My name is Patrick McDonough. I’m the Manager of Planning and Transit-Oriented Development for GoTriangle.
I have 15 minutes, and here is the advice I was given today. Let’s take that advice to heart, and get started.
Aaron recently said something like this to me – “if light rail was a good idea 5 years ago, it’s probably still a good idea now. I think people are asking – is it still a good idea?”
I’m going to attempt to review the reasons light rail was recommended for this corridor in the next 11 minutes.
The Triangle contains two metro areas, Raleigh-Cary, and Durham-Chapel Hill, which were the 2nd-fastest and 15th-fastest growing cities in the top 100 in the USA in recent years. The region expects to have between 2.5 and 3 million people by 2030, and between 3 and 3.5 million people by 2040. In order to consider which transit investments may suit a region of this size, we can identify places like us that are currently the size we will be in 2030 to 2040. Growing quickly, with more than one major job center, a knowledge economy, over 3 million people. Our big brother/big sister metros could be defined as Seattle-Tacoma and Minneapolis-St Paul.
Just as it is more effective to build a house with many tools than with a box full of hammers, these cities have built transit networks using multiple modes, matching the right transit technology to the transportation and growth challenge in a particular corridor.
Minneapolis-St Paul has both regional and local bus systems. They opened the Metro Blue Line light rail in 2004, the Northstar Commuter rail line in 2009, the Metro Red Line Bus Rapid Transit in 2013, and the Green Line light rail connecting Minneapolis, St Paul, and the University of Minnesota in 2014. An arterial BRT project, the A-line, opened in summer 2016. Both the Blue Line and Green line light rail lines have extensions moving through the federal New Starts program. Additional arterial BRT lines and another freeway BRT line are under development.
The link between jobs and housing density to drive transit demand is well understood across the world. Locally, TJCOG tracks jobs and housing data, both current and projected- to see how many trips per acre every neighborhood and job center in the Triangle region generates.
BRT tends to be well-matched to trip intensities of 20 to 75 trips per acre, meeting demand for service every 10 to 30 minutes at rush hour. Recently built BRT lines in the USA have average service speeds of approximately 14 mph at rush hour.
LRT tends to be well-matched to trip intensities of 50 to 100 or more trips per acre, meeting demand for service every 5 to 15 minutes at rush hour. Recently built LRT lines in the USA have average service speeds of approximately 21 mph at rush hour.
The map at the left shows the projected trips per acre for our region in 2040. TJCOG assembled the data based on land use plans provided by local governments in Orange, Durham, Wake, and surrounding counties.
White areas have less than 10 trips per acre, which is generally too low for regular fixed-route bus service to be productive. Intensity rises through the yellow and orange zones, with areas of 50 to 100 trips per acre in red, and those over 100 trips per acre in purple.
However, it takes a 3-D map to show how much more intense several of the purple zones with more than 100 trips per acre are, compared to even the category just below. Let’s take a closer look.
This map identifies those major trip intensity zones in the D-O LRT corridor.
To put the future trip intensity of the D-O LRT corridor in perspective, here is a recent aerial view of North Hills, one of the fastest growing suburban centers in Wake County. North Hills is expected to be a destination for multiple transit routes in the Wake Transit plan. In 2040, it’s trip intensity will be just below 75 trips/acre. By comparison, the D-O LRT corridor will have 11 stations with over 100 Trips Per Acre.
The major trip generators in the Durham-Orange Corridor also have strong travel relationships with each other.
In 2014, FTA asked us to have a third-party firm conduct a survey of ridership in Durham and Orange Counties. This map shows a line connecting two zones wherever there were 50 or more trips between two locations. Some of the lines represent as many as 1,000 trips.
