The Future of transit in Raleigh

Supposedly TTA negotiated with CSX to buy a 50’ wide corridor alongside the S-line from DT Raleigh to (I think) Durant Road back in 2005. I am actually not sure if that sale went through or was cancelled when the project died. But I wonder if that will come into play.

Buying the S-line in Virginia was likely a little bit easier because it’s entirely inactive; in NC, the S-line south of Ridgeway is still in use as a branch line with freight traffic that is modest but more than a rounding error.

Maybe a split-corridor solution like they arrived at for the RF&P, and for the TTA line back in 2005, is what we’ll wind up with. Or perhaps CSX will sell the corridor outright (To whom? NCRR? NCDOT?) and then pay for trackage rights. Or perhaps they will be content to let a shortline operator (Carolina Coastal/CLNA?) handle freight operations on this corridor? The biggest customers on this line are all from Moncure south.


I can’t get a sense of what happened with TTA’s lease of the S-line. But, with the NCDOT’s involvement, it will be marketed for both freight and passenger operations.

All of those engineering studies for SEHSR to soften the S-line’s curves will finally come to fruition. And, there will likely need to be some further modeling as to where passing sidings have to be added to accommodate mixed traffic.

Because, there’s not only the current in-line freight customers which are in the mix. There is also the possibility of east-to-west reactivation of the Norlina-to-Weldon trackage to upgrade the Portsmouth Subdivision. The Port of Virginia is (or will be) dredging the channels in anticipation of the expected increase in container traffic coming from Asia.

So, we may be seeing some of that coming though Raleigh if the A-line starts getting more traffic than it can accommodate.


Here’s a little more detail on TTA/GoTriangle’s involvement with the S-Line…

‘Wake Forest to Raleigh Commuter Rail Conceptual Infrastructure Analysis’

Most specifically…


This sounded really interesting and unexpected!

…“sounding”, past tense, because I decided to look into where these plots of land are. Out of the 32 parcels, I only found three of them listed on the City of Raleigh’s GIS database:

(note that the “Research Triangle Regional Public Transportation Authority” is the legal name of GoTriangle)

Because the timeless menace of insomnia has also become a thing for this 24-year-old now, I wanted to see what happened to the other pieces of land. …but I couldn’t find anything online about which pieces of land GoTriangle bought (and what happened to them, since).

Does anyone know what happened to them (or otherwise, what properties is the S-line paper is talking about)?

More on how this paper failed Keita's BS-sniffing test

A NCDoT report on historic properties around Raleigh from 2013 had the closest thing I could find to an answer:

Source (marked page 43; PDF page 46)

As it turns out, GoTriangle’s first stab at regional rail involved an environmental analysis that led to the Warehouse District being submitted to the National Registry as a historical district. They found that the rail project wouldn’t adversely affect the soon-to-be-historical properties, but the transit agency apparently went ahead and bought some of the parcels of land with abandoned warehouses. The report doesn’t say why, but I assume it was a risk-mitigation move.

(This is why all that pre-construction talking and studying before transit projects are important, y’all!)

  • Dillon Supply Company
    • Farm Machinery Warehouse
    • Warehouse (210 S. West St.)
  • Peden Steel Works (120 S. West St.)
  • block bounded by W. Hargett/W. Martin streets
  • Capital Feed and Grocery Company bldg. (230 S. West St.)

…now, as you may have noticed, the addresses for those places are south of the area mentioned in the commuter rail study (“between […] Wake Forest Rd. [and] Morgan St.”). Plus the purchases were made in 2004-2005, unlike 2003 as the 2017 rail study says.

Besides, I’m not sure how you could form a “continuous corridor on the east side of the existing main track” (I’m assuming this means the CSX tracks) that spans only 32 parcels.

This means one of these two things have to be true:

  • I’m misinterpreting which parcels of land this report is on about
  • The author of this paper messed up about which pieces of land GoTriangle bought, and when

So… uh… what gives?

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I see your point. I’ve tried a quick look at the S-line corridor. And, it shows the abandoned right-of-way still under the railroad’s ownership. Although clicking on it didn’t highlight the property, which is kinda wonky. Oddly, there are bits of property that have ownership listed as ‘Seaboard Air Line RR Co,’ ‘Seaboard Air Lines Railroad Co ,’ ‘Seaboard Coast Line,’ and ‘Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Co.’ These all look like spots where SAL re-aligned their trackage or abandoned a siding, but still maintained ownership.

But, I see your point about ‘Research Triangle Regional Public Transportation Authority’ owned properties not lining up the S-Line.

As a side note, there are are a few bits of property on the eastern edge of Wake County owned by CSX which are described as ‘Atlantic Coastline R R Land.’ There is an urban legend that the ACL was wanting to extend over to Durham in the early 20th Century to get into some tobacco hauling business from the western extension at Spring Hope. Never gave it much thought, but the line would have come across at about Wake Forest. So, is this a remnant of that failed idea, but the land never got sold. Wild!!


I wonder if we need to have more of a presence as a community in the Regional Transportation Alliance? …since I found this interesting proposal that came seemingly from nowhere:

It’s a Request for Proposals (in this case, a request for bids from consultants to be a run this study) to envision road upgrades plus a “rapid, frequent, reliable, and easy-to-use bus service” throughout the Triangle.

