Transit Success Stories
The Triangle is projected to grow another one million more people in the next 25 years. To absorb these new arrivals and maintain its viability, its must have a well-functioning transportation system that offers reliable, cost-effective and time-competitive service for commuters and freight. With a good transit system, businesses will continue to locate centrally where they can draw from a wider labor pool, serve our regional market and be close to key infrastructure and institutions.
There are many examples of transit success around the United States. We can learn from their programs in developing our plan.
Charlotte, North Carolina – Keeping up with a voracious demand for rail
Fortunately we have an example close to home in Charlotte's Lynx Blue Line. It only runs 9.6 miles and has only been open 2 years, but is closing in on reaching the projected 2025 ridership numbers 15 years ahead of schedule. As a result CATS has had to add trains every 15 minutes on the weekends and has had to order four new LRT railcars in an effort to increase capacity.
Across the board, buses and other services have experienced dramatic demand. Ridership in FY 2008, across all CATS services, increased by 16%, to 21 million riders. When Lynx first opened, there were roughly 500 cars in park-and-ride lots, which have 3,200 spaces. Now many of the lots fill by the end of rush hour and CATS is looking for ways to add more lots.
The estimated tax value of developments within the corridor is now in excess of $1.9 billion. Property values in one area of the line alone increased 89 percent, from $233 million to $442 million, including 33 restaurants, 1,245 new housing units and 700,000 square feet of office/retail space which have generated returns to the taxpayers in the form of increased tax revenues from $240,000 to over $6 million. The center city has added more than 3,000 housing units, with several high-rise residential towers just announced that will add an additional 1,500 units.
St. Louis, Missouri – quick and convenient
Ridership on St. Louis's MetroLink light rail system has experienced dramatic ridership increases. Currently, MetroLink is averaging about 82,000 riders per week. There have been over $15 billion worth of transit oriented developments near the system since it opened in 1993. Averaging at a speed of 55 miles per hour, Metrolink covers 46 miles with 37 stations. There are 35 free park-ride lots adjacent to MetroLink stations and MetroBus stops which can accommodate more than 11,600 vehicles. Many MetroBus routes connect to MetroLink stations providing convenient modal transfers.
With 52 miles of track and 84 stations, Portland is a poster child for constructing rail lines on time and under budget for over 25 years. Heralded as ‘the freeway city that might have been – without light rail’ Portland continues to expand its rail system. Like Salt Lake City, a significant portion (40%) of students, staff and faculty from area universities ride the transit system. Renovations and improvements to city infrastructure have accompanied rail including new streetcar connections, better ADA and wheelchair access, more bike lanes, rehabilitated street plantings and sidewalks, and lighting enhancements. Portland’s rail system has also dramatically improved environmental conditions. According to scientists at the University of Washington, Portland has effectively reduced carbon dioxide emissions levels lower than those recorded in 1990, an seemingly implausible achievement for any major American city.
In addition to alleviating traffic in Portland, rail has sparked a trend in green building and weatherization that has lowered energy consumption and outfitted the city with an international reputation as a leader in innovative development practices.
Salt Lake City, Utah – Connecting academic institutions
Like the Triangle Region, Salt Lake City is home to a number of colleges and universities. Since completion, Salt Lake City’s TRAX light rail system has dramatically improved access to concentrated, highly congested areas including several university campuses. Approximately 45,000 travelers a week take advantage of campus light rail connections, representing 33% of total travel to the University of Utah alone. As Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Duke University, and a number of other colleges and universities in the Triangle Region continue to expand, traffic and parking burdens are increasingly problematic. Campuses are home to more than just classrooms, including medical centers, offices, civic spaces, and stadiums. TRAX connections to the University of Utah’s campus have since been extended to university medical centers and facilities, producing an additional 3,000 new weekday rider-trips alone.
Aside from alleviating traffic in and around academic institutions, TRAX has remained unblemished by challenges that burden automobile travel. Impenetrable to rising fuel costs and dramatic gas price fluctuations, ridership numbers have seen a 31% percent increase in previous years, elevating TRAX’s daily ridership figures to over 140,000 trips per day, 10,000,000 every year. Light rail is proven to be the most cost-effective way to move public transit riders. Compared to 92 cents per bus trip, one TRAX trip is significantly cheaper at a cost of 36 cents per passenger. TRAX has also managed to provide service for city residents during recent snow and ice storms, phenomena that strangle auto-dependent travel in the Triangle Region.
Dallas, Texas – Rail supports economic growth, even during a recession
Like Portland, Salt Lake City, Charlotte, and numerous other rail success stories, Dallas has also experienced heightened ridership levels and seen impressive reductions in traffic congestion. Although recent economic trends have compromised many public agencies and government entities, rail ridership growth on Dallas’ DART system has remained steady, rising to more than 65,000 passengers a day in August 2009 in midst of a recession. Mass transit offers an affordable alternative to residents who have been forced to cut expenses during the economic downturn.
In light of the recession, DART has served as an economic catalyst, attracting new businesses including Corgan Associates Inc., a major architectural firm, to the revitalized West End district of the city. Other businesses including Hunt Consolidated Inc. and 7-Eleven Inc. represent just a handful of employers who have chosen to relocate along the DART line. Additional extensions of DART to traditionally suburban communities including Plano and Garland TX have stimulated job growth in these bedroom communities and improved residents’ access to urban amenities in central Dallas.