Here are a few things you will be able to see:
There are many short lines connecting Travel Market Places close to the downtowns of Chapel Hill and Durham. There are only three lines connecting Orange and Wake counties. There are 15 to 20 lines connecting Durham and Orange counties that pass through the D-O LRT corridor. The D-O LRT corridor is not simply the sum of those 15 to 20 lines that go between Durham and Chapel Hill. It is also the short paths that begin and end in urban Durham, the trips from the NC 54 corridor around the Friday Center and Meadowmont to UNC, as well as the trips connecting two municipalities or two counties.
This statement seems counterintuitive at first, as neither Durham nor Chapel Hill is the largest city in the Triangle. But the corridor connecting them is the largest transit market by a significant margin.
Many values-driven decisions in Durham and Orange counties have also created the conditions in the D-O LRT corridor that make it the strongest transit market in the region. In 1974, when Jordan Lake was completed, one effect was to create a major barrier between most of South Durham, Wake County and UNC. Today, Jordan Lake is our region’s impassable “invisible mountain range.” If you want to go from southern Durham or Wake County to UNC without using the NC 54 corridor, you must add 11 miles to your trip to go down to US 64 and approach UNC via Pittsboro. The lake compresses travel to UNC into this corridor, and the 2008 STAC report found that the corridor in the region with the most trips that began and ended in the same corridor was Patterson Place to UNC via NC 54.In 1982, Duke and UNC Hospital were designated Level 1 Trauma centers. Only 6 hospitals in North Carolina have this designation. These designations assure that they will remain critical state centers of health for decades to come, attracting the most sophisticated medical functions and new jobs that come with those specialties.
In the 1980s, both Orange County and Durham County adopted plans to preserve local agriculture and focus growth within municipal borders. Orange County did this through the Joint Planning Agreement and Durham adopted a series of development Tiers, including a Rural Tier into which urban services are not provided.
In 1988, I-40 connected to US 15-501 and NC 54, expanding the commuter shed for destinations up and down what would become the D-O LRT corridor, while also becoming an “asphalt river” between the two communities, with limited major crossings at 54 and 15-501, driving congestion to these points.
What these decisions mean is that Durham and Orange counties grew differently than Wake County for the past 30 years, and that community plans on the two sides of the region continue to reflect those different points of emphasis in their growth choices.
The purple line indicates the split between the Durham-Chapel Hill Carrboro MPO and the Capital Area MPO. The combination of the purple line and the red line shows the extent of Wake County. The most important distinguishing feature of the map is the difference in the extent of the suburban area in yellow on either side of the purple line. Through the decisions made by Durham and Orange County, much more land is reserved for farms and forests, with growth being more concentrated into city and town centers. On the Wake County side, it is presumed that the 13 cities and towns in Wake County will eventually annex all the non-watershed land out to the county borders.
When we go back to the regional trips per acre map, we can then select all the zones in which there are stations for Durham and Orange, and the zones that the Wake BRT lines pass through, and take the average trips per acre of each line. What you find is that the average trip intensity for the D-O LRT corridor is not merely in the middle of the 50 to 100 trips per acre range in the Light Rail mode profile, it is at the top of that scale due to many high trips-per-acre locations that have strong relationships with each other, limited parking, and transit fare policies that encourage heavy use.
You also find that the average trips per acre for the North-South BRT is higher than those of the Wake BRT lines, due to a high proportion of the North-South BRT mileage running through the trip-rich UNC Campus and downtown Chapel Hill.
Out of curiosity, I went back and removed all the downtowns and university zones, to see if differences appeared in the suburban locations as well, and they do. Even the non-university and non-downtown station zones in Durham and Chapel Hill have an average trips per acre intensity that is 50% higher than the North-South BRT and Wake BRT corridors.
The bottom line is that the Durham-Orange corridor is projected to have 85% more trips per acre in the future than the locations where the Wake BRT lines are proposed. This is a big difference.
And while we have been talking about trips of the future, the greater transit intensity in the western Triangle is readily apparent today. Residents of Durham and Orange counties use transit almost four times as often as do Wake County residents. On a per capita basis, Durham and Orange counties generate more transit trips per person than Minneapolis, Denver, and even Portland, Oregon.
