Municipography, Light Rail Through Downtown Raleigh

Recommendation from the Passenger Rail Task Force (PRTF)

From the agenda:

Triangle Transit Light Rail System

At their June 20, 2011 meeting, the Passenger Rail Task Force deliberated on alternatives for the proposed light rail system relative to downtown Raleigh. After discussing the item and reviewing data provided by City staff and by Triangle Transit, the Task Force voted 6-1 to recommend endorsing Alternate D6a, a hybrid alternative proposed by the Task Force during their deliberations. A complete explanation of the Task Force’s deliberations is included in the agenda packet.

The City Council may wish to schedule a workshop to discuss the recommendations of the Passenger Rail Task Force in detail.

At the meeting yesterday, Will Allen of the Raleigh PRTF went through a brief presentation on the transit mode and route through downtown that they recommend. They agree with Triangle Transit’s preferred vehicle, that being “rail cars electrically powered by overhead wires”. Their route recommendation for the downtown Raleigh portion of the light rail piece is what they refer to as plan D6A.

Before we dive in, let’s be clear. This is a recommendation on Light Rail Transit, not high speed rail, whose drama series seems to be on hold for now. For a refresher on the latest light rail plans and where we last left this discussion, go ahead and jump back to March 2011’s “Light Rail in or over downtown Raleigh?

The post back in March talks about a few plans that were on the table for light rail through downtown. The D6A plan, the one recommended by the PRTF, was only mentioned lightly at the transit meetings that took place earlier this year. If you watch the video, the presentation recommends this plan:

The PRTF belives the D6a route through downtown Raleigh will best serve Raleigh citizens for the present and future by providing the best oppurtunities for ridership and economic development while ensuring safe transportation and minimizing impacts to traffic, urban design, noise, contextual planning, historic resources, and long term options for roadway and to connectivity improvements, all at a reasonable cost compared to other alternatives.

View D6A in a larger map

I threw together this Google map to show the proposed D6A route. In addition to recommending D6A, the PRTF also recommended the already talked about D6 plan but only if D6A was seen as too impractical.

Triangle Transit likes D6. The City of Raleigh likes D6 as well.

I did some searching and found this little gem of a pdf. “Memorandum: Issues Regarding Proposed Light Rail Alternatives in Downtown Raleigh” dated June 30, 2011. Eric Lamb, Manager of the Office of Transportation Planning sent this to our city manager, Russell Allen, and other interested peoples.

You can read as much or as little as you like but here are some highlights which I’ll quote.

Overview & Alternatives
There are several alternatives that TTA has presented to the task force and to the public with multiple options for traversing downtown. As a result of their deliberations, the task force chose to develop a hybrid alternative called D6A that was not previously considered or studied by TTA.”

D6A is introduced and described in text and hard to read black and white maps.

Value Capture & Redevelopment
The majority of land along the Salisbury/Wilmington corridor north of Union Square is owned and controlled by the State of North Carolina. It is unknown as to whether or not consideration of Alternatives D5 or D6A would induce the State to divest itself of these properties for the purposes of re-development.

An issue seen with running light rail through the government district is that it won’t encourage redevelopment because it is state owned land. Development from light rail is needed, to an extent, to help pay for the system.

Dawson/McDowell Corridor Conflicts
Triangle Transit anticipates operating train sets composed of up to three 90-foot vehicles, making each train set a maximum of 270 feet in length. An Average city block in downtown Raleigh is approximately 400 feet long. It is also anticipated that operating this system streetcar-style will occur in mixed traffic, i.e. it will not be within a dedicated lane exclusively for transit use. If queues or more than four to five passenger cars already exist for eastbound or westbound traffic at either Dawson or McDowell Streets, an approaching train would queue across the previous intersection while waiting for the traffic signal.

Basically, NCDOT is worried that the back end of a train will stretch into it’s US 70/401 corridors and block traffic. At peak hours, almost every 10 minutes you’ll have a train cross a road that sees between 40,000 and 50,000 vehicles.

