by Sam Hieb
As Greensboro’s alt-weekly Rhino Times notes, the Triad area has indeed suffered from a “serious case of Charlotte envy,” especially after the Queen City built its Lynx light rail system.
Such light rail envy reached its peak about a decade ago when plans for a $550 million, 33-mile commuter rail line between Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem and N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro were bandied about. But that dream was abandoned, especially after the Piedmont Triad for Regional Transportation suffered a financial crisis that threatened its very survival.
But PART survived, regrouped and now—you guessed it—commuter rail dreams are being revived:
At the Jan. 13 PART meeting, board members expressed a desire for this area to be more “cutting edge” and proactive in its mass transit efforts – possibly with commuter rail – and Scott Rhine, the executive director of PART, told the board he’s an advocate of commuter rail in the area and that federal funds are available for communities to help pay for that project, but he added that the path to getting rail transit is a long and difficult one.
After the meeting, when Rhine was asked if the piedmont could benefit from a light rail system, he said there was no doubt.
“Absolutely, no question about it,” he said. “Is it the best thing? Yes.”
Never mind the fact that the Triad area just doesn’t have the density to support a light rail line — and probably never will, barring a major —and I mean major—shift in the economy.
But the real irony here is conversations about commuter rail are being revived just as gas prices continue to go down—-with no floor in sight.