One of the challenges in evaluating the merits of LRT and BRT and how well they fit a transportation corridor is that while LRT implementation is relatively similar around the world, what people refer to as “BRT” varies widely. Sometimes BRT is a facility with heavy infrastructure investment, like this 4-lane busway in Guangzhou, China. Other times a transit agency buys new vehicles and gives them a brand name and calls them BRT even when they are not any faster than the prior bus route they replaced. The service at the left costs a lot more to provide than the service on the right, and takes significantly longer to plan, coordinate, and construct in the USA.
When someone tells you they can “Start BRT quickly,” the only way they can meet that promise is to provide something more like the picture on the right. Such proposals inherently signal a willingness to accept lower quality service for the customer.
To assess the performance of LRT and BRT systems in the US, we gathered trip times from transit agency websites and measured the mileage of BRT and LRT lines built or extended since 2000 in the United States. What the data shows is that the BRT lines tend to be shorter, and provide slower service, than LRT lines. The average BRT line built had a speed of 13.9 mph, while the average LRT line had a speed of 21.3 mph, a 53% faster travel speed than the average BRT line.
Why does speed matter? Read quote.
Modern light rail vehicles (or LRVs) are built to allow quick and accessible boarding. Unlike buses, which typically require kneeling and ramps to allow wheelchair users or other mobility-impaired patrons to board, light rail floors are at the same level as the platform to allow step-on/step-off boarding and roll-on/roll-off boarding for those who need it. Today’s LRVs also have built-in bike racks inside the cars to allow patrons to bring their bikes with them to their destination.
In terms of operating cost, light rail vehicles, with their higher passenger capacity, require fewer drivers to transport more people. An individual railcar can hold the same amount of passengers as about 3 to 4 standard 40-foot buses. Here are some operating costs per passenger mile and per trip for several agencies that have both bus and light rail systems. In every case, LRT costs less than the bus service to operate.
Finally, since we’re here at a Chamber event, in terms of economic development, Marriott recently chose to put its new $600 million corporate headquarters adjacent to the Bethesda, MD Metrorail station- part of a long and tested track record for business investment near rail lines. There are several opportunities in Chapel Hill for either new development or redevelopment in station areas. There are over 25 acres on the SECU property that are currently either parking or trees that are within 0.2 to 0.3 miles of the Gateway LRT platform. If you have ideas about what development possibilities could exist there or at any other stations, consider attending this evening’s meeting at the CH Public Library at 6:30 pm.
Here’s an example of how light rail will greatly accelerate a trip over existing conditions using buses in mixed traffic. Today, to take transit from the Northwoods neighborhood to Duke takes 66 to 81 minutes. With D-O LRT open and the ability to have Chapel Hill Transit buses transfer passengers from Weaver Dairy Rd to the Gateway LRT station, that same trip can be completed in about 40 minutes.
When buses are in mixed traffic, they cannot provide high travel speeds in peak periods.
Another difference between the two sides of the region are policy choices regarding transit and parking. Back in 2002, Chapel Hill Transit went fare free and ridership boomed. While GoRaleigh and GoCary raised fares from $1.00 to $1.25 and $1.50, respectively, in the past few years, the Durham City Council held fares at $1.00 to make it easier for low-income individuals to afford to pay the cash fare. Lower fares encourage higher usage. Similarly, places where parking is more expensive also encourages transit use. Parking is hard to find at Duke, and is extremely limited on much of the UNC campus. NC State, however, still has a policy of working to provide one parking space on campus for most employees.
This month, on-street meters will raise the price of on-street parking in downtown Durham, and parking prices in decks are indexed to increase with inflation, while in downtown Raleigh, thousands of state employees still have parking at $10/month, a rate unchanged since the late $1970s.
