Getting Started With The Downtown Bus Facilities Master Plan

A lot going on behind the scenes so here’s a lazy post. From a City of Raleigh press release,

The Raleigh City Council approved a contract today with Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. to provide professional services with the Downtown Facilities Master Plan. The project involves two phases, one associated with the Multi-Modal Facility and the second for improvements to the Transit.

The first phase of the project is to determine the feasibility of relocating existing Capital Area Transit service facilities located in Downtown Raleigh to improve service and to align planning initiatives around the Union Station site on the west side of downtown Raleigh. The planned Raleigh Union Station will house Amtrak, Greyhound, high speed, regional, and light rail as well as an undetermined amount of Capital Area Transit service from its current location at Moore Square.

The consultant will focus on an analysis of the needs of Capital Area Transit system’s operational needs for Downtown Raleigh, a site assessment of multiple alternatives to accommodate the goals and needs of the bus system, a schematic design of both the site and facility, and an implementation strategy and schedule.

The second phase will focus on the upgrades to the Moore Square Transit Station facility. Designers will be asked to reconfigure the entire facility and its adjacent landscape, pedestrian, and operational spaces. The goal is to improve the physical character of the station.

The Council made an amendment to the contract with Parsons Brinckerhoff that requires the firm to involve them throughout the process.

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Comments

I don’t see how Greyhound buses are being incorporated into the Union Station.

I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of the Union Station plan, but wow, I can’t take the defeatist crap coming from certain commenters on this blog, particularly the ones that heap 90% of the blame squarely on two parties, Empire Properties and Clearscapes. Talk about ridiculous and unproductive. It’s getting to the point where sometimes it’s not much better than the WRAL comments.

Have a read of the actual contract for the study:
http://www.raleighnc.gov/content/BoardsCommissions/Documents/BudgetEconomicDevelopment/BEDAgendaBackup.pdf

The first step is to identify two of seven candidate sites (nearby to Union Station) and once the sites have been selected to come up with schematic designs, including if/how a mixed use facility with retail and commercial development could be built.

And to head off any conspiracy theories, any cutbacks will be a result of the realities of politics and money in NC, Wake County, and Raleigh, and not the fault of a certain local architecture firm nor a certain developer who did great work on renovations but struggled when it cames to new construction.

I for one do not hope for inspiring architecture. Inspiring architecture is the quickest way to bust the budget and wind up with something functionally inferior (form over function.) I hope for utilitarian and functional. If you’ve ever been to Japan, nearly all of their transit infrastructure fits that to a T, and it’s a thing of absolute beauty. If the current union station plan is going to be functionally inferior, at least we’re not busting the budget doing it.

I was JUST thinking about this the other day. Car has been in the shop and subsequently totaled and I’ve been slowly learning the ways of Raleigh CAT and noticed that while Moore Square is designed fine it just seriously needs a face lift or an all-out replacement if Raleigh’s heading that way. I don’t understand why it hasn’t been thought of before.

Thomas, you and I actually agree on a whole lot less than you think. I love the Union Station concept and prelim design. I was just concerned that Raleigh is expecting an integration with Greyhound and I’m just not seeing that in the plans. I’d also like the see another level of parking over their surface lot shown – but that’s a separate topic for discussion.

i just dont see why Raleigh needs a high speed rail, it really is not nearly big enough for that…

‘High speed rail’ is a bit of a misnomer for this project. They’re talking about average speeds of 79 mph, which isn’t ‘high speed’ by any stretch of the imagination. We have an antiquated rail system and they’re simply turning it into a modern system, much of this is being accomplished by straightening tracks, upgrading bridges, etc. People think of bullet trains when we call it ‘high speed’ but we’re not attempting that sort of thing. There’s no reason we should have a train that moves UNDER 50 mph.

A key element of the high speed (110 mph max, by the way) train service is that the overall speed will be faster than a car trip. I think two hour travel times between Raleigh and Charlotte would make a lot more people consider train travel for intercity trips, especially once NCDOT puts more trains on the schedule.

Back to the subject of bus stations: the strategy I would prefer is moving all bus operations over to the Union Station area, especially once commuter rail and light rail are in place. However, land acquisition and routing could make this difficult – the presence of the wye makes Union a bit harder to access by road than Moore Square.

At minimum, the buses that need to be at Union Station are downtown shuttles like the R-Line, as well as any “relay buses” that run from Union to (for example) the state government. Buses that head to major employment centers in Raleigh (like WakeMed) probably need to be at Union when the trains come in as well. And if CAT maintains a presence at Moore Square, having a direct bus route between them is critical.

The main thing to avoid is having half of CAT’s routes connect at Union and half at Moore Square. CAT’s still at the stage where it relies on having a pulse, and if making people coming off the trains have to walk/take the R-Line across downtown is a bad thing, making people have to cross downtown to transfer between local routes is even worse.

OH! Another key aspect: if any buses are at Union Station, ideally passengers should not have to cross streets open to car traffic to get to them. This, of course, causes more land acquisition/routing problems, but it’s important for safety, and for making the transportation system “feel” integrated.

I don’t know what the building directly north of the pedestrian plaza is planned to be used for, but it could potentially be demolished and used as the site for a bus station, with a design somewhat like Durham Station or the RTC. This would be an especially great location, since it has a direct pedestrian connection to the station. (The building has nice big “X UNIT SYSTEMS AND STRUCTURE UNSTABLE” signs on it anyway, though buying out the one north of it fronting Hargett Street could be a bit more of a problem.)

The footprint’s about the same size as the Durham Station site, which means we’d need a different layout — Durham Station only has 14 bus bays, and Moore Square’s current capacity is 16, so I’d call 20 + any bays inside the wye (at least some of which need to hold 60′ articulated buses) the bare minimum in order to account for future expansion (the Wake County Transit Plan has 21 local routes connecting at Moore Square, and 9 commuter routes).

Who rides the buses and where do they live? I would submit that the primary patrons are residents of Southwest Raleigh who work in many of the service jobs in the suburbs,especially places like Wake Med. Moving their routes to Union station would constitute a significant additional hardship on what is a necessary service for them. An upgrade to the Moore Sq. Station, and the parking deck, and increased attention to cleaning as well as increased presence by police and especially the Raleigh Ambassadors are better solutions than moving the bus service out of Moore Sq. entirely.

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