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!

Pic of the Week

New bike corral on South Street

Sticking with South Street this week, a new bike corral has been installed outside of Boulted Bread at 614 West South Street. To my knowledge this is the second one after the widely popular install of the one on Hargett Street outside of The Raleigh Times.

There will also be more corrals installed according to this tweet.

Looking Back at 2015 and Ahead at 2016

I have a lot to look back on this year. Personally, in 2015 I saw major changes in my workplace and my family grew from a pair to a trio. On the web, the blog has been covering a good balance of currently under construction projects as well as ones in the planning phases.

I’ve found that transit and developments are my go-to topics. I enjoy following the downtown eats scene as well. I want to try and share a little more history in 2016 and not just old photos. Trends are important to point out and with Raleigh changing so fast, important facts from history as recent as a decade ago could be relevant.

Let’s recap on a few things we talked about this year and how it’ll lead into the next.


Moore Square Transit Station

2016 could be the year that Wake County gets more serious about mass transit. With a new plan in place, created through an extensive public feedback process in 2015, we have our strongest proposal yet to ask residents of the county to tax themselves in order to pay for this new transit plan. It is expected that our county commissioners will propose a half-cent sales tax increase, dedicated to transit, to be added to the November 2016 ballot.

According to the plan, downtown Raleigh is a major hub of higher-frequency buses. New and improved routes would be set in place as well as an increase in destinations compared to our current network. The Moore Square Transit Station should be quite busy.

Speaking of Moore Square, the bus facility there should be getting a major face lift. Still in the planning stages, the upgrade of Raleigh’s busiest bus terminal will hopefully move forward in 2016.

Along with Moore Square, Raleigh Union Station should begin construction in 2016. Not only is the expansion of the train station needed for Amtrak but also for the proposed commuter rail line that may happen as part of the previously mentioned transit plan.

All of this will take place with more planning for bicycle facilities throughout the city. The 2009 Bicycle Plan is getting an update. (more on this soon)

Expect this blog to be very pro-transit in 2016.

Cranes are a-coming

Apartments in downtown Raleigh

2015 had a few developments in the works but there were also some new ones to follow that worked their way through the approval process. In 2016, we may see cranes in the air for these new buildings.

The Lincoln, Skyhouse Raleigh, Elan City Center, and The L were all completed in 2015. These buildings add several hundred new apartment units to the downtown supply. That’s not all though as we have plenty coming down the pipe.

  • The Link Apartments should have residents moving in sometime in early 2016.
  • The Edison Apartments are coming along and should be done in the first half of 2016.
  • The townhomes at Blount Street Commons are mostly finished and should have residents moving in throughout 2016.
  • The Gramercy is mostly built out and I see no reason it’s not up and running in 2016.

That’s several hundred more apartments being built and ready to be opened next year. In the planning phases are apartments as part of The Dillon, Greyhound Apartments, and the north tower of Charter Square.

Outside of residential developments, some taller structures containing offices or hotels may be breaking ground in 2016. Those to look out for is the main structure of The Dillon, a 17-story tower in the warehouse district. Charter Square North is planned to be a 22-story mixed-use building with offices and residential. Maybe it will break ground in 2016?

Other notable projects are The Edison Office tower and Narsi Hotel, a 12-story building for the corner of Lenoir and Wilmington Streets. In 2015, these projects worked their way through the planning process so we’ll continue to follow them into 2016.

As mentioned recently, construction on the Residence Inn hotel near the convention center has started.

Personally, I’ll be interested to see what comes out of the work being put into the 301 Hillsborough site and the N&O block. I expect to see lots of planning take place in 2016 for these sites.

One last mention, kind of long shot but perhaps something interesting could happen, is Project Phoenix, the North Carolina governor’s plans for bringing development to the state government complex. Nothing sounds concrete yet from what I’ve read but the idea of turning the expansive complex into a more mixed-use environment would be a fantastic benefit to downtown Raleigh, essentially growing the footprint of interactive space.

Reader Favorites

They may not be favorites but they at least got the most web traffic. Here are the top five posts of 2015.

