Tag Archives: Duke

It’s Faster?

While many light rail projects (including DOLRT) are justified on the basis that it is a fast and modern, the facts suggest otherwise.

For example, the Durham-Orange Light Rail Train project in 2011 projected 34 minutes to travel the 17 mile stretch connecting UNC Hospital to Alston in East Durham (with 12,000 daily boardings). The transit time in 2015 is now estimated to be 44 minutes +10 minutes at terminus (with 23,000 daily boardings) — an increase of 30% in travel time − and slower than the 39 minutes Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) alternative (that was dismissed in favor of LRT due to ‘speed’).

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The mean travel time to work according to the 2014 US Census is 21.5 minutes (Durham County) and 22.0 minutes (Chapel Hill). Now include the waiting time for the next train, the time to get to/from the station (via Park&Ride, Kiss&Ride, bicycle, walking, or bus transfer), it will even be LONGER. So how is this faster than the automobile that it is supposed to replace?

During hot summer days, light rail trains must slow down for safety to counter the expansion of the steel rails and overhead copper power lines − making DOLRT even slower.

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GoTriangle has demonstrated inherent light rail bias by comparing circuitous bus routes (that could be easily rerouted by GoTriangle to meet this ‘demand’) in order to justify their conclusions.

For example, if the intended route to connect UNC Hospitals with Duke University Hospital, Downtown Durham and Alston a more direct route along 15-501 would reduce distance by 10% and align with a high population density corridor that would support projected daily boardings.

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Environmentally Friendly?

While many environmentalists quickly point out the adverse impact of the automobile — they quickly gloss over the environmental impact of near-empty light rail trains. The environmental impact of light rail, as a system, is considerably worse. The automobile takes passengers directly point-to-point (from origin to destination), but light rail requires supplemental trips to/from the station, whether via park-and-ride, kiss-and-ride, or bus.

Many environmentalists support rail-based transit for environmental reasons, but to date only BRT projects have been certified as greenhouse gas-reduction projects by the Clean Development Mechanism defined in the Kyoto Protocol (see Bogotá and Mexico City).  Additionally, the volume of vehicle-specific emissions that LRT and electric trolley bus systems produce depends on how their electric power is generated. If the source is coal-fired power plants, then the system may actually produce more CO2 than normal diesel vehicles do, even though people are exposed to fewer emissions on the street. Buses are major producers of particulate emissions unless they use low-sulfur fuels, have particulate traps and clean engines, or run on some source of fuel that is an alternative to diesel.

Compared to rail systems, BRT systems also tend to be less intensive users of concrete and steel. Producing steel and concrete and building underground or elevated concrete structures generates a large amount of CO2. Many heavy-rail metro projects cannot reduce enough operations-related carbon emissions during their first twenty years to compensate for their construction-related CO2 emissions. Surface LRT generates less construction-related CO2 but still tends to generate more than a BRT project does. — ITDP study, More Development For Your Transit Dollar

Using the overly optimistic 27,000 daily boardings projection (revised with NCCU extension in 2040) running 150 train trips per day across the end-to-end 17.7 mile line will result in an average ‘load factor’ of 10 passengers per vehicle mile traveled; or utilize 2% of the 500 passenger capacity heralded by GoTriangle. So for every one train that travels at the cited 500 passenger capacity, there will be ~50 trains running empty. Low capacity utilization is not  environmentally or economically sound.

From an energy intensity perspective, this low utilization has a devastating impact on DOLRT energy efficiency. With an average of 10 passengers per mile results in 6327 BTU per DOLRT passenger mile (63265 BTU per vehicle mile / 10 passengers per mile) compared to 3144 BTU for car travel or 4071 BTU for bus transit. So per passenger mile, DOLRT uses over twice the amount of energy of an average car!

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SOURCE: US Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory – Transportation Energy Data Book, Edition 34, page 2-19, Table 2.14

Due to the limited coverage of light rail stations, light rail requires altered bus routes to “feed the beast”. These feeders add cost, consume more energy, increase travel distance and increase travel times, while compounding the traffic congestion they are supposedly trying to alleviate. The light rail system is forced to provide an entire, high-capacity vehicle even when there are only a few riders.

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The inconvenient truth is that not a single light rail in the US carries as many passengers as a single highway lane. The myriad of alternatives, like walking, bicycling, carpooling, van-pooling, congestion pricing, telecommuting, flexible working hours, parking reform, pricing strategies to improve bus utilization, etc — largely ignored while the money and attention is consumed by light rail.

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The proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail train has NO new renewable energy requirement and electricity sourced from Duke Energy which has been repeatedly cited for environmental transgressions. Duke Energy generates electricity primarily with nuclear, gas (sourced from ‘fracking’) and coal power plants. The Political Economy Research Institute ranks Duke Energy 13th among corporations emitting airborne pollutants in the United States. The ranking is based on the quantity (80 million pounds in 2005) and toxicity of the emissions. When the high energy costs and carbon emissions during construction are counted, the light-rail line is far “browner” than autos and highways.

