Beside the tracks

Here’s what “Many” has to say:

Many years ago, when we lived in Boston, I remember what happened when the red line was put in through Cambridge/Somerville. At the time the corridor was filled with moderately priced rentals and housing for people that commuted into Boston by car or bus. The red line morphed those neighborhoods into +million dollar condos. The middle class was forced out to Bedford Ma. and southern New Hampshire, and that resulted in making the congestion and sprawl everyone claimed they were solving with the red line worse. Watching this devolution left a lasting impression of how badly wrong things can go. (http://www.policylink.org/site/c.lkIXLbMNJrE/b.5137373/k.E65E/Transit_Oriented_Development.htm)

Even if TTA were to build a successful LRT (unlikely as that is), the goal should be not to serve the wealthy but to serve the people that rely on Public Transportation. The areas proposed for LRT are already expensive. LRT will drive property values along that corridor through the roof. and as property values and rents increase it will force ridership to move further out causing even more issues as it did in the Cambridge Somerville case.

Does experience tell you developers will build along the corridor without parking? Even with the best of intentions, do you think the political climate would be able to hold that limited parking line against the force of economic development? I for one do not believe it for a moment and people will still drive to this new development and park or the development will fail.

Besides being ridiculously expensive, proposed LRT routes cut new swaths through watersheds rather than using existing routes. This has the effect of stranding existing development areas and further exacerbating issues with the Jordan Lake watershed simultaneously. This plan will also serve to economically abandon existing right of ways and businesses. Greenfield interconnection development is just a plan bad idea.

What attracts and maintains ridership is the look & feel and walkability of the stops as well as the convenience. UNC studied the issue and came to similar conclusions: (http://katana.hsrc.unc.edu/cms/downloads/TTA%20Final%20Report%20-%20PLAN%20823.pdf)

The preferred solution seems simple to me;

1) Use at least some of the monies generated from the transit tax to promote walkability and circulation through development zones county wide, and add major BRT stops there (e.g. Efland/Buckhorn, possibly fixing the issues along Estes and CW, definitely a stop by So. Village and Obey Creek, plan one for the Friday Center etc. and the UNC Hospitals – Hillsboro and Chapel Hill.). This is where land use supports transit and will drive ridership. Enable the use of this transit by providing free parking for BRT, especially for those commuting to work. Do this by placing other non BRT parking further away.

2) Connect these nodes using BRT over existing infrastructure, adding rail style platforms at the nodes and making sure BRT traffic flows through bottlenecks more smoothly than personal auto traffic does today. Go to places people want to go to (PLEASE serve the airport, don’t make the same mistake Charlotte did). Use local transit to provide “last mile” connections e.g. (http://www.npr.org/2013/11/13/243955769/how-a-free-bus-shuttle-helped-make-a-small-town-take-off?ft=1&f=1001)

3) Stop building public infrastructure (e.g. the Library) in places that are not served by public transit, it just adds to the problem. Start with the obvious; serve the medical corridor that is developing along 15-501 between Chapel Hill & Durham rather than bypassing it. Tie the places people want to go together using existing infrastructure. Start planning right of ways that parallel exiting routes and use land use/zoning to accomplish a path for future BRT routes.

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61 Comments

  1. DOM

     /  November 16, 2013

    Steve J

    Love the site! Love the concept!

    “The past and the present have no place in the future.”
    – Eero Saarinen

  2. Matt Czajkowski

     /  November 16, 2013

    A lack of Federal funding will probably kill LRT — and if that doesn’t a lack of State funding will. Does anyone really think the state is going to fund LRT without Wake’s participation? The only problem is we will have spent $40 million and be no further ahead than today! Shall we start a a contest now to come up with all the excuses we’ll hear from those who continue to support it. My guess is we’ll blame the Republicans. All gratitude to you Earl for having waged a lonely battle amongst your BOCC colleagues. It’s lonely. I know.

    Anyone going to the library Monday night to hear why the TTA has to raise fares after we voted to fund them with the sales tax?

  3. many

     /  November 16, 2013

    Steve J.

    Thank you. A part of the concept, the “smart car” is coming. It will be able to drive itself, park itself, move itself, fetch itself and form up in to “trains” on the fly based on time and source/destination/location The car as a robot (CaaR) is under development now, and will be available in out lifetimes.

  4. many

     /  November 16, 2013

    Matt & Earl,

    “If you are afraid of being lonely, don’t try to be right.”
    ―Jules Renard

  5. anonymous

     /  November 17, 2013

    this article seems to be relevant.

    It really depends on what type of BRT one is proposing..
    are you just taking an existing lane and sharing it, or are you going to add new dedicated lanes (in which case the cost goes way up)

    http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2011/05/25/the-silly-argument-over-brt-and-rail/

  6. many

     /  November 17, 2013

    anonymous-

    The point I have been trying to make is different; the TTA focus on a green field route for LRT is the wrong approach. Using that same money to improve the access (bus stops, expanded routes and frequency) will do far more to keep the public transit system vital. Ridership is not sufficient for LRT nor is it projected to be anytime soon, if ever. The “if you build it they will come” LRT strategy is seriously flawed on may levels, from cost per mile to socioeconomic and environmental impacts to the number of people served. New technologies and demographics changes will likely render projects like this TTA proposal obsolete after wasting tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Further, since federal and state funds are dubious and LRT now requires +30 Million for “further study”of LRT, it is my (and many others) opinion that this is an opportunity to step back and reevaluate how we want to spend this tax money. There are significant needs and opportunities elsewhere.

    When dedicated lanes/guideways are needed to reduce transit time between nodes then the right of ways already exist and should be be expanded where ever possible, even at the same or slightly greater initial cost. This does two things; preserves existing economic development investment, increasing density as well as reducing the impact/footprint on critical natural resources. Proper planning and land use decisions now (something missing from the TTA marketing blitz) will pave (pun intended) the best way forward for “our transit future”.

  7. Matt Czajkowski

     /  November 17, 2013

    Turn out at the library Monday at 4:00 PM to ask the TTA why they are raising fates when they will receive $28 million from sales tax this fiscal year.

  8. Bonnie Hauser

     /  November 17, 2013

    Matt – just for clarity – Most of TTA’s funds come from the Durham and Orange sales tax. About 25% of the funds come from rental car and vehicle registration fees.

    Do you know how much money CHT was expecting and is not getting?

  9. Bruce Springsteen

     /  November 17, 2013

    Why would they have a meeting for public info and input on a weekday at 4:00 in the afternoon?

    And Terri Buckner, I saw your column in todays CHN and if you think Carrboro is so great then maybe you should think a little harder.

  10. many

     /  November 18, 2013

    Bruce, so its inconvenient for the public to give the input they are looking for of course.

    If you think that is inconvenient, check out the meetings for the TTA planning public comment period:
    http://www.triangletransit.org/sites/default/files/files/September%2025,%202013.pdf

  11. Bonnie Hauser

     /  November 22, 2013

    Hey even Bruce Siceloff is waffling on LRT. And he’s said nothing about the loss of funidng for bus and other local priorities.

    http://wunc.org/post/rail-transit-shot-down-panel-experts

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