I thought I’d add a blog so I could write about meetings, special events … the sorts of things that happen every day “in-between” issues of the Durham Skywriter.
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Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit meeting
Wednesday, 23 September 2014
Yesterday, I attended a meeting that was hosted by the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. What I took away is that in 10 or so years, if all the pieces fall or are tweaked into place, we’ll be getting a light-rail train that will connect Durham and Chapel Hill. The line will span 17 miles with 16 stations proposed so far (with up to 11 stations being in Durham):
“Before” and “after” photos of some of the housing built around Charlotte NC’s new rail system were shown, and we saw some pretty fancy-looking housing units. What happened in Charlotte was that housing prices/rents close to the rail lines increased to the point where low- and moderate-income people were forced out. It’s only natural for rapid transit to attract people who want to take advantage of it, and in Durham, these sorts of notions seem to be already forming.
The goal for the Durham-Orange line is to set aside 15 percent of the housing stock within a half mile of each station to be affordable for low- to moderate-income folks. It will be easier to achieve this goal in Durham than in Chapel Hill, which has created only a couple hundred affordable housing units in the past few years. Certain Durham neighborhoods, the area around Buchanan in particular (which was the focus of the meeting) already has affordable housing close to the spot where the station might be—so the plan is to hold on to what’s already existing. Developers will undoubtedly be looking for incentives to set aside lower-rent housing units, so a bit of creativity will have to be employed.
Between four and 10 thousand jobs will be created for the construction of the line itself and the buildings that will surround it. Although it’s unlawful to set aside these jobs for certain people, training for these jobs will be developed and residents along the rail line will be encouraged to sign up for the training programs and snag those jobs. Thousands of permanent jobs will be created to ensure the smooth operation of the trains, the rail lines, and the stations.
Naturally, the biggest challenge will be the funding of this huge project, which will be “extremely dependent on federal funding.” The plan is for the federal government to pay for half, with 25 percent being paid by the state and the balance, also 25 percent, being handled by local governments.
If you’d like to learn more about the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project, be sure to visit ourtransitfuture.com to see the same handouts that were passed out at the meeting (and more, including a preliminary map). Public meetings will be held in November; add one or two of these to your calendar:
Speakers on the agenda:
Durham Community Land Trustees
Triangle Transit Authority
Durham City/County Planning
Durham Congregations & Neighborhoods
Coalition for Affordable Housing & Transit (manned the sign-in table)