Raleigh Union Station is Now Open

Raleigh Union Station sign

After a few delays (which we’ll all forget about in no time) Raleigh Union Station is now officially open and taking/dropping off passengers. There are a total of 10 daily trains coming and going and the size of the station leaves plenty of room for growth. It is a true future-proof station.

The station is inviting and, locally, it’s a destination so make some time to get down and visit if you haven’t been.

While not a hub of activity at this time, the station felt exactly the same to me the day I walked down Fayetteville Street in 2006 the weekend it first opened. The street was dramatically changed from a pedestrian mall to the street we have today. The day after a huge parade and party to celebrate the opening of the street, there weren’t that many people there. It was still quiet.

It was still a ghost town.

That’s change, of course, and I think the same will happen here, we’ll grow into this new station. The downtown culture will embrace it. I see the station enabling new things that we couldn’t have before.

The opening has been fun but watching it being absorbed over the next few years is really just the start!

Raleigh Union Station plaza

How do you see yourself using the station? Join the discussion on the DTRaleigh Community.

Dockless Scooters Launch in Downtown Raleigh

Two electric scooters in City Plaza

This week, Raleigh’s first electric, dockless, scooter share system launched with over 100 scooters deployed throughout downtown Raleigh, Cameron Village, and other parts. Bird is the first one out of the gate for Raleigh as other cities have multiple vendors.

FYI. Yours truly saw Lime scooters zipping around Raleigh so who knows if they too will add scooters next alongside their bikes here in town.

The concept is similar to how dockless bike share works. You use a smartphone to create an account, check out a scooter, and you are on your way. The cost is a $1 per ride plus 15 cents per minute. If you want to try them out for free, use the same discount code I did which is BIRDRALEIGH.

With Limebike being more an NC State thing and the Citrix Cycle bikeshare system heavily delayed, for now, the scooters are welcome for short trips across downtown. I loved the quick boost on my walk home one evening this week. (especially on a hot day)

For me, I’ll always prefer bicycles as they are easier to use and frankly, downtown streets are not the smoothest. My short scooter ride was a bit bumpy but perhaps it’s just my first time out.

For anyone concerned about using these on sidewalks, I’ve realized that the street is MUCH more preferable. Going up and down curb cuts are not very smooth and the bike lanes look more tempting honestly.

They are fun, they are easy. Welcome to Raleigh, Bird!

Join the discussion about dockless scooters on the DTRaleigh Community.

Map of the Week

Frequent bus network plan for 2025-2027

Click for larger

There’s a survey out for anyone interested in expanded bus service and bus rapid transit in Wake that readers should probably take a look at. Jump to the survey here.

If you aren’t familiar, plans for expanded transit service will be rolling out between now and 2027. Downtown Raleigh is a central hub of the frequent network with the BRT lines coming in and out of downtown Raleigh. The survey focuses on the bus component only and I’m expecting the commuter rail portion, dropping passengers off at Raleigh Union Station, to come later.

Raleigh Union Station’s Dedication

Email readers: This blog post has a virtual reality image. Read the post on the blog to see it.Dedication ceremony for Raleigh Union Station on April 30, 2018.

Dedication ceremony for Raleigh Union Station on April 30, 2018.

On Monday, April 30, 2018, a dedication ceremony was held for Raleigh Union Station. Current and former politicos, city workers, media, Raleigh city aficionados, and representatives from the railroad fandom gathered in the new station to celebrate the completion of the project.

Now that the station has been dedicated, it’ll be put to use in June when Amtrak starts operating out of the new station with 10 daily trains. (up from 8 currently) Stay tuned for a city-planned event to continue to show it off to the greater community.

Dedication ceremony for Raleigh Union Station on April 30, 2018.

Dedication ceremony for Raleigh Union Station on April 30, 2018.
360 Photo of the interior of Raleigh Union Station

The new station is wide open with an abundance of natural light. The staircases are a joy to go up with each level showing a new view into and out of the station. The second-floor mezzanine facing north shows a unique perspective of the warehouse district and the Boylan Wye, perfect for train watching.

