Raleigh, North Carolina/Regional Transit Plan Phase I Regional Rail

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Regional Transit Plan
Phase I Regional Rail--Durham to North Raleigh

Raleigh, North Carolina

(November 1999)

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The Phase I Regional Rail project is the first proposesegment of a three-phased regional transit plan for linking the three counties -- Wake, Durham, and Orange -- in the Triangle Region of North Carolina. In Phase I, the Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) intends to initiate regional rail service from Durham to downtown Raleigh and from downtown Raleigh to North Raleigh. TTA proposes to use Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) rail vehicles to serve the 16 anticipated Phase I stations.

TTA has proposed that the Phase I Regional Rail pProject will use the existing North Carolina Railroad and CSX rail corridors to connect Duke University, downtown Durham, Research Triangle Park, RDU Airport, Morrisville, Cary, North Carolina State University, downtown Raleigh, and North Raleigh. The proposed project is estimated to serve 17,600 average weekday boardings by the year 2020. The most recent capital cost estimate (submitted in 1998 for the FY2000 Report on New Starts) for Phase I is $284.0 million (escalated dollars). The cost estimate includes final design, acquisition of right-of-way (ROW) and rail vehicles, station construction, park and ride lots, and construction of storage and maintenance facilities.

The ROW proposed to be used by TTA for the project is shared among a number or operating railroads. The North Carolina DOT (NCDOT) Rail Division has suggested that TTA study potential track realignments to accommodate inter-city and high-speed rail improvements in the proposed rail corridor. TTA’s realignment studies have significantly impacted the project’s development schedule, and are expected to result in significant cost increases and some changes in scope. These analyses are likely to result in a proposed investment which may not be consistent with the information reported in this profile.

Summary Description

Proposed Project:

Commuter Rail

(Diesel Multiple Units)

34.7 miles, 16 stations (Phase I)

Total Capital Cost ($YOE):

$284.0 million

Section 5309 Share ($YOE):

$111.0 million

Annual Operating Cost ($1997):

$ 9.4 million

Ridership Forecast (2020):

17,600 avg. weekday boardings

FY 2001 Financial Rating:


FY 2001 Project Justification Rating:


FY 2001 Overall Project Rating:

Not Recommended

The overall project rating of Not Recommended is based on the lack of an updated financial plan which demonstrates the capacity of local financial resources to meet project capital and operating needs. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1999. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts

projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


In 1995, TTA completed the Triangle Fixed Guideway Study. The Authority's Board of Trustees has adopted the study's recommendations to put into place a regional rail system, and resolutions of support have been received from all major units of local government, chambers of commerce, universities, and major employers in the Triangle.

The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO and the Capital Area MPO have each wadopted the Locally Preferred Alternative into their fiscally constrained long-range plans and the Phase I Regional Rail project is included in their respective 1998-2004 TIPs and North Carolina STIP. In January 1998, TTA initiated Preliminary Engineering and the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). TTA rail alignment issues are currently being worked out with a number of participating agencies, including the North Carolina Railroad (NCRR), CSX Railroad, NCDOT Rail, and the Federal Railroad Administration. The anticipated completion of Preliminary Engineering is February 2000, with a Record of Decision on the Final EIS expected in December 2000.

TEA-21 Section 3030 (a) (68) authorizes the project for final design and construction. Through FY 2000, Congress has appropriated $31.74 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for this project.


Unless otherwise noted, the following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. N/A indicates that data is not available for a specific measure. FTA notes that the project cost effectiveness evaluated and reported in this profile may not reflect an accurate estimation of project costs and ridership.

The project is evaluated as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design, and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.


The Medium rating reflects primarily the project’s current estimated cost effectiveness and the positive efforts of TTA and local jurisdictions to promote transit-supportive development within the corridor

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Not Rated

TTA estimates that Phase 1 of the Regional Rail project will serve 17,600 average weekday boardings by 2020. TTA did not submit information on travel time savings in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria.


Mobility Improvements

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours)



Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 1,325 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed 16 stations of Phase I, approximately 13 percent of the total households within ½ mile of stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

The Raleigh-Durham Metropolitan Area is designated a moderate maintenance area for ozone and a maintenance area for carbon monoxide. TTA estimates that in 2020, Phase I of the Regional Rail project will result in the following emissions reductions for CO and VOC. However, TTA projects an increase in NOx emissions.


Criteria Pollutant

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Carbon Monoxide (CO)



Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)



Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)



Hydrocarbons (HC)



Particulate Matter (PM10)



Carbon Dioxide (CO2)



Values reflect annual tons of emissions reductions. Values in [ ] brackets indicate a projected increase in emission.

TTA did not provide information on annual energy savings.


Annual Energy Savings

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

BTU (million)



Values reflect annual BTU reductions

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: High

TTA projects a decrease in a systemwide operating cost per passenger mile in the year 2020 for the Phase I Regional Rail Plan compared to the TSM.





New Start

System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (1996)




Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1996 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium

TTA estimates the following cost-effectiveness index for the Regional Rail alternative compared to the TSM alternative. FTA notes that the cost effectiveness of the project is likely to change once project cost and ridership estimates are updated.



New Start vs.


New Start vs.


Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger



Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1996 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The Medium land use rating reflects the generally low densities and poor pedestrian access along the corridor, but acknowledges the positive efforts of TTA and local jurisdictions to promote transit-supportive development within the corridor.

