Light Rail: What works for Raleigh


That may actually be true, in a perfect world. However, I’m curious to know what you mean by “mid-density”. Most older American cities have a density of 10-13K per square mile, but it varies considerable across neighborhoods. For context, Raleigh’s average density like 2,400 or so. My point about the dense jobs center is that if you have to build a new transit system, you can start with a central point and radiate outward, and the development will follow the transit. If you have very few dense areas, like Raleigh, it’s hard to find an initial focal point.


5000-10,000/sqmi seems to be the sweet spot for being efficient without being a cluster. Most buildings 3-12 stories tall without street level setbacks, mixed use blocks and of course, mixed use buildings.


+1 for mentioning the Detroit people mover. Great example of what this would actually be.


So Right…it has Been Too Long, Every Year they do these Studies and research of how Light Rail will work etc…etc…etc…etc. Raleigh is a fast growing City and it is growing each Year. At least Start off a Rail system that will link the Universities…Downtown…and the Airport at Phase One and see. Sometimes I get so Frustrated at the City/State Government Leaders dragging their Tails between them about this. No Backbone what so ever as to create a infrastructure that will allow Light rail to function in the Triangle. So much wastes time it leaves me to scratch my head ( ??? ).


My point, get it started, it will be used and used heavily!
Well said!!


What studies showing light rail will work? All the things I’ve ever seen (at least from outside sources, not TTA studies) show that the region isn’t nearly dense enough. So, if you know of an actual study showing that it would work, please share!

Also, we should be pretty realistic about the cost of doing this. The Charlotte Blue Line extension (13 miles) cost $1.1B. A route connecting downtown, NCSU and RDU would be about the same distance, so let’s assume we’re talking at least $1B, and construction and financing costs were lower when CLT started, so we’re likely talking about more than that. Mecklenburg County is slightly more populous than Wake, and they still needed $500M from the Feds.

The county is already on the hook for $2.3B for the Wake Co. Transit Plan. The transit tax generates about $80M a year, so it would take more than 30 years to pay for it with the tax. Even if we include the other sources (vehicle fee, etc.) it’s still over 20 years at least.

Now, I know that the Wake Co plan is actually being funded partially by debt, but for those of you who say we’ve already been taxed enough it’s important to realize that we’ve spent all that money. If we were to build a similar light rail line to the one in Charlotte, we’d have to raise taxes again, plain and simple.


I’ll say it again. We need to change our fundamental development model if we want rail transit to work. We build new roads and freeways in anticipation of a certain type of development model. If we want our infrastructure investment to move away from roads and freeways, or at least not be 100%, then we must make changes to development models in key nodes where we want transit stations located. It’s not enough for DT Raleigh to urbanize. We need more high density nodes like North Hills scattered around the Triangle that are both self contained walkable environments, and to provide reliable ridership numbers to a rail system of any sort.


I just can’t help but think about all the Metro stops in NOVA and DC. True it is a much larger metro area, but look at the areas around some of those “suburban” metro stops. You can’t tell me that at least a portion of the development around those stops (Alexandria, Chrystal City, and many others) weren’t a direct result of the metro stop being built first. “If you build it, they will come”. Which comes first, the density or the transit nodes? I strongly believe that the transit stop was the catalyst for really spurring dense development in those areas, not the other way around.


I don’t think anyone is saying that. The development along the Blue Line is obviously a result of the transit line being built. However, that was my point about the dense jobs center. When CLT built the light rail, there was a critical mass of jobs, as well as events (Bobcats, Panthers, theater, museums, etc.) uptown to attract ridership. DTR doesn’t have the same density of jobs (and as we are well aware there are no stadiums downtown) so there isn’t the same critical mass of people who are going to and from downtown all the time. If we were to build a LRT right now, we would have to expect depressed ridership numbers for a long time, at least until the development you referenced starts to happen. Ideally a BRT system would spur similar kinds of development and start to change our development patterns, but do it for much less money. Then, in the future, we might decide to convert these BRT lines into LRT where possible.


Clearly transit stops will spur higher density growth, but it also requires zoning that will allow it happen.


What @John said, 100%. For me, higher density zoning, without the actual buildings yet, would be ok to go ahead with big investments in transit. One without the either may make for a future problem.

I’m afraid there may be a bit of that coming as New Bern Avenue needs to be upzoned before the BRT line gets rolling. Same might be true for parts around Western.

The north and south BRT lines may create the most development. I’d like to see all that industrial mixed-used zoning south of downtown reviewed also.


Everyone seems to forget that government jobs are, well, jobs. There are a lot of people who work downtown for the state. Nearly all of these people drive their cars. Back in 2004, there was an article in the N&O about how cheap it was for state employees to park DT ($10/month for uncovered & $15/month for a garage space). I am not sure if that’s still the case or if fees have substantially increased. In order for these DT workers to even consider transit options, they’d have to be subjected to market rates like others. That said, both RedHat and Citrix (two of DT’s largest private employers), also provide a ton of parking for their employees. I don’t know if that’s free parking or not but I suspect that it’s not a deal breaker for them to drive their cars.


