Ken Larsen's website - DOLRT Myths vs Facts


There have been many myths about DOLRT:





1 DOLRT will go to the airport and then on to downtown Raleigh When people first hear about there being a light rail project, they immediately presume it will go to the airport.  It won't.  It also won't go to Raleigh, downtown Chapel Hill, or Carrboro.  DOLRT will run from UNC hospital to Duke Hospital and then on to NCCU.  Look at the map.

As for the reason why DOLRT doesn't go to the airport:  On March 5, 2017 Chapel Hill Town Council member Sally Greene told me that airport didn't want it.  They make a huge amount of money from park & ride lots.  That money would take a hit if DOLRT went to the airport.

Amusingly, Orange County was only added to the plan, because Durham needed a second county to qualify for federal money.  Only a token amount of DOLRT will be in Orange County.


DOLRT will reduce traffic congestion

(in particular, relieving congestion on 15-501)

DOLRT will make traffic worse because of several reasons:


1.   Over 40 at-Grade sections [details]

2.      Dense development along the route will exacerbate traffic.  A prime example is the newly proposed Leigh Village and its DOLRT station.   That area already has horrific traffic.  [details]

3.      People need to drive to get to DOLRT stations.  Unfortunately, about half of the DOLRT stations won't have parking lots, so people will park in local neighborhoods.

4.  If DOLRT were intended to relieve traffic on 15-501, it should be designed to go down 15-501.  Instead, it swings out east to parallel Interstate 40 for a short bit.  [map] Then, it goes west to serve a new development (Leigh Village).  That area is already overcongested. [details]

5. Half of the stations won't have parking lots, so people will be more inclined to take their car rather than drive to a station.

3 DOLRT will be great for low income people who depend on public transportation. 

DOLRT will have the opposite effect.  DOLRT is discriminatory.  From Charlotte to DC to Boulder, it is clear from many examples that LRT drives housing costs up, that it serves generally the middle class and up.  LRT, especially given what we know of the local proponents, will not serve those who can't afford private transportation AND will starve services which could provide services to those folks of needed dollars.  Bus routes will have to be scrificed to pay for the huge cost of DOLRT.

Here's a March 2016 blog entry which proves that developers don't want affordable housing near a DOLRT station:  "A night of high drama - and scolding - in the Farrington Road rezoning case"

Here's a web page from the People's Alliance of Durham Affordable Housing Team  I've heard that Durham Mayor Bill Bell has a "desire to prevent affordable housing from affecting rejuvenation".  In other words, given a choice between boosting the economy and providing affordable housing, he chooses the economy.

4 DOLTR will cost $ 1.37B.

This 2012 myth has been debunked.  The estimated cost is now $ 2.5B and is expected to rise because of the GoTriangle recommendation that a significant amount of money be borrowed to make up for NC lowering its contribution from 25% to under 10%.

There is also no guarantee that the Federal government will pay 50% of the project.  They won't even vote on it until 2018 or 2020!  If they vote no (which Wake County thinks is likely), the Fed contribution will be zero!  Unfortunately, we will have squandered $millions because we will enter engineering phase by April of 2017. 

DOLRT is a financial noose around our community's neck.  When we need dollars for everything else - transit, housing, schooling, health and security - the DOLRT will get its cut before all else.

5 DOLRT is environmentally friendly

DOLRT is not green.

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

DOLRT will increase traffic on Farrington Road.  [details]  That will increase air pollution, because an idle car spews far more carbon monoxide than a moving car.

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


DOLRT is safe

A train weighs 100 tons – about 30 times that of an average car.   Its breaking distance is huge.  [poster]  A train also can't stop as quickly for the reason that its wheels are steel on a steel rail.  It's much easier and quicker to stop a car with rubber tires on asphalt.

There are too many at-grade crossings.  [details]


DOLRT is fast

DOLRT is slow because people must drive to a station via car or bus (which they must wait for) and then wait for a train.


DOLRT is economical

The huge cost of DOLRT will siphon money away from BRT, bike paths, greenways, and other cheaper more flexible pragmatic solutions.


DOLRT is efficient

Many trains will run empty.  Ridership has been greatly exaggerated, and GoTriangle assumes that 40% of people won’t own cars in the year 2040.

Currently, bus service in Chapel Hill is free.  That's why ridership is as high as it is.  DOLRT will not be free.  The park and rides will also not be free.  Many bus riders will opt to use their cars rather than pay to ride the DOLRT.


DOLRT supports sustainable growth

DOLRT is inflexible.  It’ll take a dozen years to provide the proposed 17.7 mile route.  By that time (2029), it may be obsolete due to shifting development patterns.


DOLRT has greater capacity

BRT has greater capacity due to its flexibility and lower cost.  More BRT buses can be provided for the same amount of cost.


“We voted for it.”

The 2011 (Durham) and 2012 (Orange) ballots said nothing about light rail.  The ballots asked voters if they wanted to approve a ½ percent sales tax increase to pay for “public transportation systems”.  Note that “systems” is plural.  [details and details]

13 "If DOLTR wasn't a good plan, the Federal Government would not have approved it." - Durham Mayor Bill Bell at a February 11, 2017 PAC-3 meeting (January 18, 2017 email from the Federal Transit Administration/FTA to Ken Larsen) The decision of how best to provide transit services within a specific geographic region is not made by the federal government; rather, it is the responsibility of local decision makers. Local officials are closest to the unique circumstances of their area and are in the best position to consider all relevant factors. Although the federal government provides funding to assist local governments in constructing transit capital improvements, decisions regarding what projects to pursue and in what corridors are determined locally. Information on what is required to be eligible for the various FTA grant programs can be found on our website at Typically, but not always, proposed light rail transit projects pursue FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program funding. For this program, our website contains detailed information on the webpage found at The law outlines a multi-year, multi-step process projects must go through to be eligible for and receive this funding. The process includes steps along the way when FTA must evaluate and rate the project according to criteria set forth in law. That evaluation and rating process includes an examination of cost-effectiveness, mobility improvements, environmental benefits, congestion relief, land use, economic development, and local financial commitment. Meanwhile, we encourage people to share questions, concerns, and observations with local and regional officials, including your local transit agency, which is Go Triangle and the region’s metropolitan planning organization (MPO), known as the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro (DCHC) MPO and which has a public participation process. You can contact the Go Triangle at (919) 485-7490 or at The DCHC MPO can be reached at (919) 560-4366 or at
14 DOLRT and BRT have the same at-grade crossing impact At the March 7, 2017 Board of Orange County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting, Commissioner Mark Marcoplos falsely equated the at-grade crossing impact of the DOLRT vs. BRT (Bus Rapid Transit).  [Marcopolos's comment] This was in response to Ken Larsen's 3 minute speech about at-grade crossing

Commissioner Marcopolos's comment is false, because at-grade crossings by light rail trains will have barriers which will have to be lowered and raised; BRT will not have those.  Also, an at-grade crossing by a light rain train will be substantially different than a BRT crossing, because a BRT crossing will have the bus plus cars on it, whereas a light rail route crossing a city street will only have the train on it.



Ken Larsen's home page