Raleigh’s Biggest Needs

While we have a lot for which to be thankful in Raleigh, there is more work to be done! Here is my list of 30 things Raleigh needs:

  1. 20090220601[1] A sexy CAT Bus system. This means rolling out Android and iPhone apps that consider your location and your destination, and suggest routing options and times of route service that are based on real-time bus location data…for all routes. Right now the R-Line reports its bus locations to the web, but this doesn’t cut it. The free TransitGenie app on the iPhone does what I am describing and makes using Chicago’s bus and rail system very easy and actually fun to use. Each CAT bus should be spotless, have internet access, feature  news and ads on video screens, and should be lit with something other than fluorescent lighting. Would you rather fly on this airplane or on this one? Here is a private bus company with their comfy bus.
  2. Walnut Creek and/or RBC Center bus shuttle on every night there is an event. The Caniac Express is fine, but has been poorly marketed. Parking is nearing the $20 point, and if we add that to the $12 per head, at least, for a minimal concession stand meal, that means that my wife and I will spend at least $40 above the ticket price to go to a hockey game. Wouldn’t it be better for me to spend that money in downtown restaurants, use a shuttle that skirts traffic, delivers us near the RBC North Entrance, then returns to downtown after the game? You never know, we might just want to go have a drink downtown after the game. If we cannot have a downtown arena, then we can, in effect, have one with an express shuttle service. The buses, by the way, must play the Hurricanes or Wolfpack’s pre/post game broadcasts on their intercoms.
  3. Lingerie Football (link to Chicago Bliss). notreally
  4. An outstanding restaurant that almost has no service. Essentially think of a Zoe’s Kitchen concept that serves food like Bloomsbury Bistro. Each order could be handled online, via a mobile webpage or Android or iPhone app. One could set up an account, and order on their way to the restaurant. Simply pick up the food upon entering and eat. Pizza Hut’s iPhone app works almost this simply, but you still have to pay when you pick up the food. There is a growing number of people like me who just want good food, and we want a drink refill when we want it, not when someone happens to give us permission to get one….and we don’t want to be constantly interrupted…nor do we want some failed comedian trying to entertain us. Just give us the food!
  5. ChutneyJoesA really good fast-food Indian restaurant. I visited Chutney Joe’s in Chicago, and it is almost exactly what we need; a Chipotle-level fast-casual restaurant that serves Indian food. The key is to not make the food too hot, which is a weakness of Chutney Joe’s.
  6. A great, quick taqueria downtown.
  7. A 5,000 seat indoor concert venue.
  8. An El Pollo Loco location
  9. Milepost designations for Glenwood Avenue. Much like those used on the Outer Banks, mileposts for Glenwood Avenue, from Morgan Street to the Durham County line would help to regionalize the 14 mile-long spoke. Businesses could advertise that they are "between mileposts 11 & 12", for instance.
  10. A place to buy fresh-made corn tortillas
  11. To fold A Taste of the Triangle into Raleigh Wide Open, and make it the premiere food event in the south.
  12. 20100624-42A ferris wheel at Pullen Park. When that’s a success, add a wave swinger.
  13. To convert Dorothea Dix into a State government office park/urban park. The downtown Raleigh amphitheater should eventually be relocated to the sledding hills so that the skyline can be appreciated by concert-goers.
  14. More non-country and non-rock live concerts. Walnut Creek should be booking more events centered around Broadway reviews, light jazz, Oldies, world music, and traveling symphonies, like WolfTrap is booking. Many of these events should have lawn rules conducive to families spreading out, allowing short chairs, blankets, picnic baskets, and wine. Sorry, but people are just fed-up with paying for $15 beers and bad food, and are just not choosing to attend events now. The concert industry needs to win us back.
  15. A slew of free, artsy concerts in the new amphitheater that are free. Local big-band jazz bands, talent show winners, world music performers, etc should get exposure using this facility. Fans should also be able to bring their own food and wine onto the grounds. See my statement about venue price gouging above.
  16. To make US1 past I-540, and US64 west of Cary limited access highways. Access roads should be the only way the businesses can be accessed. These are major arteries, not portals for parasitic business that will turn each stretch of road into the nightmare that is Capital Blvd.
  17. To move forward with Dan Douglas’ Capital Blvd plan
  18. A combined Hopscotch Music Festival, Artsplosure, Downtown Live, and Raleigh Wide open as one week-long extravaganza. The experience at Milwaukee’s Summerfest, complete with an excellent iPhone app that allows one to plan the events they want to attend, far exceeded the experiences of these combined. This is something that the Arts Commission would have to organize.
  19. 20100624-105To commission great pieces of public art for both Moore Square and Nash Square. Pieces like the Bean in Chicago find themselves constantly pulling people in. Each could define the squares and offer a very different experience in each, but complement each other.
  20. To cut down half of the trees in Nash Square. There needs to be some shade, however Nash Square is extremely uninviting and boring.
  21. Better mobile food truck sanitation monitoring. This is the job of the state, however, do you know that the conditions are sanitary?
  22. Twice-a-week garbage pickup in the summer. The days are up to 4 hours longer, so each truck could run two shifts. Add Monday service in the Summer, too. The smell of rotting diapers and shrimp is terrible.
  23. A Mexican cafeteria
  24. Great pieces of art for the Hillsborough Street Roundabouts.
  25. A blimp festival
  26. A concerted effort to corral all of the area’s Soups of the Day. This would allow one seeking a particular soup to know which restaurant to visit.
  27. A local DCI drum corps contest.
  28. A better technology statement throughout the city. Parking in decks downtown should have a “vacancy” sign, and that data should be integrated with a web client that allows people, in real-time, to see where parking vacancies are in the downtown decks. [essay]
  29. Minor arteries to be rezoned to have small commercial clusters, like Five Points and Oberlin/Fairview.
  30. Traffic lights to flash red/yellow during lightly travelled times of the week.


