This is Michael Bacon's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Michael Bacon's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Michael Bacon
Geographer, musician, recovering computer geek, local <strike>pain in the a</strike> activist, blowhard.
Recent Activity
I don't have a perfect solution, but the law is never perfect. Some drivers in certain cars can be safe at 25 mph over the speed limit, but we set an impartial metric even if it may be imperfect. If it's the wrong level, it can be tweaked over time, and judges and juries can moderate the law from there.
The Rath space is still empty, last time I checked.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2010 on Kildare's: Chapel Hill, NC at Eat at Joe's!
1 reply
Michael Bacon is now following The Typepad Team
Mar 15, 2010
To respond to folks who were nice enough to comment on my comment... My comments on SkyTran: I suppose it comes from frustration when TTA spent 10 years and had endless public meetings about corridors, modes, types, and everything, come up with what I think was a pretty innovative solution that blended old technology and new and did it in a reasonable feasible way, and when it comes time to talk turkey, the only thing you here is, "what about this other whizbang gadget?!?" Monorails and PRT have been the "next big thing" for about 40 years now, and the pilot systems, such as that at the WVU campus, have shown the cost to be pretty high and the usage to be pretty moderate. I'm just not buying it, particularly for a region as spread out and discombobulous as the Triangle. Rule of thumb: if your technology looks like it's straight out of the Jetsons, you might wait until we have butler robots, wooshing doors, and antenae hats before we spend big bucks on it. As to the cost/rider of the TTA system, it's important to note that, if I remember right, the feds won't let you count development that occurs around the transit sites because of the train. In other words, even though there's already been massive speculative real estate transactions and some development around the transit sites, even before it's been approved, much less built, you can't project any more people to live near the stations or for there to be any new shops or offices near the stations that might increase ridership. What that means is, in the end, unless we're complete idiots, the actual cost per rider should be a lot lower than the projected number. They're just not allowed to use those numbers because it's an enforcable standard, whereas it's hard to standardize your predictions about what nearby development will be. Highway projections are not under the same constraints, because you don't get the kind of super-concentrated development that you do with transit stops. Dana brings up the question of why we should use the rail corridor when it doesn't serve certain areas. That's where history gets interesting. Sure, if you look at north Raleigh and the new parts (most) of Cary, the train doesn't serve those well. But those were built for the car, by the car, and of the car. The only hope for getting those areas on mass transit is to see some decent infill development to get the density up, then serve them with buses. But back to the rail line, it IS the reason why many towns exist. Durham is the fourth, soon to be third, largest city in NC, and at the end of the Civil War it was farmland. (It got its name because Dr. Durham donated land for a train station, which became "Durham Station," which became the seed for the town.) Cary and Morrisville were stations for loading agricultural products to take to market, and soon markets grew up around them. Off that main line, Oxford, Creedmoor, Butner, Roxboro, Clayton, Smithfield, Wilson, Knightdale, Wendell, and Fuqua-Varina all grew up on rail lines. And, of course, even though RTP didn't develop around it, the rail does go right through the middle of the park. The rail is the old backbone of the region. And these days, it's quite underused. So why walk away from a ready-made corridor and build a new one, which would almost certainly require eminent domain condemnations and demolition of houses, on top of expensive land aquisitions? Dana repeatedly brings up Atlanta as a model. I agree with the previous criticisms of Atlanta, but I think it also bears mentioning that what we're doing is very similar to what Washington, DC did 30-40 years ago, in perhaps the most successful mass transit project in the past half century. DC's biggest problem these days is that they can't build the new lines fast enough, and that large new stations are crowded at rush hour as soon as they open. Atlanta made mistakes, sure, but I don't think we're repeating them. I'm also very much in favor of bus rapid transit. I think after Phase 1 of the rail gets built, one of the next big projects needs to be High Occupancy/Toll lanes down the middle of 40, and frequent express buses that take advantage of them, making the Chapel Hill/Meadowmont/Heritage Square/Southpoint/RTP/Airport/N. Cary/NCSU/Dtn. Raleigh link. (HOT lanes are lanes where carpoolers ride free and single occupancy cars can pay a toll.) Finally, as someone who's a proponent of certain road projects as well (the East End Connector tops Durham's biggest transportation wish list at the moment, for very good reason), I can say that yes, construction costs have increased that much recently. I don't really understand why, but I think a big part of it is that, in addition to materials, values for open land in the Triangle are a whole lot higher than they were when the first parts of I-540 went in. So I don't think $61M/mi is all that high.