Impacts to On Street Parking
Please note that another major obstacle to removing on-street parking may occur adjacent to the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA). In 1998 the NCGA took control of these streets for the purpose of establishing exclusive use of on street parking for legislators and their staffs (see NCGS 120-32.1). Operating a light rail system along Salisbury and Wilmington may require the removal of this reserved parking and will ultimately require the permission of the Legislature as an encroachment on the legislative grounds.

Pretty self explanatory here. I’d love to sit it on this meeting if the city goes this route.

Cost Estimates

A summary of the system costs for each alternative is included below. Please note that TTA has not conducted any analysis of Alternate D6A and the cost estimates for this alternate have been extrapolated from costs for D5 and D6.

Table 2

I’m unable to properly copy Table 2 so I’l put it in list form below. Costs are in M, for Millions, B for Billions:

  • D2, Downtown segment cost $270M, total system cost $1.425B
  • D5, Downtown segment cost $435M, total system cost $1.590B
  • D6, Downtown segment cost $265M, total system cost $1.420B
  • D6A, Downtown segment cost $330-350M, total system cost $1.485-1.505B

The staff’s perspective is that this position does not appear to be directly supported by the data. Our analysis of existing and extrapolated data concludes that the hybrid Alternate D6A will likely cost more, will operate less efficiently, has potentially greater historic property impacts, and may not generate sufficiently higher ridership to warrant further consideration.

Well there it is. Lamb does recognize that the D2 and D6 alternates also have their own problems but claims they “appear to have fewer hurdles than Alternate D6A.”

As stated in the summary, the PRTF looked more at the “what” during their analysis where the city focused on the “how”. Any readers that are focused on the “when” may have to cheer on our neighbors in Durham County this fall.

Municipography, Transit, UDO, and Historic Districts

Transportation bond increase from $37 million to $40 million, includes Union Station

Transportation Bond
During the June 7, 2011, City Council meeting it was directed that an item be placed on this agenda to consider adding $3 million to the proposed transportation bond for the Union Station/Train Station proposal.

Overview of the comments submitted for the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO)

The Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Advisory Group Report
The Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Advisory Group will provide a report to the City Council on their final review and assessment of the Unified Development Ordinance April 6, 2011, Public Review Draft.

Receive the Advisory Group’s final review and assessment for purposes of authorizing an official public hearing date for the proposed Unified Development Ordinance.

2. Summary of the Unified Development Ordinance Public Comment Period
Staff will provide a report on the comments received from the public comment period (April 6 – June 6) of the Unified Development Ordinance April 6, 2011, Public Review Draft.

Assess staff’s report on the UDO public comments for purposes of authorizing an official public hearing date for the proposed Unified Development Ordinance.

There were lots of comments submitted and the video goes over some of the comments received. More time was asked to go over this feedback as well as to continue formulating the UDO before bringing it to a public hearing. We’re certainly not near the end of this UDO process as the hearings will most likely take place at the end of this year or early 2012. The Raleigh Public Record has this all nicely covered.

South Person/South Blount Historic Overlay District Proposal

As follow up to a 2000 City-initiated small area plan, the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission (RHDC) will present the Report and Recommendation for the Designation of the South Person/South Blount Historic Overlay District, based on feedback received from property owners within the proposed boundaries in response to both mailings and RHDC-sponsored community meetings.

Receive as information the Report and Recommendation for the Designation of the South Person/South Blount Historic Overlay District, and refer the report and recommendation to the Department of Cultural Resources, the South Park-East Raleigh Neighborhood Association (SPERNA), and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) for analysis and recommendation.

Raleigh’s Creative District

By split vote, the Committee recommends approval of the project titled “Amplifying Southwest Raleigh Through Branding and Economic Development Strategies” with the understanding that the City Council will receive periodic reports on the project.

Municipography, The City Budget and The Arts

Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

The agenda during the City Council meeting yesterday, June 7th, 2011, did not involve many downtown topics directly. The Raleigh Furniture building, at 119 East Hargett Street is up for consideration as a historic landmark. This issue moves to the Raleigh Historic Districts Commissions and will report back on June 21st.

The excitement during yesterday’s meeting were the many comments on the 2011-2012 proposed budget. Watch or listen to the video below to get an idea of what citizens had to say.