Mezzanine level at Raleigh Union Station.

Mezzanine level at Raleigh Union Station.

View of the platform from Raleigh Union Station.

View of the platform from Raleigh Union Station.

No doubt, Raleigh Union Station should impress and is such a wonderful gateway to our downtown and city. Expect more content in the near future as the station is up and running.

Zooming In Underneath the Capital Boulevard Bridge

On the left, the new Capital Boulevard bridge under construction. Center-right is the old bridge. April 2018.

On the left, the new Capital Boulevard bridge under construction. Center-right is the old bridge. April 2018.

Here are some observations from a walk along Peace Street, specifically underneath the new Capital Boulevard bridge. The photo above shows the old bridge, on the right, and the new bridge, on the left. You can see with the upgraded design that a lot of space is reclaimed when you compare the old “rock mound foundation” versus the “concrete wall foundation” of the new. (like my technical terms?)

It’s almost a vehicle lane, about 12-14 feet, on each side!

This made me pull out the map and below is the one shared from the NCDOT project page. When looking at it, up is West (peace going up/down) with Capital going left-to-right and the dark red being the new bridge.

Map of Peace Street project.

Click for a larger, zoomed out view of Peace Street.

What is great to see is that while Peace is wider, it will still be a two-lane road just like today. The additional space is being given to turns lanes but also wider sidewalks and bike lanes. The bike lanes aren’t very clear on this map but if you look hard, they are there.

I will say that some of the added road space is going toward center turn lanes also. Either way, the road has to slim down because the CSX bridge to the east isn’t getting any wider.

Anyway, it’s cool to see this come together one small piece at a time.

Taking a Peek at the Raleigh Union Station Bus Facility Plans

Possible rendering of the Raleigh Union Station Bus Facility

Possible rendering of the Raleigh Union Station Bus Facility

With a ribbon cutting date set (April 30 at 9:30 am by the way) for Raleigh Union Station, it is never too early to take a look at a new project nearby. For years, plans have been light about integrating buses near Union Station that there hasn’t been much to post about. However, within Wake Transit’s Fiscal Year 2019 Draft Plan, details arise about the bus facility planned next to our newest train station.

A hat tip to a long-time reader for pointing me to the rendering above, showing what such a bus station could look like.

Funded by the half-cent sales tax passed in 2016, FY2019 will allocate $700K towards design of this facility. This is in addition to $2.7 million for FY2018.


Quick summary from the FY2019 draft work plan

Located across the street from The Dillon and pretty much the only adjacent property to Union Station, I think it should not be a surprise that this building is set up for some major changes in the coming years.

The rendering, which readers should take with a grain of salt and is nothing close to final, suggests what a mixed-use bus facility could look like.

Future site of the Raleigh Union Station Bus Facility. Hargett Street, April 2018.

Future site of the Raleigh Union Station Bus Facility. Hargett Street, April 2018.

The Triangle Transit Authority already owns the buildings. With a zoning of DX-12, (Downtown Mixed use, 12-story height limit) I imagine a public-private partnership is in order to put some office, for example, over transit in this area.

I’d like to think too that The Dillon and nearby Citrix have also paved the way for how warehouse development can happen in the Warehouse District. There’s no reason this facility could not attempt to keep some of the character that exists here.

Raleigh Union Station civic plaza adjacent to future bus facility. West Street, April 2018.

Raleigh Union Station civic plaza adjacent to future bus facility. West Street, April 2018.

This area will truly be our city’s transit epicenter and as the Wake Transit plan comes together through 2027, I see nothing but increased pedestrian counts here.

Coupled with all the changes coming to West Street (here and here) overall and how planners working on Dix Park want to connect downtown, these are all huge moving pieces that could really click in the future to make a great western side of downtown Raleigh.

Downtown’s Parking Problem and Opportunity

The top floor of the Red Hat parking day on a typical Friday afternoon.

The top floor of the Red Hat parking day on a typical Friday afternoon.

A month or two ago, thousands of visitors descended on downtown Raleigh for a convention at the Raleigh Convention Center. Some may have been in hotels nearby but most were driving into town and were looking for parking. The decks underneath the Marriott hotel and city plaza were open and cars filled them as usual.

