Transit Related Events and Links You Need To Know About

Watch the video “Overview of the Triangle Regional Transit Program (TRTP)” on YouTube

Later this month are some transit related events that are worth talking about. This round of workshops are particularly important because they are the last ones of the Alternatives Analysis.

For those that are not caught up, the Alternatives Analysis has been going on throughout most of 2010 up until now. Each piece of all the proposed transit corridors in the Triangle have different plans for them, or alternatives, for us to choose from. (or not to) With a lot of research and public comment, we are close to creating what is called the Locally Preferred Alternative. (LPA)

To move forward with this LPA, you need to send in your comments towards the plans that are out there and these meetings this month are the best place to do it. They are the final round before the LPA’s are chosen. The dates and locations for the meetings are:

  • Tue, Mar 22, 4 – 7 PM | Triangle Town Center, space 1001, next to Dillard’s, Triangle Town Blvd, RALEIGH.
  • Wed, Mar 23, 4 – 7 PM | Durham Station Transportation Ctr, 515 W. Pettigrew St., DURHAM.
  • Thu, Mar 24, 4- 7 PM | The Friday Center, 100 Friday Center Drive, CHAPEL HILL.
  • Mon, Mar 28, 6 – 9 PM | Mt. Peace Baptist Church.1601 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., SOUTHEAST RALEIGH.
  • Tue, Mar 29, 4-7 PM | Cary Senior Center in Bond Park, 120 Maury O’Dell Place, High House Rd. between Cary Parkway and NW Maynard Rd, CARY.
  • Wed, Mar 30, 4-7 PM | McKimmon Center, NCSU, 1101 Gorman St, RALEIGH.
  • Thu, Mar 31, 4-7 PM | RTP Foundation, 12 Davis Drive, RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK.

There is no formal start time to these meetings and no presentations will be given. You can show up when you can, look at the large maps, read the information and ask questions. At the end, any comments you leave will be taken into consideration for the final plan.

From what I’ve heard, the downtown Raleigh piece has been the most difficult to fit into place. Trains heading east towards downtown inside the NC Railroad corridor will either stay inside it until Union Station or glide off onto Morgan Street, each scenario presenting its own types of problems. One alternative has the trains flying over the Boylan Bridge.

If you do take the time to look at each alternative, remember that these are just different scenarios and that comments not supporting any of them are OK. I hope what will be presented is promising and that this does not turn into another dramafest like last summer with the high-speed rail meetings.

To further get your transit on, here are some links for you to explore. This blog supports transit in the Triangle and now has the links in the sidebar for future use.

Also, dive into the videos in this post created by the TRTP to promote the transit plan and encourage public feedback.

Watch the video “TRTP Alternatives Analysis Process” on YouTube

Multimodal Station Will Be Raleigh Union Station, Report Summarized

Last week, the city released a draft report about the multi-modal transit center planned for the intersecting tracks west of downtown known as the Boylan Wye. Giving a nod to what once was Raleigh’s Union Station on Dawson Street, the multi-modal transit center will eventually become the new Raleigh Union Station. If you want to dive right into the report yourself, jump over to the city’s website and download the pdf.

I combed through the 109 page document to look for some good information as to what we might expect over the next decade or so as transit services start traveling through the Boylan wye. I’d like to just remind readers that the city’s document and this information I pulled from it below are not final and still under review, intense review.

For a formal presentation and an opportunity to get questions answered, there’s this information from the city’s website

A public open house will be held on May 12 to present the report findings and answer questions. The Raleigh Urban Design Center (133 Fayetteville Street) will host two opportunities to attend:

12:00 to 1:30 p.m. – Informal information session with City staff available to answer questions

6:30 to 8:00 p.m. – Formal presentation followed by question & answer

After the open house, a 30 day comment period will be provided followed by the preparation of a final report. Comments must be submitted to Martin Stankus by June 11, 2010.

If you work downtown, make sure to get your questions answered during your lunch break. If not, I’ll see you in the afternoon. Let’s get to the details.

The Boylan Wye

The report describes the Wye as the most complicated section of rail crossings and junctions in the state. Current users of the Boylan Wye are CSX and Norfolk Southern carrying freight and Amtrak with passengers. The location was picked because of future transit services planning to come rolling through starting within the next decade or two. Studies for Triangle Transit regional and commuter rail, and Southeast High Speed Rail are currently underway and all will most likely run routes through the Wye with a downtown station right at this point. In response to these studies, Triangle Transit now owns some land in the Wye as well as the two warehouse buildings between the tracks and West Street; one between Morgan and Hargett and the other between Hargett and Martin Streets. This is the focal point of study for anything related to the future Union Station.

The Building

Planners for Union Station have been taking notes about the larger, successful train stations around the country and applying them to their vision for the Raleigh Union Station. Penn Station in New York (hopefully the old one, not the current one) and Union Station in Washington, DC are mentioned because of their large welcoming lobbies and grand architectural features. A quote from the report:

“Important guiding elements of the facility design include creating a landmark architectural statement with a dominant vista down Hargett Street visually linking the center to the heart of downtown Raleigh.”