Comments About The Budget

The comments about the budget went long during the evening session of the council meeting and arts funding opened it up. After some brief words from a few members of the community, the show of support was strong when a large group of arts supporters stood up and left together, bringing the meeting to a short stop before moving onto the next comments. There is no doubt that the arts are important to downtown Raleigh so this line item on the budget should be tracked closely.

Municipography, Moore Square and Solar Powered Vehicle Chargers

Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

There are only two items that were discussed in yesterday’s Raleigh City Council meeting that are related to downtown Raleigh that I will highlight today.

The first item was approved through the consent agenda and involves a pilot program with Progress Energy. The pilot is for a solar powered vehicle charging station to be set up on the surface parking lot along Salisbury Street between Lenoir and South Street. There are more details about this experiment below, taken from the meeting agenda.

The next issue was related to the Moore Square Redesign. Concerns about damage to trees during construction were brought up and the Tree Conservation Task Force will comment on the plan soon. See the conversation in the video below.

Solar Charging Station on Salisbury Street

From the consent agenda:

“In partnership with Progress Energy (PEC) the City will undertake a solar charging station pilot project. The project will consist of a two bay vehicle parking structure with integrated solar photovoltaic cell equipment located thereon, and will include two electric vehicle charging stations with battery storage capability. The facility will also incorporate an inter-connection with the electric energy grid, as well as appropriate metering, control, and monitoring equipment and will be located on a surface parking lot owned by the City located at 616 South Salisbury Street across Lenoir Street from the Raleigh Convention Center (City Site 4). The project can be removed or reused by the City after the two year pilot project or can be extended upon agreement of both parties. The City shall provide, or otherwise be responsible for the cost of: (a) electric vehicle charging equipment for two vehicles, and (b) battery for the facility. All other costs of the solar array, equipment, and installation, site improvement, and design work, specifically including design, facility oversight, and other consultation services by Advanced Energy, will be the responsibility of PEC. As construction of the facility progresses, the City will invoice PEC for work completed and equipment installed, to be reimbursed to the City. Funding will be shared by PEC and the City, with the City’s portion funded by Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds.

Authorize execution of an agreement with Progress Energy as described.”

Tree Conservation Concerns With The Moore Square Redesign

From the agenda:

During the April 19, 2011, Council meeting, the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board presented the Moore Square Draft Master Plan with the recommendation that the Council adopt the plan as presented and that the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board have the opportunity to review and comment at the 30% Schematic Design Phase as recommended by the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board. Following the presentation, it was reported that some concern had been expressed by the North Carolina Secretary of Administration. It was directed that the item be placed on this agenda to receive a report relative to State approval of structures and to get a recommendation from the Tree Conservation Task Force.

Municipography: Moore Square, Parking and Food Trucks

Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

Moore Square Redesign

The Moore Square Draft Master Plan was presented to the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board (PRGAB) on February 17, 2011, at which time the PRGAB heard public comment and asked questions of the consultant and staff. On March 17, 2011, the PRGAB continued discussion of the Draft Master Plan and voted unanimously to recommend the Draft Master Plan for Moore Square to City Council for approval as presented with the recommendation that the PRGAB have the opportunity to review and comment at the 30% Schematic Design phase. The motion includes keeping the restroom and café kiosk in the master plan although they have been objected to by the State of North Carolina Department of Administration which owns the property.

At the April 19, City Council meeting, Christopher Counts Studio and City staff will present the following information:

  • Summary of the Master Plan Process
  • Moore Square Draft Master Plan

Adopt the Moore Square Draft Master Plan as presented, with the recommendation that the PRGAB have the opportunity to review and comment at the 30% Schematic Design phase as recommended by the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board.

Parking Management

The current parking management fund is in the red. For some background, jump to the last Municipography post on April 6, 2011.

The Committee recommends removing the stipulation in the City’s booting ordinance that requires that a bootable vehicle must be found in contravention of a parking ordinance before it can be booted.

The Committee further recommends adding a tax intercept amendment to our current Parking Management Service contract to collect delinquent fines for anything $50 and over on tax refunds.