Existing Conditions: Existing land uses adjacent to proposed rail stations varies and includes low to medium-density residential, industrial, office development, and undeveloped or underutilized land. The corridor currently contains approximately 42 percent of the region’s population and 65 percent of its employment. Employment within 1/2 mile of proposed station areas is projected to increase from 68,000 in 1995 to 102,000 by the year 2025, and the number of households is forecast to increase from 10,500 to 17,900. Major activity centers in the proposed corridor include Duke Medical Center, North Carolina State University, Research Triangle Park (RTP), and the State Fairgrounds. However, because of the low density and poor pedestrian accessibility found along the corridor, many of these activity centers will rely largely on feeder bus services to access the proposed system.

Plans and Policies: TTA has developed a conceptual plan for station areas, entitled "Station Area Development Guidelines" and has distributed it among the various municipalities to encourage mixed and concentrated land use, adequate access and parking, and pedestrian-oriented station area environment at proposed station sites. The City of Durham has adopted an interim overlay district for transit station areas that include transit-supportive design requirements and development intensities, as well as restrictions on uses incompatible with

transit. The City of Raleigh and the Town of Cary have also initiated station area planning efforts and have incorporated some mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly policies into their long range plans to promote transit station area development. Each of these jurisdictions has adopted transit oriented development guidelines consistent with TTA’s " Station Area Development Guidelines." The Durham Comprehensive Plan defines a target of 25 percent future housing growth and 50 percent of employment growth to occur within the transit-oriented areas they've identified as Compact Neighborhoods. Three reuse/redevelopment projects are proposed in Raleigh and Durham within proposed station areas.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 61%

The current finance plan for the Regional Rail Project proposes a Section 5309 New Starts share of $111.0 million (39 percent), $31.0 million of FTA Section 5307 formula funds (11 percent), $14.0 million in CMAQ funding (5 percent), $57.0 million (20 percent) in State funds, and $71.0 million (25 percent of project costs) in local contributions.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium rating reflects the uncertainty of project costs and TTA’s financial capacity to implement the proposed investment.

TTA has faced challenges regarding CSX negotiations, which would change the capital financing plan.

Agency Financial Condition: TTA's capital financial condition is healthy, with strong cash and investment reserves. However, the value of the agency’s planned investments over the next 5-7 years (at least $340 million) exceeds the replacement value of TTA’s existing asset base. The agency currently operates a 90-bus system.

Cost Estimates and Contingencies: With the exception of adjustment for inflation, project capital cost estimates for the proposed Regional Rail project have not changed since 1996. Current cost estimates assume the use of existing CSX tracks requiring minimal upgrades for DMU service. Project cost estimates are likely to be revised at the conclusion of ongoing alignment studies.

Existing and Committed Funding: Local capital funding is proposed to be generated from TTA’s dedicated 5% tax on rental vehicles (which will also be used to support project operations). This source is stable and reliable, and has been broadened to include property-hauling vehicles of up to 7,000 pounds. While the annual rate of growth in rental vehicle tax revenues has reached nearly 20 percent in recent years, TTA’s assumption of an annual revenue growth rate of 7.5 % (5 percent excluding inflation) appears optimistic over the length of the project’s cash flow. The State of North Carolina is proposed to provide $57 million in capital costs. To date, only $4.5 million of State funding is committed to the project.

New and Proposed Sources: No new capital funding sources are proposed for the Phase I Regional Rail project.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low--Medium rating acknowledges the project’s dedicated operating revenue stream but reflects uncertainties regarding the capacity of proposed funding sources to meet the project’s operating and maintenance needs.

Agency Financial Condition: In recent years, TTA has experienced a balanced operating plan, a low but increasing farebox recovery rate, and increasing ridership and operating costs. The current overall operating condition of the agency is good. The agency has been averaging a 12.5 percent annual increase in systemwide operating costs. The proposed Phase 1 Regional Rail project by itself represents a 225 percent increase over the agency’s existing systemwide operating budget.

Operating Costs Estimates and Contingencies: Annual operations and maintenance costs for the completed Phase 1 Regional Rail project are projected at $9.4 million ($1997) when full revenue service begins in 2004. These estimates are reasonable, assuming a commuter rail system of the proposed network size and service levels.

Existing and Committed Funding: System operations are proposed to be funded with bus and rail fare revenues and with revenues generated from TTA's dedicated vehicle registration fee and rental vehicle tax. Passenger revenues are estimated to cover 20 percent of rail operating costs. The estimated fare revenue stream assumes significant increases in bus ridership. The capacity of rental vehicle tax revenues to meet proposed capital and operating needs is questionable if a 7.5 percent annual growth rate is not maintained.

Fare revenues are projected to increase thereafter at a rate of 3.2 percent annually--a rate, which may prove optimistic given recent declines in TTA's bus ridership. Annual revenues from this service are projected to be roughly double that of services over the same forecast period and roughly fives times higher than TTA's current bus fare revenues.

New and Proposed Sources: No new operating revenues are proposed for the project.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)


Proposed Source of Funds

Total Funding ($million)


Appropriations to Date

  §5309 New Starts


($31.74 million appropriated through FY 2000)
  §5307 Urbanized Area Formula Funds

CMAQ Funds










NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.


Regional Transit Plan (map)