With the previously mentioned transit services coming in the future, the recommended station size is about 45,000 square feet. Parking needs will also need to be addressed and a 1000 space deck is currently being explored for the center of the Wye.

Trains are not the only modes of travel going in and out of Union Station. Greyhound and Triangle Transit buses and downtown circulators will also be thrown into the equation. There is also a heavy focus on creating good connectivity to downtown and the surrounding districts, those being the Warehouse District and Glenwood South, with wide, attractive sidewalks. From the report:

“…some transit patrons will walk a half-mile to get to high qualilty transit service if the walk is along a pleasant path”

There is also a suggestion for accommodating cyclists, from as little as bicycle racks to as much as a full bike storage and repair shop with showers, similar to the shop outside DC’s Union Station.

Cost

We probably won’t get that much news coverage until real details start to come out about this piece. The report suggests that the city currently explore ways of funding the facility. Pretty vague right off the bat but the best suggestion given was to explore if any of the 1/2 cent sales tax for transit, if eventually passed, can be used for building Union Station.

Projected total costs as of today range from $151 to $212 million. The current plan to divide the tab is for an 80% federal, 10% state, and 10% city split. This means, assuming these projections are accurate that Raleigh would pay between $15 and $21 million. There are lots of factors that could affect these numbers so they are sure to fluctuate over the next decade.

Construction and What to do next

The report suggests a phased approach to improving the area and building the station. First off, it is recommended to get the environmental and engineering stamp of approval, referred to as phase 0. I thought this suggestion was interesting:

“the City of Raleigh should create a team whose sole responsibility would be to make the Union Station a reality”

If this team is created, we would have dedicated city employees living and breathing Union Station and taking it through each of the phases.

The next phase involves attacking a current need in our Amtrak services. They would be relocated with more parking available and a larger platform. Amtrak has grown out of its building on Cabarrus Street. This could not come any sooner, especially with more frequent service coming this summer and in the coming years.

Greyhound is part of phase two and will be relocated to the area next. There are a few proposals to incorporate them into one of the warehouse buildings for easy transfer from one mode of travel to another.

The last phase, phase three, includes building out Union Station. There are lots of factors to take in here, especially since it has not been designed yet. Many of those design decisions will be based on the other rail transit methods as they come to design completion. One of the major obstacles mentioned was whether Triangle Transit’s regional rail would be Light Rail or DMU trains. The trains would run on the tracks but it’s possible that the light rail could run on the street and approach Union Station on Morgan Street. All scenarios seem to be considered and as the years go on, more details will be set.

Interesting Extras

The Raleigh Union Station is being described as a “gateway to the south” as visitors from up north travel to or through Raleigh.

There is a great picture of Raleigh’s Union Station in 1940 on page 23.

It is recommended to consider the possibility of connecting West street to South Saunders Street. They would be connected by going under the tracks and joining Cabarrus Street

Right now, it is suggested that Hargett Street be closed to vehicle traffic and Union Station be built on or around it. Pedestrian access will still be there but it looks like the easy solution here is to cut car access on Hargett.

What Should The Multi-modal Transportation Center Be Like?

Mentioned earlier in The State of The Warehouse District post, there is an opportunity now for anyone to submit their ideas about the Multi-modal Transportation Center (MTC) by July 24th. I think this is a big topic that is not talked about enough so in an attempt to get the conversation going, here are some ideas for what should come to this area of downtown over the next decade.

Background Info

The highlighted area in the map below is the core target where the MTC will go.

I’m not sure if Amtrak is in on this but they should so I included the station in my red area. Amtrak and Norfolk Southern trains are, I believe, the only real activity that comes through here currently. In the near future, we may have regional rail that goes north toward Wake Forest and West toward Cary and the rest of the triangle. There may also be a high-speed rail line that continues north toward Richmond and west toward Charlotte.

Build a Transit Center

With lines coming in from around the area and out of state, the MTC should be the hub of travel outside of RDU. Passengers that arrive should have the option to get a taxi, transfer to another train or bus, rent a bike, get picked up by a friend, or walk off in a pedestrian friendly environment. I’m still debating whether a car rental service would be needed but this can be avoided with good planning; some people still need to drive to get to where they are going.

Warehouse Renovation

Rather then build the entire MTC from scratch, we can always use what we have. The warehouses along the railroad tracks offer a perfect opportunity to bridge the old with the new. Heavy renovation could turn this into a shopping center for travelers arriving or departing the area. We’ve heard of plans for residential infill within the warehouse district so that will only fuel the activity even more.

