The Future of transit in Raleigh

The consensus on the council yesterday seemed highly on board with using one of these transit software programs (Uber, Via, Moovit), which I’m sure can be costly (although I will admit I have no idea how much it costs relative to a dedicated frequent bus route). But my point is that it seems that the city is on board spending money on this route (a new downtown-midtown connection), and they seem to believe it has some urgency and need for it to be treated uniquely, so I do think they would find the money for it.

We do have the transit tax which I’m sure helps and in 2024 we’ll start to get revenue (presumably) from the BRT if everything stays on schedule there.

Just why invest in this technology program for 2-3 years when there is already a solution that can be implemented (15min route frequency).

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I think the Midtown Transit Center is also a factor. They’re wanting to roll this out in a package, restructuring the 8 and 16 simultaneously and having all new routes (8, 8L, 16) all converge on the transit center. In theory, the 24L would also meet there, which would later become the 24 (New Hope-Crabtree). Of course, the design of the transit center is also contingent on what happens with Midtown BRT.

Maybe they’re trying to ensure they only have to build this out once instead of redoing it like two years after the initial restructuring. Or maybe they’re concerned about how to connect that many bus lines without an off-street facility in place. But if I recall correctly, one of the key reasons this package was delayed a couple years ago was because of delays with the transit center.

Though I’m sure money is still the key player here.

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Is there even a location for the midtown transit center? NH is getting built out fast, and I don’t recall seeing a spot for a transit center. Same with Midtown exchange.

Just curious where they would put this.

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So older documents (such this one, screenshot below) seem to indicate that they were eyeing the corner of Lassiter Mill and Camelot, behind First Citizens. The Wake Transit Performance Tracker, on the other hand, just has a marker where the current bus stop is (next to North State Bank), though that same loop along Lassiter Mill, Camelot, and Rowan that we see below is marked on the tracker as well.

If it were me, I’d be trying to take over either the North State Bank or Exxon properties. Both are central to North Hills and have easy entrances/exits to Six Forks on either side. There’s even room for a few designated parking spaces if they wanted. Additional argument for the NSB site: pedestrian tunnel under Six Forks to Cowfish/Rosewater for easy access to the east side. And maybe, if they’re feeling super ambitious, they could drop some TOD on top of the station à la RUS Bus.

With widening planned for Six Forks, we’re never really going to see much pedestrian activation along that road. It’s going to remain a car sewer, so butting a transit center up against it is really not that big of a deal. If they really want to maximize the potential for that space, build on top of it.

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and, in particular, a pending rezoning is a great time to identify a required transit station easement.

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You kids want a crappy map? I got bored and made y’all a crappy map.

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If only we kept this system and just modernized it like MBTA in Boston.

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Is that an old commuter rail map?

Nope, it’s a Streetcar map

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If we actually want to win our World University Games bid, one of several advantages our bid has over South Korea’s that we have to double down on is our car-free connections between potential venues. That means Orange County’s mobility investments could affect how the world sees “Raleigh”.

Lucky for us, Orange County is figuring out how to improve their transit systems, and they’re asking for feedback on some draft ideas.

One of them is to make GoTriangle’s buses run along Tobacco Road every 15min all day every day. This could happen by FY2026 with additional funding:

There are also other “aspirational, currently unfunded, longer-term” projects that could happen. These include BRT to Raleigh and RTP, as well as express bus services to Pittsboro’s Chatham Park.

If you’re wondering why this is happening more slowly than Raleigh’s BRTs, keep in mind that Orange County’s transit revenue is about one-third of Wake County’s this year. That slower revenue accumulation isn’t exactly doing any favors when it comes to moving on from that light rail project’s demise.

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Now if we could just get the commuter rail. But won’t be ready in time I am afraid.

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I would be pissed if I lived in Durham - they’ve gotten little to nothing to show for out of their transit tax so far.

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Love it, do it all.

