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What is commuter rail and how is it different from light rail? 

In the Triangle, commuter trains running in an existing rail corridor between West Durham and Garner or Clayton would take thousands of people comfortably and reliably between their homes and work or school.  

The existing corridor already passes through regional destinations and employment centers such as downtown Durham, downtown Raleigh, downtown Cary, Research Triangle Park, Duke University and Medical Center, North Carolina State University and Clayton’s expanding pharmaceutical manufacturing corridor. 

Commuter rail provides a convenient and cost-effective way to avoid traffic-heavy freeways and parking costs. No matter how congested our roads get, the train will always take the same amount of time, ensuring that people can get to where they need to be on time.  

Commuter rail lines have become popular because of increasing highway congestion and resulting environmental impacts and the rising costs of owning, operating and parking automobiles. They also create development and housing opportunities for growing communities. 

Light-rail transit requires entirely new tracks and power sources, which would make it prohibitively expensive in this corridor. Light rail, which uses electricity and is powered from overhead lines, typically carries people shorter distances than commuter rail. Light rail is ideal for areas with closely spaced destinations and no existing railroad tracks and where buses can’t carry enough people or move fast enough. 

 A light-rail project in Orange and Durham counties was discontinued in 2019. 

The commuter rail project has been in the long-range transit plans for Wake and Durham counties for years. Voters in both counties have passed a half-cent sales tax designated to transit to help pay for it. 

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Do you belong to a group, organization, agency or nonprofit whose members need to hear about the commuter rail project? We have staff available to provide a presentation. Click here to learn more about how to request a presentation.
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