Cary begins planning for a downtown multimodal transportation hub


Cary was built for the cars most of its 175,000 residents use to get around. The city’s tree-lined roads, streets and boardwalks lead from housing estates to schools, office parks and shopping malls.

But the city has started planning for a future with more transportation options, including better bus service and a commuter train that connects Raleigh, Research Triangle Park and Durham.

A key part of this future is the so-called multimodal transport hub that the city hopes to develop downtown. It would be a meeting place between buses, trains and other modes of transport, both as a means of getting from one place to another and as a destination in the heart of the city.

The proposed site is just west of the current depot, between Harrison Avenue and North West Street on both sides of Hillsboro Street, an area now occupied by a mix of businesses and homes.

Planning for the transit center has only just begun, and the city is solicit comments from the public with a short survey. The online survey, which comes with an almost five-minute video, aims to introduce the concept and find out what people think the centre’s goals and functions should be.

Cary now has a downtown transit center. GoCary and GoTriangle buses run to the city’s train depot between Academy Street and North Harrison Avenue, where up to 10 Amtrak trains stopped each day before the pandemic reduced travel demand.

But the depot site is too small for future extensions of the bus service, which includes a planned rapid transit line from Cary to downtown Raleigh, said Kelly Blazey, Cary’s transit administrator. Plus, train platforms at the depot are less than half the length of Amtrak standards, and there is little room to lengthen them, Blazey said.

“Right now there’s only about 550 feet of track between Academy and Harrison,” she said. “And so it creates a lot of traffic congestion because the train stops and blocks these crossings.”

The site west of Harrison Avenue would include sufficient space for 1,000-foot straight docks on the two tracks that converge in the downtown area. It would also allow more space for buses, parking lots and carpool drop-offs and pickups, as well as larger waiting areas for Amtrak passengers and planned commuter trains.

Equally important, there is potential for private development that could include apartments, offices and businesses that would benefit from proximity to public transport and the city center, Blazey said.

“It’s really a very accessible area on foot; it is increasingly becoming a destination, ”she said. “The transit component really extends to that. “

The details, including the type of private development that could take place, are still a long way off. After the feasibility study is completed next spring, the city expects the planning and design of the centre’s transit elements to take another three years, before construction begins in 2024.

There will be several other opportunities for the public to weigh in along the way, said Blazey. The introduction to the concept of multimodal center and the first survey can be found here: publicinput.com/downtownMMC. The city will accept surveys completed until October 30.

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Richard Stradling covers transport for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, as well as ferries, bicycles, scooters and quite simply on foot. Also, hospitals during the coronavirus epidemic. He has been a journalist or editor for 33 years, the last 21 of which at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.


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