The MTC Does Not Need To Be Tall

This area is a little tricky because of the transition between residential neighborhoods and downtown. Would a 10 or 20 story building fit in here? Would you protest if a truly iconic skyscraper was on the table and would block your view from the Boylan Brewpub patio? I may change my mind later when the proposals come in but for now I think that a tall development would be out of place. Low rise office and condos that blend well with the warehouses and Boylan Heights is key. The area is about transit and focus on the pedestrian should be point number one.

Plan For The Future

The population figures I keep reading say that Wake County will have another million people over the next 25-30 years. The MTC should be built for this population boom as well as expandable for even more traffic. I think space for an extra track or two should be saved, another site saved for a potential downtown rail circulator, and would it even be way out there to plan the MTC so that a subway could be built underneath? We are definitely years from that but considering it and engineering the building around these may be worth a small cost now rather then a huge redevelopment later in the future.

…..ooh and we also need an awesome name for it.

The State of the Warehouse District

By day, the warehouse district of Downtown Raleigh is quiet and sleepy. By night, it wakes up and comes to life, exploding on the weekends. This nightlife hotspot has seen some problems in the past, but with a convention center only a few steps away, why can’t it enjoy some traffic just as Fayetteville St. will be getting? Here is some recent updates if you have not been down there recently.

  • Penrod’s Antique Warehouse has opened up next to White Collar Crime and makes use of the entire 10,000 sq. ft. warehouse. They have very old furniture and all kinds of random plates, paintings, silverware, etc. They are open seven days a week.

  • Jibarra is re-locating to The Depot but work there has not yet started. The place is still filled with the old bars from the trio of clubs that left back in November of 2007. Jibarra seems confident on opening up this fall.
  • Discussion on the Multi Modal Transit Center is picking up and the city wants your ideas. Read their ‘Call For Ideas’ on the Transit Center and submit them by July 24th. I have not read the entire document yet but may post my thoughts later this week.

The warehouse district will need more shops and the museum to open for activity to rise during the day. The transportation center, I think, will define the warehouse district in the near future and when (if) built, this area will explode during the day.


Plenty of parking at The Depot

Study Continues On High Speed Rail In Raleigh and NC

Discussion about a high speed rail line from Washington DC, through Raleigh, to Charlotte has been mentioned before and we now have an update in the study process. With regards to Raleigh, David Foster, a project manager on the project, states:

The environmental work is substantially complete between the VA-NC line and Raleigh. The initial railroad horizontal and vertical alignment alternatives also are complete along this section. Roadway designs are essentially complete from the VA-NC line through Franklin County, and are in progress through Wake County. The Franklin/Wake County sections are some of the most complex due to heavy development.

Section 106 consultation with the State Historic Preservation Offices in both Virginia and North Carolina is still required. Efforts to obtain the necessary effects determinations for the individual historic resources in each state will begin as the design work is finalized.

The website for the project has a plethora of information, including the entire planned corridor shown with aerial pictures.

http://www.sehsr.org/

Looking at the downtown section we can see what is planned. Before looking, it is pretty easy to guess that the plans are to use the existing rail corridor that runs along capital BLVD into downtown. This makes most sense because of the planned multimodal transit center to be built in the warehouse district. The project timeline was updated last month with an estimate to have passenger service running some time between 2015 and 2020. This is all “dependent upon funding availability” but the gears are rolling and Raleigh may be a major hub for the east coast high speed rail line in the coming decade.

Downtown Transportation Center In-Depth

Transportation is always a big issue in the triangle. With so many towns and different counties all part of the region, it is important to have a strong transportation infrastructure connecting us all. Hopefully you’ve heard about the TTA regional rail system that is being proposed and should get underway in the coming years. It is simply not feasible and not smart to simply add more highways or widen current ones to allow more traffic. There must be alternatives in place and the regional rail will attempt to do just that.

The main hub, or grand central station as named in this WRAL article, will be in downtown Raleigh. It will be in the area of the old train track station and warehouses that are old, worn out and unused on Hargett St. and behind the warehouses on West St.

Yellow – vehicle traffic
Red – mass transit
Purple – foot traffic
Blue – developments

The transportation center at this site will incorporate all transportation elements the city offers. Along with the rail system, there will be buses and taxis ready to move people to other locations. By looking at the current model, they plan on extending Glenwood Ave. as the entrance to the station that will feed into a round about for dropping off passengers. If you plan on parking here, then you must make your way down West St. and into the parking deck shown. The proposal also plans for development around the station which will probably be shops in the immediate area and condos close by.

I think the transportation center is a great idea. With a central hub of transportation it will be very easy for people to use an alternative mode of travel. With an easier way to get downtown, we will also see less parking decks being built, as more people will choose to ride the train into downtown. I’m sure the fairgrounds station will be a popular park and ride location for downtown and NCSU workers. It is only a five block walk from the downtown transportation center to Fayetteville St. and as the use of the station increases and with current growth downtown, some sort of trolley system will be implemented to move people around the area. The entire train system should not be built only because of pure necessity but towards smart growth and the future of the area.