Steve I think I finally get the angle you were suggesting RE a rail system serving downtown first, and then evolving from there, vs my comments on efficiently spread out nodes and mid-density supporting urban fabric.
In a nutshell…a hugely built out downtown overwhelms the road network. Lots of people work there and need to get there and it is high profile, much more than say getting through/to Crabtree at 5pm. So you’ve got the leverage to get the thing started at least, and once started, a lot of the front end costs are done and over with. Plus the positive feedback for those working downtown make it easier to get support for future extensions. While it’s *not the most efficient, it probably is the best route to actually getting the system…
Anyway, I realize there is a lot of ‘no duh’ there, but articulating the nuances is important for us gubment employees…


Yeah, you articulated it exactly right. For the record, I think if we were to design a city from scratch, I would absolutely agree with the idea that density be fairly even and that a big, robust transit system would be designed from the beginning to cover the whole area. That would probably mean a more even distribution of traffic (as opposed to everyone going to one place at rush hour) but Raleigh isn’t Masdar. We’re trying to force a transit system on an environment that was designed to make transit unattractive, so pretty much everything we do is going to be sub-optimal.


(I forgot to reply for a few days, and… that was a lot of reading… whoops. :frowning:)

Lots of people work [downtown] and need to get [in and out of there. Plus upgrading that route for mass transit] is high profile, much more than say getting through/to Crabtree at 5pm.
So you’ve got the leverage to get the thing started at least, and once started, a lot of the front end costs are done and over with. Plus the positive feedback for those working downtown make it easier to get support for future extensions.

I agree with this too. In @Steve’s words, I really hope we can pull that off and “force a transit system on an environment that was designed to make transit unattractive” sooner than later. But I think it’s clear now that:

  1. if you want mass transit that’s better than a bus in DTR, the current BRT corridor is where it makes the most sense to begin, and;
  2. to do this ASAP in Raleigh, BRT (and for the Triangle at large, commuter rail?) is the best way to do it… but;
  3. a paradigm shift for how developers approach Wake County needs to happen for a mass transit-based, urban lifestyle to be possible.

I do wonder if there’s a way to design/construct the new bus lanes so that it would be easier to build light rail tracks if/when the time comes… but enough about BRT specifically; there’s a separate thread for that.

If we could go back to the third point?

New Bern Avenue needs to be upzoned before the BRT line gets rolling [to make it sustainable]. Same might be true for parts around Western.

This may be a dumb question (since I’m often around but don’t live in Raleigh, so don’t usually have a reason to go east of downtown), but what would the residents/landowners of that area think of this conversation? I’m sure a zoning change would encourage development and make that economically possible, but are the social and practical costs against that area worth it?


Most of the north side of New Bern is faced with single family homes. There is an in-use former Jiffy Lube at Raleigh Blvd and then from Peartree to the beltline is all low density commercial and institutional uses.
The south side has more potential, starting with Raleigh Blvd you have, Gas Station–>some 1940’s duplexes not worth saving–>large Church–>Longview Shopping Center (Family Dollar, Alamo, Franks Pizza)–>about 10 long view houses–>undeveloped residential lots (about 10)–> Wake Med complex with lower intensity stuff on each side of it (teen club, old motel etc).
In my opinion the New Bern BRT is(as proposed) meant to gather people up outside the beltline, stop at Wake Med, stop in the Raleigh Blvd area and stop downtown…not really to do anything but fly past the stretch between Wake Med and Raleigh Blvd. But it doesn’t have to stay that way, and as Leo said, upzoning chunks of it is very possible, even if the Longview area (also being revitalized and perhaps gentrified some, though it never suffered a sharp decline, just a big plateau-ing yawn for 30 years) stays untouched. It does need some proper urban treatments beyond BRT…it doesn’t even have any sidewalks for crying out loud…before upzoning alone would make it all work through here.


I thought the New Bern BRT ends at Wake Med?


@Mark - An Austin, TX investor bought up those duplexes along S. side of New Bern you were talking about. TBJ has an article about it but it’s behind a paywall. Providing link for those who have an account or know the tricks for getting past.

Looking at Wake County IMaps “New Bern Poole LLC” purchased “Longview Gardens” on 11/14/2017 (6.97 acres) for $4,655,700.

They also purchased properties on other side of Hawkins St., (2.13 acres) for $1,498,700 along with another small lot (0.36ac) for $305,600.

Bus Rapid Transit in Raleigh

That’s possibly/probable. I know 15 (Wake Med) and 15L (Trawick) are out there past the beltline though…are either getting replaced by the BRT? The strip from 440 to New Hope Church still has to be served by something and I was calling that the ‘collected’ ridership being whisked from Wake Med to to downtown. Actually…through my rambling I realized I probably just need to see a proposed stop list for the BRT and compare it to the 15 stops…


:joy: I relate to this sentence far too well.