The major institutions on the western side of the Triangle have issued more free transit passes to employees to encourage greater transit use. UNC launched its GoPass for regional buses in 2003. Duke added a GoPass in 2011, and in recent years NCCU, Durham Tech, and the American Tobacco campus have added passes. While NCSU has had a strong GoPass program for many years, State Government has provided transit passes in some years but not others in the past decade.
While Durham and Orange have developed in a more compact manner, another difference is that they have also historically provided significantly more transit service per person than Wake County. This graph shows the level of transit service in Durham and Orange county in 2012 was over 3 times the level of service in Wake County. Wake County will be greatly increasing bus service in the coming years, and when that expansion is complete, their level of service will be closer to that of Durham-Orange.
Durham and Orange counties provided more bus service per person in 2012 than Denver, Portland, Minneapolis, Austin, and Charlotte.
What this produces in terms of real ridership outcomes is that with present service, even with only about half of the population of Wake County, Durham and Orange still produce twice as much transit ridership as Wake.
GoTriangle Update on DOLRT Project
February 22, 2017
“…we have a huge screen,
let’s take advantage of it…”
Advice I Was Given For Today
If light rail
was a good
still a good
I think people
are asking –
“is it still a
Lessons from Seattle-Tacoma and
• Multiple transit providers
• Several modes of transit open
• The right “transit tool” differs from one
corridor to another
Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro: 3.5 million people
Bus Rapid Transit
How They Decided Which Mode
Goes Where: Travel Markets
Key To Travel Markets: Density of
Jobs and Housing
Jobs + Housing Density
Key Data Measure:
Trips Per Acre
Mode Profile: Bus Rapid Transit
• Operates mostly in dedicated bus lanes
• Stop spacing: every ½ mile to every 1 mile
• Articulated buses for busway-only service, 40-ft bus for buses that
use part of busway
• Avg speed at rush hour: ~14 mph in recent USA installations
Where It Works:
• Major roadways and urban arterials within bus-only lanes, with
limited travel in mixed traffic. 60-foot articulated buses do not fit
on neighborhood streets and some collector streets.
• Demand for service every 10 to 30 minutes at rush hour
• Trip intensities of 20 – 75 trips/acre
Mode Profile: Light Rail Transit
• Operates on dedicated tracks out of traffic,
limited lane sharing with buses/first responder vehicles
• Stop spacing: every ½ mile to every 2 miles
• 90-foot cars that can be joined together in trains
• Avg speed at rush hour: ~21 mph in recent USA installations
Where It Works:
• Dedicated tracks in separate right-of-way or rail-only segment
of major roadways.
• Demand for service every 5 to 15 minutes at rush hour
• Trip intensities of 50 – 100+ trips/acre
Measuring Trips Per Acre in
Durham and Orange Counties
Key To Travel Markets: Trip Intensity
Map of Triangle (TJCOG)
• Trips Per Acre by Location
Data Source: DCHC-MPO, CAMPO, TJCOG
Map by GoTriangle
North Hills, Raleigh- Projected 2040 Trip
Intensity: 75 trips/acre
Durham-Orange LRT will have 11 stations with 100+ trips/acre in 2040
Data Source: TJCOG
The Major Trip Generators in
the Durham-Orange Corridor
Are Strongly Related to Each
Transit Onboard Survey, Durham & Orange Counties, 2014
than 50 trips
Data Source: 2014 Transit Onboard Survey, RSG, Inc.
The reasons the Durham-
Orange corridor is the largest
transit market in the Triangle
Key Durham & Orange Decisions That Made
the D-O LRT Corridor
• 1789 – UNC founded
• 1855 – NC Railroad begins operation Greensboro-Goldsboro
• 1892 – Duke University moves to Durham from Trinity, NC
• 1910 – NCCU founded
• 1974 – Jordan Lake completed, limiting access to Chapel Hill from
East, pushing future traffic towards NC 54
• 1982 – UNC and Duke Hospital designated Level 1 Trauma Centers.
