A commuter rail line between N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro and Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem was big talk several years ago, but–what a coincidence—talk seemed to die when the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation had shall we say a financial setback.

And we might not be hearing about it now if WFDD listener Matthew Feidel hadn’t gotten a little “Carolina Curious” and asked about the Winston-Salem Southbound Railway that passes by Krankies Coffee.

PART planning director Mark Kirstner says:

I think they all see passenger rail as a possibility for the future. They look to our neighbors down in Charlotte and over in the Triangle area, and see the benefits there. But funding, like most public investment projects, is a very key element. And with a lot of other priorities related to schools and what have you, I think that’s one of the main political barriers. ‘How do we fund something like this? And at what point in the future do we reach that tipping point’?

That’s right after Kirstner says this:

The major results [of the ridership study] were that our local transit systems were not designed, and did not have the ridership to support passenger rail. And this would not be atypical. You know, the routes were designed to serve the community and not necessarily to get people to a rail corridor. There was the population in the area to perhaps support ridership, but there would have to be some changes to the local systems first before that could be proven. That’s not unlike the experience that they’ve had in Charlotte. They doubled their bus system first before they put in the passenger rail.

In other words the Triad just doesn’t have the density to support commuter rail. Don’t see it either, especially with the Urban Loop making progress. And it will take of the potential high-density urban dwellers out in Summerfield.