Make A Comment
  • Jeannie Said:

    #4 is a new concept to me. I LOVE it for all the reasons you stated.

  • jason Said:

    #30—what? you don’t like sitting in rtp on a weekend at a red light, when there is NO ONE around???

    #27—i couldn’t agree more. cary band day gets crazy busy, so that should show our love of marching bands.

    #14—i haven’t been to walnut creek in years because of those very reasons. thats all they ever have, country or rock bands that are 30 years past their prime. they need variety like booth amp in cary, they have great variety.

  • John Said:

    #1 – Regional Rail
    #2 – Light Rail

  • SubwayScoundrel Said:

    Let’s start with #1, #10, #26 and #28

  • Chris Said:

    #26 is a great idea. Let’s build it.

    iPhone/Android app?

  • Evan Said:

    I’d love to see #30 closer to the top, as this is a huge problem in our area, especially around RTP. I routinely travel Alexander Drive on nights and weekends (I live in that area) and I can sometimes get stopped at every single light along the way, even though there is no traffic at the cross street!

  • John Said:

    Just wanted to correct one item in #2, Parking is $10 at the RBC Center for almost all events.

    That being said more free transportation to/from downtown would be great.

  • Kevin Said:

    CAT Tracker ( is available on Android, but the fragmented local bus systems (NCSU, TTA, DATA, CAT) means that none of them share the same data system. You’re only going to get CAT with this one.

    The website is a great start, but there’s nothing sexy about the presentation, only the data.

  • Kevin Said:

    Regarding flashing traffic signals, I had this out with the DOT a while ago. When they redid the signals on 64W in Apex, they removed the night time flashing mode.

    Their new policy is that all traffic signals will be moved to R/G/Y mode when replaced. They will only be migrated to an off-peak flash mode after a traffic study has been conducted to show that mode is safer. Of course that’s impossible demonstrate. I hate this idea that safety is the only consideration.

    I believe all this came after some sheriff in rural NC ran one of these signals and killed someone.

  • Dana Said:

    I want to thank ALL of you who responded. I should have noted that these items are in no particular order.

    Kevin, the DOT speaks out of both sides of their mouths all the time and it drives me crazy. The answer I’ve always gotten regarding off-time flashes is that they want situations to be consistent, ie a traffic signal is always a cycling set of full-ROW chances. They think that introducing a flashing yellow during some times of day will confuse people, yet they go and introduce the most counter-intuitive signal ever made; the flashing yellow arrow.

    When a road has 10 cars per hour, there is NO REASON to have a fully-functional signal unless there is a blind hill (Peace and Boylan, for example). If they want to use the argument that a handful of people have been killed because of signal confusion, then perhaps they need to look at all of the other situations they create where they are happy that HUNDREDS of people die each year. Try dropping the speed limit on I-95 to 55mph. Try encouraging I-40 traffic to maintain their speeds up hills (like Harrison Ave.). DON’T try to tell me that the vast majority of our society cannot handle a flashing caution or flashing stop when traffic loads are far lighter then the threshold that required the placement of the signal.

    One factor the DOT cannot measure is the amount of road rage caused by their heavy-handed rules. If safety is such a high priority, then perhaps they should quit forcing unnatural behaviors and work on realistically correcting their dangerous situations.

  • VaNC Said:

    Dana, if you want chicken like El Pollo Loco, try Mami Nona’s. Its awesome.

    Also, there are tons of places that make fresh tortillas, just ask for some to take home. I once got a big pitcher of homemade horchata for a party from Birria Fonda. Of course, I had to supply the pitcher! You know bourbon and horchata…mmmmmm.

  • Dana Said:

    Yeah, I went to Mami Nora’s and it was fine. I think they need to serve that Durham menu over here in Raleigh, because I thought the selection was kind of limited. Also my entire table was full and brown and white. The rice was pretty boring and every type of food or drink on my brown table and tray was brown.

    Fresh _corn_ tortillas like at Rosa Mexicano and Frontera Grill? (they go stale within a few hours). Flour tortillas are just alright.