The problem? No one, or no technology, was there that day to tell those visitors that those areas were for monthly pass holders held by office tenants nearby.

This breakdown in the system that day caused delays and frustrations by office workers. I saw this in my officemates that drove (I happened to walk in that day) and showed up stressed because unlike a typical day, the parking decks were slammed.

It didn’t help that the convention kicked off with a 7 am breakfast that hundreds (thousands?) showed up for, beating the office workers in that day.

This is one example of many showing that our parking supply is reaching a maximum and headaches like this give downtown a negative image to a certain degree.

It’s being worked on though. The feedback is loud and clear.

Parking in downtown is not as easy as parking in the suburbs.

There’s part “duh” to that statement, said by a lot of downtown businesses and office tenants. Some people don’t mind but it helps when their company is large and commands hundreds of dedicated spaces for themselves, whether they use it or not. (see above photo)

I’ve met folks who don’t come to downtown because they hate the parking experience. I’ve also heard of downtown businesses who don’t consider opening in downtown because of the parking experience. Yet, the amount of downtown residents, businesses, and retail has been going up so something is working.

What we may be facing soon is the large build-out of parking decks in the 1990s and 2000s has now reached near capacity. I’m starting to think that the decks along Wilmington Street (City Center deck, Moore Square Station Deck, etc) were actually a major asset in recruiting business and fueling the revitalization of the 2000s and 2010s.

What I LOVE about Raleigh is that we are at least asking the question, “Is this the downtown Raleigh that we want to keep building?”

I feel that the city is 100% acknowledging that structured parking is expensive. In my opinion, I feel the city should be a partner in downtown parking management rather than being in the business of it.

Lots of privately-built parking at The Dillon.

Lots of privately-built parking at The Dillon.

For example, the city is leasing spaces in the 1,000+ space deck at The Dillon in order to support the upcoming Raleigh Union Station. Rather than build it themselves, we have a public-private partnership to help spread out the cost and leave the city flexible in the future.

Instead of the city building more parking decks, offering alternatives to get in and out of downtown must be explored.

When it comes to bike accessibility, more bike lanes have been placed over the past few years. This summer, we should see Raleigh bikeshare up and running. Bike corrals have been popping up. We’re also experimenting with cycle tracks.

Frequent mass transit is the eventual goal to take pressure off the parking problems in downtown Raleigh. With the 10-year transit plan only really starting in 2017, we’ve got a long way to go.

So how do you implement short-term solutions until bus-rapid transit, frequent buses, and a commuter-rail line are running in 2027?

The TBJ (subscription required) published an article about this very thing. The headaches caused by a thin supply of parking are forcing those behind-the-scenes to come up with new ideas.

Everything from reducing parking space sizes to paying businesses for unused spaces is being considered.

I’m going to pick on Red Hat, their parking deck is shown in my photo at the top, but the same applies to other companies in downtown Raleigh as well. I can easily guess that the fine folks there tend to work remote on Fridays as seen from their lack of cars in their deck every Friday.

It gets me thinking that one big short-term solution is not exactly to tackle the raw parking supply issue but rather the parking supply USE issue.

We have to start dropping the mentally that spaces are for a specific company or use. Spaces are for cars to sit in. What the person then does afterward doesn’t matter.

I’m not sure what that might look like but when you take into consideration that structured parking costs around $20,000 per space, you can see real savings here spending money on innovative solutions rather than doing the same old same old.

I think this will be important to follow and I’m hoping that we can get it right. A mishandling of this issue may slow downtown development momentum as transit is coming but still a ways out.

Pic of the Week

New bike corrals installed on Wilmington Street.

The bike parking scene is strong these days on the 200 block of South Wilmington Street. Two bike corrals have popped up near the crosswalk into GoRaleigh Station. The first incorporates street art and decorative planters. The second is shaped like a car, a common tool used to show that multiple bikes (people) consume much less space than a single car.

Bike corrals now seem to be the norm in and around downtown Raleigh especially with the incorporation of art now. Keep them coming!