A travel analysis that looked at where workers live, where residents work, and how the Greater Triangle Commuter Rail Project would help low-income residents get to major employment centers found the rail corridor crosses eight of the top 10 Triangle employment centers.
Plus, 30 percent of all jobs in Wake, Durham, Johnston and Orange counties, North Carolina, are within a mile of the rail corridor.
Of all the major jobs in the three counties that pay less than $ 40,000 per year, 23% are in the corridor.
“The data shows us that we are focusing on the right corridor for the rail,” said John Hodges-Copple, director of metropolitan planning at the Triangle J Council of Governments (TJCOG), who conducted the analysis. “The line runs where people already go across the county to work and where 12 of the 15 proposed station areas have a high concentration of low-income people or people who run out of cars, are close to a hub. job or both. The rail corridor appears to be doing a good job of serving what we believe to be important travel markets. ”
The TJCOG travel analysis is part of the last study phase of the Grand Triangle commuter train project. The railway line, which is part of the Wake and Durham counties transit plans, would run at least 37 miles from West Durham through Raleigh to Garner or Clayton. School boards will use information from the TJCOG to help decide this year whether to build the transformative transit project.
The commuter train line would be the backbone of a unified regional transit system that would include bus rapid transit corridors and significantly expanded bus service.
The travel analysis follows a TJCOG study released in June that looked at the number of affordable housing units in the corridor. This analysis found that 27% of existing affordable housing in Wake, Durham and Johnston counties is within a mile of the rail corridor. In Durham, 37% of legally binding affordable housing is in the corridor.
Investing in a high-quality public transport network close to affordable housing would help many low-income residents of the Triangle reach employment centers, the study concluded.
The new market analysis looked at employment centers, trips to or from the corridor, and the number of neighborhoods in the corridor with relatively high levels of concentrations of low-income, vehicle-less households and with BIPOC residents.
TJCOG called these neighborhoods REINVEST neighborhoods representing these four important characteristics: RE (race / ethnicity), IN (income), VE (vehicle availability) and ST (affordable housing status).
The study also indicated performance metrics that can be tracked and actions that commuter rail partners can take to better serve the Triangle’s most important travel markets. A key part of the collaboration will be to ensure seamless first and last mile bus and micromobility links that connect neighborhoods and business districts to railway stops, according to TJCOG.
- There were 930,000 jobs in Johnston, Wake, Durham and Orange counties before COVID. About 280,000 or 30 percent of all jobs in the region are found within a mile of the rail corridor.
- More than 96,000 people live in Wake or County Durham and commute to work in the other county, the largest number of cross-border commuters in the state.
- Of the 280,000 workers in these jobs, 48% live in Wake County, 22% in Durham, 7% in Johnston and 5.2% in Orange.
- Of all the main jobs in these four counties that pay less than $ 40,000 a year, 23% are in the corridor.
- About 180,000 people live in Wake, Durham, Johnston and Orange counties and also work in the rail corridor. Of these, 70,000 live in one county and work in another.
- Of the region’s top 10 employment hubs along the rail line, eight are in the corridor, including downtown Raleigh and Durham, NC State and Duke universities, and several clusters of census blocks in and around Research Triangle Park. Eight of the top 10 employment poles are also the main low and moderate income employment poles.
- Approximately 70,000 people live in the areas of REINVEST which are wholly or partially within the rail corridor, particularly near central and south-eastern Durham, central and south-eastern Raleigh and Garner.
- Of the first 15 station study areas, 12 of them overlap with a key employment hub, a leading REINVEST district, or both. People who live in REINVEST neighborhoods are also the most likely to take public transit, so the project would be of great benefit to them.
The analysis focused on business travel in pre-COVID-19 conditions. Today, traditional office work may become more of a hybrid model – with people working part of the time in a traditional work environment and part of the time from home or other remote locations. Remote working is less of an option for many lower paying jobs, including many “essential workers” during COVID-19.
The region will continue to grow rapidly, with the backbone of the transit network along the rail corridor being a magnet for growth.
“Our study shows that 30% of the jobs in the Triangle region are in the proposed commuter rail corridor and that many people live in one county and work in another,” said GoTriangle CEO and Chairman Charles E Lattuca. “It’s easy to see how a new regional transit system, including a commuter railroad, will transform the way residents can access new employment opportunities. A transit project that connects our residents to eight of the region’s top 10 employment hubs is a transit project we need. The commuter train will work hand in hand with new bus rapid transit corridors and investments in local buses to move our region forward.
Once completed in the spring, this study phase should indicate whether the project is technically, financially, legally and politically feasible. Governing bodies will vote on whether to continue the project and seek entry into the federal pipeline of investment grants to help pay.
The Trip Analysis Report can be found here.