an elevated rail guideway than an elevated busway.) And moving a station is a pretty big investment whether it’s BRT or LRT.

There are two other key advantages of LRT over BRT:

  1. Trains can support much higher capacity. If you’re at the point where you need to run buses every 1-3 minutes, it’s cheaper (in operating cost) to run a train every 5-6 and it doesn’t provide substantially worse service. Similar if you need to run buses every 10 minutes on three lines but you could combine the three lines into one every-10-minute train.
  2. It’s politically easier to develop high-quality right of ways for trains than buses, because people expect trains to have their own lane (etc.).

One example of a corridor that fulfills condition 1 is the Durham-Orange LRT. Demand in the corridor is currently split between the 6, 10, 11, 12, 400, 405, FCX, and assorted other CHT routes, but the train can serve the most popular trips on each of those routes, faster than each of those routes.

You could build a busway with a similar ROW, and the surface sections would probably be cheaper but the elevated sections would probably be more expensive and the operating costs would definitely be more expensive. Making the busway substantially cheaper means giving it a lower-quality right of way, which makes it slower, so it can’t substitute for as many existing buses.

That being said, I’m not sure that there are currently any corridors in Raleigh that fulfill condition 1, except perhaps between NCSU’s Main Campus and Centennial Campus at class change. Condition 2 is political rather than technical so I can’t speak to that as definitively. So in general I think I agree with your evaluation, and the evaluation of the Wake Transit Plan, that BRT is sufficient for Raleigh’s key surface transit corridors for the foreseeable future.


#34

So essential, DTR has extended bus service and BRT to look forward to through 2028?
And hopefully during that time frame we’ll get the new bus terminal next to Union station. A few more trains going to Charlotte, and I think that’s about it…No, I’m wrong! Raleigh’s forward thinking city council will start to plan for something bold, new, a vision, like…:wink::joy::rofl:
Sorry, “bold”, “new”, “vision” ah, I needed a good laugh…but seriously guys…a guy walks into a bar…ah, just as funny :grin:


#35

Commuter rail is probably the most logical option for the area. A system similar to Nashville’s Music City Star operating from Garner to West Durham would likely be a good starting point. I could see that line ultimately expanding to Hillsborough and Clayton. Another line could ultimately extend from Wake Forest through Raleigh to Fuquay-Varina as well. Operating on standard gauge rail allows for freight traffic on the line as well.


#36

As a cautionary tale of lighrail in a less dense city, look to Denver. Ridership is down and service is being cut. The Economist recently had an article noting how public transportation usage rates, bus and rail, is down in a lot of regions. They point to Uber as a possible reason. If ubers become driverless, which likely will happen before a rail system could be built, it’s going to be even cheaper to use ride sharing. Bottom line - should we spend billions on rail if it’s going to go the way of the horse-and-buggy before it can even be built?


#37

You raise an excellent point! :thinking:
Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, I have never utilized Uber or any type of ride-share…:face_with_hand_over_mouth:


#38

Any rail project, light, heavy or otherwise, should be paired with high density node development associated with the transit stops.


#39

Uber ride share is NOT A SOLUTUON.
It’s actually laughable as mass transit.


#40

Driverless technology still uses paved roads. Paved road capacity is fixed with current vehicle physics in play. If cars coupled together like train cars and were whisked around on a magnetic rail, sure, you could up capacity. But with conventional breaking systems and rubber tires on asphalt, driverless gets you nothing except perhaps fewer wrecks. With such potential differences in trip time, cost per trip starts to be a non-factor if the orders of magnitude are in the same ball park. $7 for a 2 hour Uber or $10 for a 30 minute LRT ride? No contest.