Forgetting greenhouse effects during construction?

Neglecting to take into account the emissions associated with constructing buildings like train stations and laying the tracks may make train travel appear far more environmentally friendly than it actually is, the authors found.

“Most current decision-making relies on analysis at the tailpipe, ignoring vehicle production, infrastructure provision, and fuel production required for support,” wrote the authors. “We find that total life-cycle energy inputs and greenhouse gas emissions contribute an additional 63 percent for on road, 155 percent for rail, and 31 percent for air systems,” relative to those vehicles’ tailpipe emissions. — How Green is Rail Travel?

Cement manufacturing releases CO2 in the atmosphere both directly when calcium carbonate is heated, producing lime and carbon dioxide, and also indirectly through the use of energy if its production involves the emission of CO2.The cement industry produces about 5% of global man-made CO2 emissions, of which 50% is from the chemical process, and 40% from burning fuel. The amount of CO2 emitted by the cement industry is nearly 900 kg of CO2 for every 1000 kg of cement produced. — Cement wiki

Articles

Articles from local newspapers in the Triangle area.

Articles on other related topics.

Durham-Orange Proposal

Introduction:

The proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit (DOLRT) Project is a 17 mile light rail transit line (started in 1992) which is projected to extend from UNC Hospitals to East Durham by way of the Friday Center, the I-40 corridor, Patterson Place and South Square areas, Duke Medical Center and downtown Durham with 17 18 stations planned and two-car trains running at five-minute intervals for an estimated construction cost of $1.6B (per DEIS) $2.5 BILLION Year of Expenditure

Proposed DOLRT line does NOT connect Chapel Hill or Durham to major commercial, retail, or employment destinations east of the corridor like Southpoint Mall, Research Triangle Park or the Raleigh/Durham Airport. (Interactive map)

GoTriangle forecasts an average of 23,000 27,000 weekday light rail trips (with NCCU extension revision)  (increased from original 12,000 daily boardings, increased from 23,000 in FEIS) by 2040. So assuming round trip travel, this would serve 11,500 13,500 passengers over 17.7 miles. Frequency of service reduced from the original proposal (of every 5 minutes) to every 20 minutes, and 10 minutes during peak commuting hours (Mon to Fri 6:00am – 9:30am & 3:30pm – 6:30pm). DOLRT estimated to take 44 46 minutes (with new NCCU extension +10 minutes at terminus) vs the original 34 minutes to travel from Chapel Hill (UNC Hospitals) to East Durham (Alston Avenue) and now continuing to NCCU at an average of 23 miles per hour.

Financing:

The estimated $1.6 Billion (DEIS 2015) “assumes 50% Federal funding, 25% local and 25% state.”  $2.5 BILLION assumes 50% Federal funding, 40% local funding and 10% state funding, according to the GoTriangle. The 25% local funding is comprised of a 0.5% sales tax, $10 annual vehicle registration fee and 5% tax surcharge on car rentals. GoTriangle has proposed a DOLRT financing plan that will stretch debt repayments for half a century into 2062.

Some of the local and state funding has been secured, however the Federal funding has not been finalized. “Federal New Starts funding is required. This funding is very competitive. No New Starts project nationwide is in a region as small as Durham‐Orange. Ridership estimates per mile appear lower and costs per rider higher than other New Starts projects. An initial investment of a smaller 9‐12 mile corridor would omit either UNC Hospitals or downtown Durham.” (Durham-Orange County Corridor Alternatives Analysis, Apr 2012, page 14)

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“Ridership levels may depend on extensive development at the Leigh Village station; transit‐supportive densities at this and other locations have generated opposition. The Triangle will be advancing three projects at the same time; the AA suggests this may be the lowest performing of the three.” – Alternatives Analysis Final Report: Appendices, Durham-Orange County Corridor, Jun 8, 2012

Whereas the construction or capital costs are frequently offset and subsidized by state and federal governments, any short fall in operating costs not covered by rider fees are typically subsidized (paid for) by local taxpayers in the form of additional local taxes.Of the estimated $16 $28.7 MILLION Operating & Maintenance annual budget, 20% is expected from passenger fares (fare-box recovery) leaving the remaining 80% (or $23 MILLION) in additional annual taxes for Orange and Durham county residents.

Who can I talk to and have my voice heard?

Some voices carry more than others. Your elected representatives will listen to you. You have the vote! How can I maximize my voice? Phone calls are heard very loud and clear. Hand written letters are the next best thing. Followed by typed letters delivered by US postal. And lastly email. So while most of us use (myself included) email … your elected representatives prefer to hear from you (literally). So if you want to maximize your impact, please call!