Only 6 such centers in North Carolina, but 2 along D-O LRT corridor
• 1980s – Orange County & municipalities adopt Rural Buffer; Durham
creates Rural Tier
• 1988 – Interstate 40 built, limiting “crossing” points between Durham &
Why BRT Was a Good Fit for Wake County,
and LRT Was a Good Fit for Durham-Orange
Project Average Trips Per Acre- All Station Zones
Durham-Orange LRT 126.1
North-South BRT 103.3
Wake BRT (All lines) 68
Project Average Trips Per Acre-Remove Downtowns/Colleges
Durham-Orange LRT 53.4
North-South BRT 34
Wake BRT (All lines) 35.4
Transit Usage by Metro Area
0 20 40 60
Kansas City, MO-KS
Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL
Virginia Beach, VA
Salt Lake City, UT
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
Annual ridership per urban resident
Source: 2012 National Transit
Database for 2011. Ferry
services excluded. Unlinked
LRT and BRT rarely provide a
similar type of service.
“BRT” is a term used for many
“BRT” – Guangzhou, China “BRT” – Seattle, WA
Travel Speeds of Light Rail and BRT in the
USA, Projects Built or Added to Since 2000
Average Length 8.8 miles 18.5 miles
Average Speed 13.9 mph 21.3 mph
Why Is Speed Important?
“In a large, continuing study of upward mobility based at Harvard, commuting
time has emerged as the single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty.
The longer an average commute in a given county, the worse the chances of
low-income families there moving up the ladder.” – “Transportation Emerges as
Crucial to Escaping Poverty,” New York Times, May 7, 2015
(see BRT/LRT Performance characteristics handout)
22 Data: Transit agency timetables and websites
LRT Vehicle Capacity: ~180 passengers per car
Standard Bus Capacity: ~50 passengers per bus
What We’ve Learned Since 2011 AA
• GoPass use increased LRT ridership
forecast. GoPass makes transit feel free
• If BRT had been chosen, ridership
would have risen for BRT, too
• Lower bus capacity + Higher BRT ridership =
– More buses/higher operating cost
– Introduces new, significant traffic impacts
• Then, A Tough Choice:
– BRT in mixed traffic – slower, less reliable service
– Spending more on capital cost to add up to 40 bridges
• LRT remains a better fit for high-demand corridor
Economic Development & Rail
$600 million on ~2 acres
Gateway Station, Chapel Hill:
25 acres in Orange County 1100 feet
from light rail platform
Original Orange County Plan
• Orange County
• 35,300 revenue hour expansion of bus
service & associated buses in first 5 years
• Durham-Orange Light Rail Project
• $7 Million in bus capital project
• North-South BRT Project in Chapel Hill
• Hillsborough Train Station
• Nearly 25,000 revenue hours of bus service have been
implemented (including amount spent on existing service)
• Durham-Orange Light Rail Project – GoTriangle has completed
Project Development Phase and received EIS and Record of
Decision; FTA authorization to enter Engineering phase is pending
• Bus capital project improvements have been defined but not
• North-South BRT Project - Chapel Hill has completed an
Alternatives Analysis and received FTA authorization to enter
Project Development phase
• Hillsborough Train Station – NCDOT has included State funding in
STIP and taken responsibility for Environmental Study
Plan Update Schedule
February – Early April
• Fully vet proposed changes
• Enhance Financial Model capability to answer questions
• Discuss/negotiate cross-county cost-share agreement
Mid-April – Release Draft Plans including presentation to all
Mid-April – Late May
• Public comment period
• Present Final Recommended Plan Updates for Board
Bus transfer access
Work trip to Duke
1. Take rerouted Chapel Hill
Transit Route T from Northwoods
to Gateway Station
2. Take D-O LRT to Duke
Projected Economic Impact of D-O LRT
• Add $4.7 Billion in economic output in
Durham and Orange Counties each year
• Add $600 Million in additional economic
• Estimated 750 of direct construction related
jobs, + over 1,000 indirect construction
• Add $175 Million in new tax revenue (per
year) due to economic impacts
34 *Development Planning & Financing Group (DPFG), 2015
BRT and LRT both offer
LRT benefits demonstrate
increasing efficiency with greater
use, just like operating cost.