It’s not a replacement for the existing BRT projects or commuter rail. Instead, it sounds like the RTA wants to see if it’s possible to have the best of both worlds:

  • mostly using the sprawling, endless roads we already have like “infrequent buses”, but;

  • having the frequent and reliable service of BRT/light rail/trains

This study actually sounds pretty well-defined, instead of trying to do 200 things at once! The goals are:

It’s a pretty dense and detailed document, so I went ahead and pulled text that y’all will probably find interesting. You’re welcome lol:

More about Objective 1
More about Objective 2

Here’s what is (NOT) being asked of this study:

So what's required, exactly???

Maybe it’s just me, but out of all the other transit projects we like to complain about on here, I found this RFP to be the best-written and easiest-to-read/analyze.

My gut says we won’t find out about the results of this competition until next March or so, but it’ll be cool to keep an eye on this initiative!


Thanks for reading for us and summarizing!

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Definitely see this as an acknowledgement of the area’s failure to get a fixed-guideway system to a point where it’s shovel-ready.

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Very cool info.
I wonder when we’ll another attempt for a Transit Bond (from Wake County or Orange/Durham County) which includes commuter rail. Maybe they can find a way to skip the parts of the Duke campus that jinxed the last regional plan.

Charlotte has a $6 Billion proposal to build out the whole region in one shot. Some 1/2 cent sales tax hikes have been approved by the voters for the initial phases.

I figure the leadership in the Triangle metros now will be hankering to take another big go at it now that some time has passed since the last attempt at a regional system.


Charlotte’s 2030 Plan is slowly proceeding. The Blue Line Extension didn’t go as far east as they would have liked, not crossing 485.

The Gold Line is happening, albeit slowly, and not without opposition.

The Silver Line’s been pencilled in from Matthews to Belmont. But, the alignment through Uptown is being disagreed upon. And, it doesn’t directly transit the CLT terminal as neatly as one would have liked.

And, the Red Line from Uptown to Huntersville is dead in the water since NS doesn’t want to share the O-Line. A newly built ROW recommendation is DOA, so a BRT option up I-77 is being studied. (And, we all know how studies without funding streams go.)


Hi, first time commenting on this site, so bear with me. Can someone explain the Regional Transportation Alliance to me? I’ve been keeping tabs on them for a little over a year now, and they seem to talk a big game when it comes to transit, but they also seem to heavily prioritize highway projects and hyperloop shenanigans over our much-needed bus and rail investments. They’re just an advocacy group, right? Or do they have stronger government ties than that?


Hi, Colby! Welcome! We’re glad you are here.

Yeah, the RTA is just an advocacy group whose key members are some big local businesses. And, yes, their priorities are terrible: expanding 540, widening roads to “relieve congestion” (lol), and the like. I’m sure they really do want to see the transit plan become a reality too, but it’s explicitly a lower-level priority than laying down more car-first infrastructure.

They do not have any formal power or role in government. They’re a well-organized lobbying group, but they’re also the usual suspects, and probably every large city has something similar to contend with. I mean, RDU Airport is one of the group’s chief supporters, and lo and behold, one of its top priorities is to funnel more money into RDU. So it’s just another group out there advocating for their interests. I’m not sure how much actual influence they really have, honestly, but I’m sure some other folks can weigh in on that.


Thanks man, that’s super helpful. Are there any other well-organized advocacy groups that focus more heavily on transit? I know of WakeUP Wake County, but it seems like RTA has a lot more sway unfortunately.

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Also, off topic: NCDOT has a new survey out regarding their State Rail Plan Update. Raleigh DOT just tweeted about it. Took me about fifteen minutes, but that’s because I had a lot to say. Hit that up if y’all can.


There’s not currently any local pro-transit group that’s as well organized as RTA is, no.

Which is to say, there’s an urgent need for one!


I took the survey. Thanks for sharing it! I was pretty livid at the part with the interactive budget allocation where there’s funding for widening roads to “reduce congestion” :roll_eyes: that you couldn’t claw back. Other than that, though, it was a cool survey.


Thanks for sharing that – I just completed it too. @daviddonovan I agree, the mandatory money budgeted for road widening was annoying. At least it isn’t the leading priority for other survey-takers (although, it is still second) and is basically tied with how much people allocated for accessibility.


To be honest I found the categories pretty limiting though. I put a lot in “Economic Development” because I was making the case that investment in passenger rail (and denser land-use patterns in general) needs to be presented as a economic issue to get real popular and political support.


RTA is a broad-umbrella, business-oriented group with an “all of the above” advocacy platform. It seems their main purpose is just to advocate for more transportation spending, not any specific shift in priorities based on any ideology in particular, beyond just sheer economic growth. I have the impression that they were the main driving force behind moving “complete 540” to the top of the regional priority list. But at the same time they are big on transit, too. So they have a lot of influence but kind of represent the status quo, only more of it.


So what you’re saying is, we need a comparable advocacy group that specifically focuses on convincing NCDOT to shift its focus from highways to transit?


The Wake Transit transit plan does include Commuter Rail, from Garner to Durham :+1: Details here:

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