Light Rail: What works for Raleigh


I’d like to see North Raleigh 440 / 540 to RTP/RDU. None of the plans address the highest travel corridor. But I guess that’s for a different thread.


Expanding our idea of Regional Rail… The southern line would potentially link Raleigh to Fayetteville, therefore making the FV stop much more viable. Of course we will all be dead and gone by the time anything ever happens.


I’m not sure I understand. What about making the line longer would make it more viable?


Connecting two actual cities (Raleigh and Fayetteville) in a more regional approach rather than connecting a single city (Raleigh) to it’s bedroom communities (FV).

I’m really not sure what all the hype with FV is. Why not discuss connecting Raleigh and Wake Forest, it is closer, much bigger (population wise) and a heck of a lot more folks do that commute on a daily basis. Just sayin’ :slight_smile:


:joy: Me too, that’s why I left! But, to me that would have very little to do with connecting southern Wake to DTR. A train to Fuquay (or any bedroom town) would primarily serve commuters, while a train to Fayetteville would be something different entirely. But, honestly I don’t think the traffic on either route would justify a train. Southern Wake needs better bus service, to be sure. But trains are a little harder to justify right now.


Well this thread started basically because there were some who advocated turning the railway down to Fuquay-Varina into a greenway trail. And others who thought it best to leave it as a railway so that there would be the possibility of commuter train in the future. Nobody is saying that Fuquay is the more important in the list of things that need to be done.


Oh, that makes sense. Thanks for filling me in, I…definitely didn’t read all 119 previous posts.


This is a great plan. The one thing I might bump up higher is the route out to Zebulon. That line intersects with New Bern (and thus the new BRT line) near WakeMed and runs through both Knightdale and Wendell. Seems like you could pick up a lot of ridership from people who currently spend a lot of time commuting by car.

What do you think would be the most promising potential stops between Wake Forest and Raleigh?


Here’s the proposed Wake Forest Line and stations from the commuter rail study back in 2017.



I’m so sick of seeing this thread keep popping up. It’s a downtown Raleigh blog. Why the hell would I want to take a train to Fuquay? On the off chance I even wanted to go there, I’d just drive the short trip…


Cause it would come FROM downtown Raleigh. Elitist posts are not tolerated. Please try again.


people that live in Fuquay may work in Raleigh and may want to ride the rail to/from, or travel to Raleigh and go to a Canes game at PNC arena. sure you can drive the short trip, but maybe folks want to experience the ride of a rail to work or events, etc. the whole idea is to get folks out of their cars at least for a while, also giving people options of other modes of transit.


it would also give other means of transportation, Buses…express buses to/from raleigh, BRT, commuter rail. so that folks don’t have to use their cars all the time. am I wrong ?


Because it’s not about you.

Just because you aren’t interested in a public transit project doesn’t mean society isn’t interested. If there are people who may want and/or need something like that, then they are the target customers for such a solution. That’s who it’s for.

Besides, you can’t just think of each little town or area as its own isolated system; nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Fuquay is growing at all as a function of the Triangle (esp. Raleigh)'s growth. Wake Forest is entering Raleigh’s gravitational field, and Fayetteville may eventually do so as well in some distant, better-connected future (if the state DoT has their way, anyways). This means more exchanges of people and jobs, new variables for development and change in the area, new trends for businesses or resident behavior patterns… you see what I mean, right?

If you want to truly be a responsible citizen, understand what’s going on, and stay ahead of the curve, then you need to understand. It doesn’t matter (and no one cares) if you don’t care -not because of any malicious reason, because someone else probably does care. And if you keep following that chain of cause and effect, there’s a good chance you lead back to something you do care about, in a way you don’t expect.

After all, isn’t that what we’re here on this site to talk about at the end of the day?

PS: speaking of people who’d care about a regional rail link (totally on board with the idea by @orulz and @Nickster’s Fayetteville extension btw), what would it take to do a traffic/demand analysis about that? and would that help make a better case for building a rail system? …because, at least to me, a lot of traffic analyses in today’s white papers seem oversimplified and off.


It’s also likely that Fuquay will control everything from the county line to Ten Ten Road, assuming the county lets them expand their ETJ. If they develop their new territory at their current population density that puts them in line to have around 100,000 residents some day. How they develop is pretty important for the entire region. We should all want transit to be part of the planning process because it’s better for the whole county.


Thanks for posting that. Saved me the trouble!

