Ken Larsen's web site - Environmental implications of DOLRT (Durham-Orange Light Rail)


DOLRT is not green.

Many people will drive cars or take buses to get to a station.  This will concentrate air pollution along the DOLRT route.

The over 40 at-grade sections of the DOLRT will continually stop and start traffic.  [details]  That will increase air pollution, because an idle car spews far more carbon monoxide than a moving car.  This will be particularly true on Farrington Road which is already experiencing heavy rush hour traffic.  [details]  The plan is to build at at-grade crossing on Farrington Road.  That's a very poor decision.

In my opinion, bulldozing trees and building impervious surface close to waterways is the primary cause of all the flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 in North Carolina. 

Alex Cabanes
If you look at Leigh Village (brand new development proposal on Durham green fields adjacent to Little Creek watershed), the proposed 90-acre Leigh Village Compact Neighborhood development will include:
  • Mixed use residential / retail
  • 12 acres for PnR (Park & Ride) with 990 parking spaces (impervious surface, run off into Little Creek watershed)
  • In close proximity to the ROMF (Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility), where they fix, maintain, wash the trains at night. Ironically, the GoTriangle personnel will not be able to use the DOLRT to get to work and will likely rely on car to get to work, unless they live in the new Leigh Village development (assuming they can afford to do so).
  • Durham was on water restrictions. Where is the water for all of these new developments going to come from?
  • Creekside Elementary School is already over capacity, with students in temporary units. Where are the extra students going to go to school?
Also, from an environmental perspective … Park&Rides actually aggravate pollution emissions. Simply put, a car’s catalytic converter works best when the car is hot. So while the car is warming up or cooling down, that is when the majority of the pollutants escape the system into the air. So the key is to keep the car at an optimal (hot) temperature. 

In contrast, the LRT takes on average 63K BTU per vehicle mile (vs car ~ 4.8K BTU) … so you need to ensure that the passenger load factor is sufficiently high to offset the higher energy costs associated with moving 100 ton train (that stops&starts 2700 times a day = 18 stations X 150 trains a day). So using data from US Dept of Energy, that means that the DOLRT needs to have a minimum of 21 passengers AT ALL TIMES, just to break even with car transit. 

And then there is the CO2 release from cement usage (see Cement Wiki or end of article @

The proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail train has NO new renewable energy requirement and electricity sourced from Duke Energy which has been repeatedly cited for environmental transgressions. Duke Energy generates electricity primarily with nuclear, gas (sourced from ‘fracking’) and coal power plants. The Political Economy Research Institute ranks Duke Energy 13th among corporations emitting airborne pollutants in the United States. The ranking is based on the quantity (80 million pounds in 2005) and toxicity of the emissions. When the high energy costs and carbon emissions during construction are counted, the light-rail line is far “browner” than autos and highways.

Lisa Brach

Wet lands between Garrett Rd and University feed into New Hope.  However, the greatest impact on New Hope wetlands will be the placement of the ROMF (Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility) with its accompanying Rail Yard on the Farrington Rd site (as planned)!  During heavy rains the New Hope wetlands as well as the Trenton neighborhood backing up to New Hope wetlands and Leigh Farm already flood.  The culvert from Farrington Rd goes under I-40 and literally dumps into that area.  Now imagine how much the runoff will magnify with all the impervious surface and necessary grading to build a ROMF and Rail Yard (approx 20-25 acres in size).

Ask any of the Trenton folks, especially those with wells, and they can tell you how big their negative impact will be - just from the ROMF and Rail Yard!!"  -

Will Raymond

DOLRT and all its attendant private development within 5 key watersheds, a gamesland and a wildlife refuge is antithetical to good environmental stewardship.


At the April 4, 2017 BOCC meeting Tom Farmer cited Minneapolis as a stellar example of light rail success.  [Tom's speech]  Well, it has pollution and traffic problems.  [pollution details]  [traffic details]




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