  • CPA1 Said:

    I would add a bypass on the west side of Raleigh to this list. Or more bypasses in general. It is really difficult to get from North Raleigh to downtown. I end up going to Durham because it is easier to get to on 147.

  • Dana Said:

    I thought about doing or something of the like, but the time when restaurants would publish their soups would be right when I’m seeing patients on most days. The other thing is that it might be like herding cats as far as getting restaurant owners to send info in the morning. (sigh).

    Perhaps a twitter hashtag?? I dunno. All I know is that if I had some soup other than chicken noodle or clam chowder, I’d want the world to know about it. As a consumer I am sitting here wanting chicken gumbo. I could drive around to 5 Bruggers and Village Deli. Might find it…might not. It’s frustrating.

  • Elphaba Said:

    Re #24: I love public art too, but I hope you’re suggesting putting art on the outsides or edges of the roundabouts and not on the center islands. One of the design features that makes roundabouts work is that drivers have good lines of sight across/around the intersection. This is why good roundabouts only have minimal shrubbery that’s kept trimmed low. Art is good, but safe intersections are better, and it’d be great if we could have both!

  • JB Said:

    Dana – interesting post with lots of gems in it!

    #12 A ferris wheel and wave swinger in Pullen Park…nice idea!

    #20 Renovate Nash Square as well as Moore Square…very good point…definitely needs to be done!

    #14 JAZZ and WORLD MUSIC concerts…YES! The concerts should be presented in the downtown Raleigh Amphitheater, and should be subsidized by businesses, governmental entities, and other organizations with an interest in bringing people downtown and/or contributing to our community cultural enrichment. Letting that amphitheater sit dark on many nights is such a wasted resource.

    #27 Drum corp and marching bands…passing a gauntlet of judges and spectators along Fayetteville Street, finishing in front of temporary bleachers in the parking lots in front of the Performing Arts Center…great event idea that would bring crowds downtown.

  • Subway Scoundrel Said:

    For public Art, I think a big Sir Walter Raleigh in the middle of the round about would be good. LOL I have spent to much time in paris where the round about art is great I guess. A simple fountain would do the trick over on the Roundabout at the Bell Tower.

  • orulz Said:

    Guess I’m late to this party, but on item #1:

    Regionwide transit route planner integration into Google Maps is in beta and very, very close to launch. I’ve tested it and it seems to work well.

    Also, Triangle Transit just signed a contract with Digital Recorders (a Durham-based company) to install tracking and locating systems in all their buses as well as DATA’s. This is the same system that is used in Raleigh for As a previous poster said, the data is nice but the presentation is not sexy at all. However, the contract with Digital Recorders seems to mostly be for their hardware and their backend systems.

    Perhaps more importantly, though, they also contracted with Transloc from Raleigh to do a unified system that merges the tracking systems from all seven transit systems in the region (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Triangle Transit, Duke, NCSU, and even Cary) into one unified user interface that not only tracks bus locations but also does trip planning and arrival time predictions. This seems to be the biggest project Transloc has ever taken on, but they do have experience pulling data from multiple different sources and combining it into a single system, so I am confident they can handle it. Transloc already has IMO the best looking, most usable user interface. Plus they already have an iphone app, and I can only assume an android app won’t be too far behind.

  • Dana Said:

    Thanks for the heads up about the move toward integration. That will be a major factor, I think, in making the Triangle-wide transit easy to do.

    I wish that TTA would run some buses to the Dean Dome on nights of home basketball games.

  • Vatnos Said:

    Most of these seem like things that would be ‘nice’ to have but are not essential needs.

    Raleigh *needs* a couple supermarkets downtown, bike lanes on a lot more streets, more housing options for the non-ultra-wealthy in and around downtown, light rail service, more and better hotel accomodations for the convention center–which should be expanded to the second block in the next ten years perhaps, and Dorothea Dix does need to become a park (which I agree with you on though I find the suggestion to slap an amphitheater on Dix Hill completely wrongheaded)

    I do agree with the idea of a ferris wheel in Pullen Park though–or really in Dix Park if that gets going. I’ve always thought the concept of a ‘Bloomsbury-style’ small local amusement park was very appealing. A rollercoaster–maybe a retired wooden one from a large park that the city could get a good deal on, plus a wave-swinger as you suggested, a log flume, and a ferris wheel–just a small-ish collection of rides with no gate to the public, you just pay for the rides as you go. Pullen obviously couldn’t hold all of that mess, but putting it in Dorothea Dix seems very logical. I’d also like to see the train at Pullen extended so that it goes through Dix Park as well.

    A big issue with the Triangle is the lack of any amusement parks, and the three hour drive to either Carowinds or Busch Gardens is just not appealing. At the same time, I kind of dislike the tacky atmosphere of the big parks. Something small-ish, sort of like Tweetsie Railroad, seems very Raleigh-like. A small park really wouldn’t be enough for the Triangle’s population so in addition to that, I think a waterpark sort of like Waterworld in Denver, CO or Emerald Point in Greensboro (but larger) would be a logical addition. The main thing in the back of my mind that makes the water park idea appealing is the hot summers.

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