One thing to note is that all the current commuter rail studies have assumed traditional locomotive-hauled bilevel commuter trains, which are SLLLOOOOWWWW to accellerate. This slow accelleration means that trains can’t make many stops or else journey times will be too long for outlying passengers. The traditional way to solve this problem in the US is to hang overhead electric wires and use electric multiple unit trains (this is what they did in Denver for example.) It is somewhat less expensive to start with electric trains from the start, than to upgrade later because you can skip buying diesel trains in the first place. But even so, it is more expensive than going for diesel. Now, a previous poster mentioned a budget of a billion dollars from Garner to Durham, and for those prices electrification may well be on the table. But previously I had heard numbers closer to half that.

One important note is that there is a middle way : Diesel Multiple Unit trains, or DMUs- trains where the passenger cars themselves are powered rather than having a separate locomotive. This gets some, but not all, of the benedits in terms of acceleration that electrification would bring. This has long been an option overseas but hasn’t been very popular in the US. If you recall this is what was proposed here 15 years ago. However, crashworthiness standards in the US for trains were written a very long time ago and dictated very heavy trains; this weight both negates some of the acceleration benefits, and also means that you need a US-specific vehicle design and the equipment vendors (all of them foreign) just haven’t really wanted to sink the money on developing trains like this for the rather uncertain US commuter rail market.

Well, recently, crashworthiness regulations have changed to allow lighter, European style trains which use technology like crumple zones rather than just sheer stiffness and mass, which means that we can now import (nearly) off the shelf European train designs, which should hopefully open up the DMU market in the US quite a bit.

Why I mention this is that my take on that map is that this is not nearly enough stations. The limiting factor is journey time, with the slow acceleration meaning you just can’t make very many stops. Having only one station (NERC) between 540 and 440 is crazy. Three would be my minimum, maybe call this the DMU scenario: Highwoods, Millbrook, NERC. Five would be better. Call this the EMU scenario: Highwoods, New Hope Church, Millbrook, Spring Forest/Old Wake Forest, and NERC. ITB I would add at least one at Whitaker Mill, and perhaps another somewhere along Capital Blvd - but that could maybe just be a provision for a future station.

Similarly I would add stations on the line to Cary and RTP as well. In the DMU scenario, I would add stops at Blue Ridge/Fairgrounds, and NE Maynard. For the EMU scenario I would include the above two, and also Jones Franklin, Gorman, and possibly West Morgan/Ashe.


I believe the DMU concept was under consideration when light rail was being considered for Raleigh, before the plan evolved into commuter rail. That was before the FRA relaxed it’s crashworthiness requirements as you referred to. I believe the then-required right-of-way separations was going to require a lot more expense on flyovers and viaducts and was ultimately a deciding factor on shelving the concept and moving on. I think for now, we need a starter system using refurbished locomotives from Amtrak or another agency and refurbished coaches similar to what the NCDOT uses on the Piedmont trains. As the system matures and travel patterns evolve, I would look toward possibly electrifying the system. I think a line from Garner to Hillsborough is better suited for this type of equipment as opposed to DMU’s. The Wake Forest line would seem to be better suited for a DMU operation, as would any future line to FV or Zebulon.


I believe the Wake Transit Plan did specify DMU train-sets for the commuter rail line from Durham to Garner. That said, there is still a range of DMU train types and I hope we choose a more transit style such as the Stadler FLIRT recently used for the Fort Worth, TX TexRail project.

Ultimately, a “RER” style commuter/regional rail system in Raleigh would include the initial Durham > RTP > Cary > Raleigh > Garner line with extension opportunities to Hillsborough and Mebane on the west as well as Clayton on the East. The second line should be as discussed above from Raleigh > Wake Forest. The third spot could be from Cary > Apex > Northern Holly Springs. This would cover the areas largest population centers utilizing existing rail corridor.


Checked the FY2020 Wake Transit Work Plan and they are budgeting $882 million for commuter rail based on West Durham to Greenfield Parkway in Garner. We had better be able to do a lot better than old refurbished coaches and locomotives for that kind of money. I will be extremely disappointed if we don’t at least wind up with some snazzy Euro-style DMUs (like the FLIRTs mentioned above)


I have often wondered about how to handle Apex. Should it be a shuttle to Cary with cross platform transfers in both directions? Should it be direct trains to Raleigh with a connection at Cary to trains heading in the opposite direction? Should they build a wye and allow some trains to turn directly towards Durham? What about the Durham & Southern branch along Davis Drive and NC55? Should we just forget about trains to Apex altogether?