Raleigh/Durham commuter train; it does exist, January 7, 2019

Raleigh is at least thirty-five miles by bicycle from my home on the Chapel Hill / Carrboro line.   Sure, I have completed that 70+ mile roundtrip once or twice during the past thirty years,  but such a ride is a stretch, especially on a route that involves lots of stops and starts and turns.   Why not bicycle to Raleigh, take the Amtrak from Raleigh to Durham, and then bicycle the fifteen miles home from downtown Durham?

It was almost 11:00 AM before I left Chapel Hill on a Monday morning.   The wind was at my back.

It has taken me years to work out a somewhat safe bicycle route from Chapel Hill to Raleigh, a route that lets one bicycle mostly on residential streets or bike paths.   It shows the ineffectiveness of our state government that we have to figure this out on our own, or that this is the “safe” route.    Those uninterested in these weeds can skip to below the map.

From Franklin Street, go through the UNC Campus down the hill on Laurel Hill Road.   Cross over Bypass at the light and continue by Finley Golf Course.   Take a right on the bike path along highway 54, then take a right on Barbee Chapel Road, then Stagecoach Road, then left on highway 751 for about 200 yards before right on Massey Chapel Road to get on the American Tobacco Trail.   Take that paved trail about five miles to O’Kelly Chapel Road, where you go left.  In about a quarter mile, take a right on Del Webb Avenue through the Amberly real estate development.  Continue straight and the road changes name to McCrimmon Parkway .  This ends at the four lane highway 55.     Go right and bike about 100 yards, then jump the median to Good Hope Church Road.   Take that to the end (about a quarter mile) then left on Morrisville Carpenter Road.

Morrisville Carpenter Road is mostly safe and wide for the several miles to downtown Morrisville and Highway 54.   Go right on 54 for about a quarter mile, then left on the residential street Keybridge Drive.   Immediate right on Kalvesta Drive, then left on Glenspring Way, then right on Weston Estates Way.  After this crosses Weston Parkway it changes name to Sheldon Drive and ends at Cary Parkway.   Go left for only about a quarter mile on that busy road, then right on Winfair Drive.   Take this a few blocks to Evans Road, go right for about a quarter mile, then left on Dynasty Drive.   Dynasty Drive changes name to Elektra Drive, but this residential street continues for several miles up and down hills through quiet neighborhoods, all the way to the intersection of Trinity Road.

Left on Trinity Road and you are almost at the Raleigh city limits.  Trinity Road goes by the State Fairgrounds and Carter-Finley Stadium.  Right on Blue Ridge Road, go down the hill and across Highway 54, immediate left on Beryl Road.

By now you are in Raleigh at Hillsborough Street near NC State.   There are several ways to downtown from here, take your choice.





The train was scheduled to leave at 3:00 PM; I had arrived downtown Raleigh with time for lunch.    Sosta is a really nice sandwich shop and coffee house I discovered by pedaling around downtown.    A tuna sandwich with sides of couscous and tabouli had real spark.   An interesting looking group of likely Red Hat employees sat at the other occupied table.   A little search on the internet shows that the owner is from Avignon, in southwestern France.

I must have been the city of Raleigh that decided to invest in a new train station.   I am sure Amtrak did not have enough money to pay for all this.   It opened less than a year ago.   It is really a lovely facility, right in the center of the warehouse district, just a few blocks from the main downtown drag Fayetteville Street.


To get to the tracks one walks down this modernist ramp.

There are four Amtrak trains a day from Raleigh to Durham.  Sure, the trains are old school, not glitzy like the Raleigh station.   But the train ride is very clean and peaceful in the half hour journey, stopping on the way in downtown Cary.   All these trains continue on to Greensboro, High Point, and Charlotte.    You can load your bicycle directly onto the baggage car, zero hassle.  Amtrak in other parts of America does NOT always treat bicycles so well.

The train put me in downtown Durham on time at 3:30 PM.    I still had an hour and a half of daylight left to bike the fifteen miles home.   The NCDOT is widening Chapel Hill Road in Durham county, it is getting safer to bicycle.  (Chapel Hill Road, to University Drive, to Old Chapel Hill Road to Pope Road to Ephesus Church Road)

I was home in Chapel Hill before five o’clock.

One response to “Raleigh/Durham commuter train; it does exist, January 7, 2019”

  1. Once again a magnificent bicycle travelogue.

    I apologize for this long bicycle advocacy comment.

    For the last 5 years I have been a member of the Amtrak/Adventure Cycling Association Bicycle Task Force. North Carolina’s state financed trains have been at the forefront of providing bicycle carriage service for at least 5 or 6 years. Only 4 Amtrak routes have either no or very limited standard sized bicycle carriage service: “Empire Service” (NYS) & “Ethan Allen” (NYS/VT); “Keystone” (PA) & the “Pennsylvanian” (PA to Chicago); & the “Northeast Corridor” (VA/DC to MA). All the other routes have some form of bicycle carriage service. Plan your bicycle touring trip accordingly.

    Yes, the new Raleigh Amtrak/Multimodal station is impressive. I like both the interior and exterior design. With all the trains coming through Raleigh Amtrak might install a “Metropolitan Lounge” for its preferred passengers like yourself.

    I like the ramp leading to the tracks rather than an elevator. Syracuse NY has a ramp and when the new Rochester NY Amtrak/ future long distance bus station was being designed myself and other bicycling advocates fought to include a ramp rather than elevators, escalators, & stairs. Alas we lost that fight!

    Of course you know a folding bicycle can be brought directly (in folded state & at no charge) into Amtrak’s passenger cars rather than using the bike racks in baggage car or in passenger cars. It is how we met at the Albany NY train station.

    It is nice that you reminded your readers of the availability of bicycle carriage service for full sized bicycles also at no charge on bicycle racks in the “Piedmont” trains’ passenger cars. https://www.amtrak.com/onboard/bring-your-bicycle-onboard.html

    The “Carolinian” train has no charge ‘Trainside Checked Bicycle Service between Raleigh and Charlotte. Between Raleigh & New York City there is a $20.00 charge for bicycle carriage on this train.

    Reservations are required to use either the Piedmont or Carolinian bicycle racks (not necessary for folding bicycles.

    Two other trains, the Silver Meteor & Silver Star stop in Raleigh but not in Durham. These trains also have ‘Trainside Checked Bicycle Service.’

    As for improving bicycling infrastructure on roads and trails, you and your readers will have to advocate through the local Metropolitan [Transportation] Planning Organization (MPO). In the Triangle it is
    Durham-Chapel Hill-Carboro MPO, http://www.dchcmpo.org/ or
    the NC Capital Area MPO, http://www.campo-nc.us/

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