Emissions Benefits Facilitated By
Compact, Focused Growth
• More walking means fewer short vehicle trips, fewer cold
• Each 1% of short-trip mileage reduced typically reduces air
emissions by 2-3%.
36 Todd Littman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute
Mixed-Use Developments Reduce
• Mixed use generates far less traffic
than single - use suburban
• Experiences of 6 large - scale US
Suburban Mixed Use Developments:
– 30% Internal Capture
– On average, 15% of external trips
by foot, bike, transit•
• Thus “45% of trips put no strain on
external road network”
R. Ewing, R. Cervero, et al. 2011. Traffic Generated by Mixed-Use
Developments. Journal of Urban Planning and Development;.
1997: 19,000 cars/day
2015: 14,000 cars/day
Emissions of Transit Modes Per
Data: USDOT, 201038
Public Health Benefits Facilitated
Before –and-after surveys of
Charlotte, North Carolina LRT
• Body Mass Index (BMI)
declined an average of 1.18
kg/m2 compared to non-LRT
users in the same area over a
12-18 month period, equivalent
to a loss of 6.45 lbs for a person
who is 5'5.
• LRT users were also 81% less
likely to become obese over
MacDonald, et al. 2010
Review: 2011 AA Document vs Dec 2016
FEIS/ROD to NCCU
Mode Profile: Conventional Bus
• Operates in mixed traffic with cars
• Stop spacing: every ¼ mile to every ½ mile
• Typically 40-foot bus
• Avg speed at rush hour: 6-12 mph, depending on traffic conditions
Where It Works:
• All major roadways, arterials, collector streets, and some
• Demand for service every 20 to 60 minutes at rush hour
• Trip intensities of 10 – 35 trips/acre
Mode Profile: Commuter Rail
• Shares tracks with freight, Amtrak trains
• Stop spacing: every 2 miles to 5 miles
• Typically 3 or more coach cars hauled by diesel locomotive
• Avg speed at rush hour: 25-40 mph
Where It Works:
• Only mainline railroad corridors
• Demand for service every 20 to 60 minutes at rush hour, limited
or no off-peak or weekend service
• Serving long-haul trips for large regular workday employment
market to dense job center in city CBD
Transit Service Hours By Metro Area
Kansas City, MO-KS
Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL
Virginia Beach, VA
Salt Lake City, UT
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
Transit service revenue hours per urban resident
Bus service All other transit services
Database for 2011.
2x hours of
3x hours of
Recent Transit Ridership
• Durham-Orange: ~72,000 boardings per day (Chapel Hill
Transit, GoDurham, Duke Transit, GoTriangle
• Wake County: ~38,000 boardings per day (GoRaleigh,
GoCary, NCSU Wolfline, GoTriangle Wake routes)
• Durham and Orange have roughly half the population of
Wake County, but generate nearly double the transit
• Durham-Orange corridor is already a large, robust
transit market, in a high-growth metropolitan area.
• LRT can provide capacity to meet current & future
demand in a way BRT cannot
• LRT supports the compact growth & economic
development strategies of Durham/Orange that
preserve farms/forests, reduce emissions
• LRT will provide faster service and more
opportunity/social mobility than BRT over 17 miles
• LRT will provide lower cost per passenger trip
• Durham & Orange counties have built a large
transit market responding to their compact growth
choices and job centers
• Wake County is investing to catch up to Durham-
Orange, using a plan and technologies that
complements their more suburban growth choices
• Different transit technology choices can match
transit markets in the different counties, and still
become a fully integrated system