Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Queen City compliment from Richmond

When about 200 people attended a Southeast High Speed Rail Conference Tuesday in Richmond, Va.'s Greater Richmond Convention Center, they were given a welcome by City Council President Kathy Graziano -- and heard her pass along a nice compliment about Charlotte. Graziano was reciting the value of, among other things, good transit systems in growing cities and mentioned the role of public transportation in improving the quality of life in a number of places in the southeast. That's one of the factors, she said, that has "changed Charlotte from a very nice city to a great city."

The meeting at the convention center featured updates on the progress of turning long-neglected rail corridors into popular rail links between population centers. When Virginia recently contracted with Amtrak to restore passenger rail service between Lynchburg and Washington, the public response far exceeded expectations. That reflected, said Thelma Drake, Virginia Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, a recognition that the fastest way to get into the traffic-choked Northern Virginia area and the District of Columbia is a rail car, not a passenger car.

Virginia's experience mirrors -- and exceeds -- North Carolina's experience with rail traffic between the capitals of government and commerce. The Raleigh-Charlotte route has long been popular and rates among Amtrak's best -- and when the state introduced this summer a third set of trains making daily round-trips in the middle of the workday, ridership increased yet again. What surprised rail planners, says Patrick Simmons of the N.C. Department of Transportation's Rail Division, is that many college students along the route have begun using the train service to commute to some of the 13 campuses along the Raleigh-Charlotte route.

1 comment:

Chuck Till said...

There are 7 train departure daily from Richmond to DC and points north. This doesn't count the New York - Florida trains that pass through Richmond; nor does it count the VRE commuter trains that operate from Fredericksburg north into DC.

Virginia DOT has said that I-95 cannot or will not be expanded from Richmond north. It is frequently a parking lot, even in the middle of the day or on weekends.

And, like Raleigh, Richmond has a poor mass transit system. Critics who says that trains won't attract riders unless there is high-density development at both endpoints of the train should look carefully at the Richmond counter-example.