  1. Rendering of The Dillon, Office and Residential in the Warehouse District
  2. 12-Story Hotel Planned for Wilmington Street Moves Forward
  3. Multiple Rezoning Requests on the Table
  4. Pic of the Week for February 3, 2015
  5. Hilton Garden Inn on Davie Street Rendering, Shows Glass and Curves

Readers shattered my single day page view record this year. It was on the topic of the sidewalk seating ordinance, an emotionally charged and even political topic of the year.

The elections of 2015 can only be described as DrunkTown. I hope to look back on this debate years from now and just laugh.

To close, I end with one bold prediction for 2016: The R-Line makes it’s last loop around downtown Raleigh.

Happy New Year! ;)

Campaign for Bicycle Repair Stations in Downtown Raleigh

Watch the video for Bicycle Repair Stations in Raleigh on Neighborly.

A group of Raleigh bicycle fans want to raise money to install bike repair stations on the greenway and in downtown Raleigh. These are quite common in more bike-friendly cities around the world so why not have them here at home. The team is raising money and you can help through their Neighborly Campaign.

Sharing Bikes, It’s What Raleighites Do

San Antonio B Cycle Station

San Antonio B Cycle Station

Or will do anyway according to a recent report. I just went through most of the recently released 2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study. The conclusion of the study finds that a bike share system in Raleigh is feasible. You can get the study here (pdf) or see it and a lot of other Bike Raleigh information at BikeRaleigh.org.

I decided to go through the study and take some notes.

Executive Summary
If anything, the Executive Summary is worth reading through. At a high level, the study identifies the following benefits of a bike share system for Raleigh:

  • “Augmenting the City’s existing transportation options while encouraging active transportation by lowering barriers to entry for minority and low income residents.”
  • “Providing an impetus for further investment in bicycle-friendly facilities.”
  • “Building on the City’s reputation as a forward-thinking, bicycle-friendly community.”
  • “Using bike share to promote the City to potential employers, residents, and visitors.”

These findings were based on certain qualities that our city has. This includes a comparatively “high resident density” and “high concentration of employers” near downtown, a “significant tourist market,” and “plans and policies in place focusing on the promotion of livable, walkable, and bicycle friendly places.”

A bike share system in Raleigh is not without its challenges however. Two major obstacles identified are:

  1. “A high dependency on single-occupancy vehicles (SOV’s)”
  2. “an emerging but not yet complete network of bicycle-friendly facilities”

Also mentioned as obstacles are a “difficult topography” and “existing development patterns” that promote low population and employment densities outside of downtown.

The first round of cost estimates are mentioned as well. From the report, here’s a table showing approximate startup and operating costs based on national averages.

2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Projected Implementation Costs

Diving Into The Study
The study is divided into nine sections that start by introducing bike share, what it is and how it has been implemented in other cities, all the way to demand analysis in Raleigh and a final recommendation.

If you are asking yourself, “What is Bike Share?” then I recommend reading pages 4-11 for some background history and fun facts about the service. For example, did you know:

A bike share system can help a community attract and retain residents. Many communities have used bike share systems as an added effort to help (re)vitalize and reactivate their downtown area(s). In addition, it provides a new and different way for tourists to see a city, helping attract more tourists and their spending power to communities.

*2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study – Community Economic Benefits page 8

I won’t go over the basics and benefits of a bike share system in this post. Instead, I’ll recommend checking out the study or reading a June 2013 blog post about my visit to San Antonio and using their bike share system.

Community Analysis
The study starts by taking a look at Raleigh and some of the community features like demographics, physical makeup, and current infrastructure.

Our temperate weather is always listed as a plus. Another plus are some generally flat areas around the core downtown. That’s not to say there aren’t some hills out there. I know Glenwood South is on quite a slant when cycling up and down it.

Our population:

The City of Raleigh is the second most populous city in the state with approximately 423,000 people living in the city – a density of around 2,800 people per square mile, which is higher than all of the other southeastern bike share cities.

*2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study – Demographics page 26

That’s a pretty powerful statistic right there. Here is the comparison between us and other southeastern bike share cities.
2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Size, Population, and Density Comparison

The study shows that the population and employment density is most clustered in and around downtown. There are a few pockets of higher density residential in southwest and north Raleigh but downtown really commands the most attention. See the figure below for a heat map of population density in Raleigh.