Toggle Commented Dec 11, 2006 on Flying Past Congested Cities at raleighing archive
1 reply
Just got forwarded this link by a friend. A few comments here: 1. First off, as a Durhamite, I suppose it's not terribly surprising given the name of the blog, but that's a terribly Raleigh-centric list of destinations. If you only served those, the system would be useless to Durhamites. You'd also need to incorporate Duke University/Medical Center, Durham Regional Hospital and the surrounding North Duke Mall area, NC Central University, the South Square area, as well as several stops in Chapel Hill. 2. Regional nitpicks aside, there's a pretty big gap between people's perceptions of why the train failed to get federal funding and the actual obstacles that blocked it. Most of the comments I've seen on it imply that it wouldn't have served enough people, and was just implicitly too expensive. The reality is that it would have been very possible to build a very functional, popular system for half of what the final price tag was but for some ugly realities and bad luck that came into play. Namely: - Freight company intransigence/NCRR spinelessness. Most of the corridor that the system would have run on was owned by the NC Railroad Corp., or NCRR, a state agency. In its charter, it is required to make consessios for passenger rail. However, in negotiating the leases, NCRR caved to pressure from the freight carriers to preserve their corridor. Now, I live less than a half mile from the main tracks, and I can tell you no more than three or four freight trains go through a day, at absolute most. There was plenty of time for them to put their trains through, and share the same tracks with the system, provided they agreed not to run freight trains at rush hour. However, because that would mean giving up some rights to that track in perpetuity, they screamed. NCRR's board is mostly stacked with people friendly to the freight firms, so they made TTA go a ridiculous buffer distance out (allegedly for safety, but I think to preserve the right to build a second set of freight-only tracks) and build two new passenger-only tracks. That sent the cost through the roof. - Certain Duke administrators who aggressively obstructed a station near the Hospital. Having Duke Hospital, the epicenter of the Triangle's largest private employer, on the system would have been huge for TTA's ridership numbers. However, a certain executive Vice President did everything he could to keep a station far away from the hospital, and his demands and delays drove up the cost of the final stop on the line that it was finally dropped. This was a killer to TTA's ridership tally. - Change in political environment. Minneapolis and Charlotte started on the same track as the Triangle, and with not much better numbers got their systems approved, and they'll be built now. The Triangle had a significantly bigger system, but with similar cost/rider numbers in the end. (Lower, but it could have been made up.) Because it took longer to design, by the time it was ready to get support from the feds, Washington was significantly less friendly to mass transit projects than it had been previously. (GOP in power, Senators Dole and Burr, Iraq war, etc.) Sometimes, timing is everything. 3. One thing I really disagree with TTA on is how they marketed the system. They essentially tried to sell this thing as The Solution for public transit in the Triangle. The reality, which I've been repeating in as many public forums as I could, is that the rail system would make a great backbone of a regional solution, but that in order to work right, it desperately needed greatly increased bus service to help feed it, and that wasn't included in the cost. If you lived, say, two miles away from the line, but near a reasonably major road, you should have been able to take a bus running every 10 minutes or less at rush hour to the nearest station, then wait less than 7.5 minutes for the train and take it to IBM's campus, or NC State, or whatever. But that would involve a big increase in funding for CAT and DATA, and no one ever talked about that. (A Durham County Commissioner told me when I tried to sell her on this, "You ought to look at that train proposal!" So even the elected officials were under this impression.) 4. The "it wouldn't go to the airport!" argument is the most bogus complaint ever aired. Through much experience, direct connections to airport terminals in other cities are some of the most expensive, underused stops. The TTA system would have gotten you as close as you get with one of the Park and Ride lots, and then you could have taken a five minute shuttle to the terminal, just like a P&R lot. Look, even in Paris, where EVERYONE takes the metro, you have to take a shuttle from the airport stop. 5. In response to a commenter, I can't say what the chances are, but TTA leaders definitely do not think this thing is dead. It's dead for this round of funding, but there are other options. You very likely won't hear anything public until they think they've got a decent shot at one of them, but they're actively working on finding other sources of funding, and definitely sound optimistic when you talk to them. 6. As to Sky Tran, forgive me for being cynical, but yeah, right! I got really dubious when the interface was "voice recognition," which ties with the touchscreen as the most idiotic and unnecessary user interface currently in widespread use. (Just what the hell is so hard about pressing a button?!?!?) Its pushers say they can build it for a lower cost per mile, but what's the bandwidth of that mile? Will there not be a massive demand for cars at 5 PM at an RTP stop? How do you avoid conjestion going through the Morrisville/Cary bottleneck? Or do you string secondary lines that go through the middle of nowhere to the north or south? And how, precisely, will the energy efficiency be better than an automobile if you're having to shuttle empty cars all over the place to meet demand? I'll lay down a figure right now. In actual implimentation costs, if a moderately usable system could be built Triangle-wide and operated for 10 years at less than $8 billion, I'm a monkey's uncle. And I still say that system would suck.
Toggle Commented Dec 8, 2006 on Flying Past Congested Cities at raleighing archive
1 reply