Thursday, September 15, 2016


A very potent combination of forces has emerged in the growth center of North Carolina where managers of a public-interest commercial district pride themselves in state-of-the-art development and land management.

Research Triangle Park (RTP) is in the center of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel metroplex not far from the area’s major airport (RDU). This triangular region grew impressively in the second half of the 20th century and gained a reputation as an island of progress and enlightenment in a sea of rural poverty and backwardness.

= courtesy of the Durham Visitor & Convention Bureau
Raleigh is the state capital and home to North Carolina State University, so it historically has been an important center. However, in terms of urban agglomeration, Raleigh was not that large. In 1950 the whole region’s population was under 400,000. RTP was established in the 1950s to  inspire big ideas. It called out to dreamers, believers, planners and creators. In fact, it has given its name to the area, now widely known as the Research Triangle. By 1970 the population was 541,000. In 1990 it had swollen to 863,000.

Growth continued as it hit a million around the beginning of the 21st century. Recently hit Two Million! Few fear that growth prospects will turn sour. Except for national reactions to North Carolina’s objections to mandates for gender-free bathrooms, the outlook for continued growth is widespread. Of course, development brings traffic.

Congestion is a growing challenge to the Triangle’s future. There is no substantial transit infrastructure. Big decisions need to be made soon as highways and arterials become overloaded.

 A Breath of Fresh Mobility Thinking

There are those at RTP and NCSU and in the halls of power of Raleigh willing to take a new look at these needs. This is largely the result of  the thoughtful designs and arguments espoused by NCSU-based EcoPRT -- a local start-up getting lots of attention. RTP wants to become a center of modern transit automation, a place where PRT is not a scary word. 

RTP has an opportunity to consider
transit through buildings (above)
as opposed to on-street tradition.

This is coming into being as RTP offers room for a large on-site NCSU facility that will include and maybe showcase an EcoPRT presence. Will they get interest and support from other progressive voices for modern urban mobility from across the whole country and around the world?

Today RTP is home to many large companies and about 25,000 employees. Its slogan is inspiring bold ideas. It encourages and supports dreamers, believers, planners and creators. It is run by a “Foundation” with an endowment -- income-producing properties that provide a significant level of independence. A 2011 master plan includes a LRT line connecting to three stations of a proposed but stalled regional rail line.

This seems to be a major alignment of forces for a mobility breakthrough in 2017. Look out Silicon Valley!

Previous Profiles

The future of Ithaca, NY is guided by the knowledge and disciplined thinking of Fernando de Aragon, and he understands the engaging potential of podcars. He will bring his perspectives and insights to PCC9 (Nov 4-6, Silicon Valley). The 2nd Podcar City conference was held in Ithaca in 2008 before a ... more
To Marcus Sharpe, PRT is common sense. The appeal is obvious and the benefits will be substantial. He wrestles with the status quo of metro planning which a recent FTA report has labeled dysfunctional. Sharpe lives up to his name. Marcus is a native Georgian studied telecommunications as ... more
Born and raised in the shadows of the countless skyscrapers of New York City, Bob Caporale moved to Mobile, Alabama to join the publishing and research house known as Elevator World in 1993. The founder and editor Bill Sturgeon already thought vertical and horizontal transport people should talk to... more
Bill James of Jpods is a man on a mission of liberation. He sees himself upholding the United States Constitution by undoing a Federal "monopoly" on transportation. Bill despairs over the oil-guzzling stupidity of our road-focused infrastructure, He knows well the agony of bloodshed especially when... more
Ted Flanigan not only worries about carbon emissions, he has figured out ways to make a living convincing and helping others to green up their buildings and campuses. Image and communications are key. One of his tools for that is a 32-foot diameter sphere. That's the size of a ton of carbon dioxide ... more
         See Newer >>