2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Population Density
Click for larger

Analysis was also done on low-income and minority communities. There is a significant overlap between feasible areas for bike share and locations of these communities. This presents an opportunity to provide a low-cost transit option to these residents.

Compliment to Transit?
Here’s probably the biggest challenge and detractor to the feasibility of a bike share system in Raleigh.

Raleigh is still a predominately auto-oriented city – single occupancy vehicle use represents 79-percent of all commuting trips (See Figure 21).98 Parking costs have traditionally also encouraged vehicle travel, even for short trips.

*2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study – Transportation Mode Share page 32

2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Transportation Mode Share

The quote says 79% while the pie chart shows 84%. Unless I’m missing something that might be a typo in the study. Either way, both numbers are pretty high and significantly show Raleigh’s dependency on SOVs.

The only area in the city with a significant amount of proximity to transit, mass transit specifically like Capital Area Transit (CAT), is in downtown. The study points this out as a challenge but lists an opportunity to use bike share to bridge gaps between activity centers that are poorly served by buses.

I think this is the biggest challenge by far for a successful implementation of bike share in Raleigh.

In addition to bus transit, our current bicycle facilities are mentioned. The study recognizes the increase in facilities over the last four years and the city’s commitment to be a “bicycle friendly community.”

However, if you look at the overlap between the areas where bike share is feasible, mainly downtown, and the fact that bike facilities are spread across the city, this leaves much fewer miles to be used within a possible system.

Here’s a point for more discussion. Most bike facilities are actually outside of downtown so to say that bike share can only happen near bike facilities doesn’t quite tell the whole story in my opinion. Downtown streets are naturally friendlier to bicycles so therefore are more fit for bike share. The study points out that there are much less bicycle facilities in downtown as a detriment to a bike share system and I think that could be argued against.

I’m not going to get into the details of this section but wanted to mention it as I thought it interesting. An identified challenge was that “The permitting process may be complicated due to restrictions on outdoor advertising, historic district designation, right-of-way ownership by multiple government agencies, and specific streetscape plans.”

Complicated indeed. An included flow-chart shows some situations having to go through seven layers of permitting.

Public Engagement
The feasibility study was not without its opportunity for you and I to participate. “Public feedback was gathered using a number of tools including a community workshop, a project website, an online survey, a crowdsourcing map, and interviews with local stakeholders and agencies.”

Surveys showed that 84% of respondents support a bike share program in Raleigh. Opinions, both supportive and of concern, were around the themes of:

  • “Promoting bicycling as a viable transportation option in Raleigh.”
  • “Helping to reduce traffic congestion.”
  • “Helping to make Raleigh an “attractive” city for new residents.”
  • “Concern for the cost of the system.”
  • “Needing a more extensive bicycle network prior to implementation.”

To gather more information, an online crowdsourcing map was built so that people could suggest station locations and provide comments. Here’s a map of the 151 stations that were received including a table of the top 10.

2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Publicly Suggested Station Locations
Click for larger

Big Picture Conclusion
The study goes on to explain its methodology behind the recommendations and results as well differences between the types of bike share systems that are out there. Below is a potential bike share heat map as well as a list with final conclusions and recommendations.

2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Potential Bikeshare Demand Heat map
Click for larger

  • Geography, Climate and Land Use – “Challenges do not outweigh the opportunities.”
  • Demographics and Employment – “Although there are large areas of the City with low population and employment densities, the constant influx of large employers and residents to downtown provide a strong opportunity for successful implementation of a bike share program in the area.”
  • Transportation Mode Share – “Coordination of deployment of stations with existing and planned public transportation services will be important to help extend the reach of service and connectivity to and from activity centers.”
  • Bicycle Infrastructure – “City should continue to develop its planned network of bicycle facilities and a complete way-finding program in parallel with a potential implementation of a bike share program.”
  • Tourism – “City should consider allocating some funding for specialized outreach for tourist oriented promotion of the bike share program.”
  • Local and Regional Plans and Policies – “It is recommended that the City review and consider amending local regulations related to signage to allow for the placement of sponsorship and/or advertising on bike share stations to potentially help cover costs for program.”
  • Public Input and Stakeholder Engagement – “There is general support for implementing a bike share program in the City of Raleigh. Station based system is preferred.”