One peeve though: I really hate it when American transit/planning agencies slap the “BRT” label on projects that primarily operate in mixed traffic. I’m afraid that I-40 BRT route is going to be exactly that (unless they’re planning to do something like the Orange Line in Minneapolis, but that’s going to take a lot of cooperation from NCDOT, which is hard to come by). If you’re going to do some kind of high-frequency bus service with enhanced stations and some signal priority here and there, but little to no dedicated lanes, I prefer Yonah Freemark’s term “Arterial Rapid Transit.” I know I’m splitting hairs a bit here, but I think it’s important to make these distinctions so that we don’t water down the core concept of BRT here in the States.

But yeah, do it. Chapel Hill already does pretty well for ridership thanks to UNC and a decade plus of free service. Better, more frequent buses would continue to build on a solid foundation.

I think this is the main reason that Durham is the current outlier for commuter rail. They’ve been shafted before, and they’re afraid of being shafted again. I’ve seen a lot of people arguing on the Bird Site that whatever funding hasn’t been burned on DOLRT should be dedicated to helping people move within Durham, not out of Durham. “Fix our buses, then we’ll talk about commuter rail.”

Which I get, but it seems to me that Durham has much better bus service than Raleigh currently. Plus, and I hate to put it this way, but Americans like rail projects. From what I’ve gathered, most American cities that have managed to get folks above the poverty line onto buses were able to do so because of a corresponding rail project (this is speculation, so don’t ask for a source). I know it’s selfish, but I’m thinking long game here. You need to get the general population to see public transit as more than just a welfare program. You need to get people who can afford cars to voluntarily leave them at home. Once that perception shifts, demand shifts. When demand shifts, you’ll find bus upgrades come much more easily. And it’s not like they won’t simultaneously get bus upgrades; there just won’t be as many during the commuter rail build-out.

We need to think more as a region. A bit of friendly rivalry never hurt anybody, and I think the distinctions between Raleigh and Durham ultimately help the region as a whole, but we’re not competing against each other so much as we’re competing against other regions (Charlotte, Nashville, Austin). The fact that we have two growing cities in the same region is an asset, but that growth will be stunted if we don’t do a better job of connecting the two. The prospect of having to get on I-40 feels like a barrier between the two cities. I’d go to Durham way more often if I could just walk to a train station at any time of day. Both cities win with a better connection.

Edit: if y’all think I’m off base on that last bit, please let me know and tell me why. I’d love to hear a solid argument for why Durham should put bus service before rail service.

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there’s an International Rating system for BRT routes and most of the North American submissions are either Bronze level or “Basic BRT” BRT Rankings - Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

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Yep. I became a purist regarding BRT once I discovered this list. South America does it much better than we do.

Sidenote: I think the New Bern line can land Bronze. It’s quite similar to Richmond’s Pulse, which was able to get Bronze as well.

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There is a pathway to do a budget version of that, though, where buses can reserve their own right-of-way on interstates:

It looks like NCDOT’s been warming up to the idea of buses that aren’t half-assed, since they’re willing to talk about FAST buses and integrating them into state guidelines. If all of those features can get integrated into future interstate “widenings”, then I think it’s possible to get highway BRT services that are actually “Bronze”-level or even higher?

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For anyone who’s really bored and has time on their hands, the 2022 NC Transportation Summit website posted all the videos, pictures, and everything else from the recently concluded meeting. I glanced at some of the video titles and these two jumped out at me. However there’s a bunch of other topics for those that are interested:

  • The Future of Rail is Changing – What it Could Mean for N.C

  • Opening the Door to Commercial Space Flight

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Great video about NIMBYism causing transit project issues from the start. 1 single person complaining at a meeting has more voice than the general population which may be in favor because people in favor of such projects generally don’t show up to these citizen meetings, etc.

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see: a few residents of one street potentially tanking connectivity improvements around the Buck Jones Rd BRT station (the most important factor in making transit successful). They got a whole WRAL segment.

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Yep - same thing with the 6 forks corridor study. Initial plans showed the design with 4 car lanes and 2 bus lanes. This was several years ago. Enough people bitched and it was changed to 6 car lanes and no bus lanes.

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