The Committee further recommends that the City seek authority for DMV holds on delinquent citations.

The Committee is holding the item to receive a report from Downtown Raleigh Alliance relative to advertising and increasing revenue in our parking fund by not charging fees for evening and weekend parking in the City decks.

Food Trucks

TC-5-11 Food Trucks. Amends the Zoning Code to permit ‘Food Trucks’ to locate on commercially-developed properties subject to specific conditions.

Issue moves to planning commission to be discussed and make a recommendation to the city council within 30-45 days.

Introducing Municipography!

This is an idea that I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t because of the amount of time it would take. However, it wasn’t until recently that I noticed the video streams on the city’s website had a spiffy update I never noticed before. Joy!

Videography + Municipal issues = Municipography. (Connoisseurs like big words) The idea was to take the entire video feed of every Raleigh City Council meeting and cut out the issues that are relevant to downtown. This is a great way to tap your inner municipal geek or just hear the discussions taking place on issues you are interested in.

I’d like to attempt this experiment a few times to see how it turns out. If there are technical issues, let me know. I’m nervous about the Silverlight requirement but it could be worth it. Also, readers subscribed to the e-mail will most likely have to jump to the main site to view the videos.

I’ll include the agenda items with each video and add any other relevant information. As mentioned, the videos are there also to see how it went down.

City Council Meeting on April 5th, 2011

Review of the City’s Parking Program

The Finance and Public Works Departments have maintained an ongoing work group to evaluate the current status of the City’s enterprise Parking Funds (442 and 444). This is based on the premise that the Parking Fund is intended to be entirely self-sufficient beginning in FY06, with revenues coming from the parking fees and fines generated within the on and off-street parking programs. The stagnant commercial development and the closing or downsizing of many downtown businesses and corporations has made a significant impact on revenue projections. A detailed report and copy of the updated fund model is included in the agenda packet.

Refer to the Budget and Economic Committee to review the revenue options.

—-Additional information—-

The projected parking revenue shortfall, if no corrective action is taken, is $1,432,040. The plan cited the weak economy and subsequent loss of off-street parking contracts, lower transient on-street parking revenue than anticipated, and an increase in the debt service as the main causes of the projected shortfall.

The options offered by the plan for correcting the projected shortfall include:

  • Charging for use of parking decks in the evenings and on weekends and installation of automated payment equipment, to facilitate payments from evening and weekend patrons;
  • Focusing on collecting $2,558,746 of unpaid and recoverable parking fines;
  • Receiving legislative approval to boot vehicles with outstanding parking tickets or fines;
  • Initiating a tax refund intercept to collect unpaid fines from state tax refunds;
  • Obtaining Department of Motor Vehicle holds on vehicle registration renewals;
  • Selling advertising space in City-owned parking decks;
  • Reimbursing the enterprise Parking Fund through a General Fund subsidy for the revenues foregone by the fund in support of City activities, such as;
    • Street closures due to City-sponsored or supported special events;
    • Non-charged use of parking spaces by City guests or employees; and,
    • Other City-sponsored or supported activities resulting in loss of revenues.

Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens in the City of Raleigh

During the 2030 Comprehensive Planning process, staff recognized the importance of the urban agriculture movement as a national trend, and flagged the issue for further study. A long-term action item regarding community gardening was adopted in the Plan (Section C.9 Environmental Education Awareness and Coordination). Additionally, City Council has received citizen petitions requesting public land for the establishment of community gardens. In 2010 the City established a working group of community garden advocates and City staff to look at ways to remove obstacles to City-wide community gardening efforts on private property and examine opportunities for it on public lands. There will be a presentation of the findings and recommendations.

That the report be accepted.

Options for CAT Service between Moore Square and Union Station

The Passenger Rail Task Force was asked to evaluate options for providing service between the Moore Square Transit Station and the proposed Union Station. The Task Force has evaluated this deliverable as requested by the City Council and will present recommendations regarding this proposed future service. A copy of the Task Force’s resolution is included in the agenda packet.

Endorse the findings of the Passenger Rail Task Force regarding this future service.