(1) Duke & VA Hospitals: TTA and Duke are still dickering over where to put the station. TTA expects this to be its biggest destination stop because 20,000 people work nearby.

What’s needed: Duke to buy “eco-passes” so its employees can ride to work for free.

(2-3-4) Downtown Durham: The station at Main Street near Ninth Street (2), opposite Erwin Square, will serve Duke’s East Campus and a funky surrounding neighborhood where mixed-use developments are popping up and “infilling.” (Example: more apartments at Erwin Square. Commute to RTP or wherever.) The downtown “Liggett Myers” station (3), with major mixed-use projects busting out all over (American Tobacco, Liggett Myers, West Village, Heart of Durham Hotel) could be TTA’s biggest winner of all. Walk to the Bulls, Brightleaf, your office or condo. Durham could be cool!

The North/East Central station (4) is a golden opportunity: The Durham Housing Authority is tearing down Few Gardens, and city leaders have a chance to see if they can get urban redevelopment right in a 96-block area of blight and neglect–with $10 million of their own and $80 million from Washington.

What’s needed: Careful staging and infrastructure improvements (lighting, sidewalks, crosswalks, a park, a retail village center) that attract some upscale housing while DHA replaces the eyesores with new, affordable housing.

(5-6) Research Triangle Park: The North Station (5) is surrounded by IBM, the park’s biggest employer; the South Station (6) is by Nortel, its second biggest. There’s lots of vacant land near South Station, and the Research Triangle Foundation is teaming with a developer to turn 25 acres of it into the “Triangle Metro Center,” with offices, a hotel and convention center. TTA headquarters will move here. “This is a hot area with potential to grow a lot over time,” one official says.

IBM, Nortel and other employers are talking about eco-passes for employees and may send their own shuttles to meet them at the trains, since the walking distances are long. “Some companies already run shuttles to meet the TTA buses,” says Liz Rooks, the park’s vice president for planning. “To get people to shift from their cars to public transit, it needs to be time-competitive.”

What’s needed: Eco-passes so employees ride free, shuttle buses to pick them up, and fleet cars, so folks won’t need to bring their own.

(7-8) Tale of Two Cities: Morrisville (7) has 1,700 apartments–potential riders?–close to the site TTA’s picked out for a station. TTA’s parking lot could go under high-voltage electric wires. Makes sense. Morrisville doesn’t want it. Officials say no one will use it, they’re so close to RTP. But they also worry about traffic if people do use it. Talks continue.

In Cary, meanwhile, No. 1 transit fans Glen Lang & Co. are making plans for their station (8) to anchor an expanded town center, including new affordable housing. Park & ride to RTP or Raleigh, and make extra keys for your teenagers.

What’s needed: Lang could move to Morrisville.

(9-10) Coming into Raleigh: Use your imagination at the West Raleigh station (9). Other than State Surplus, with its vast parking lot, there’s not much going on out here. When West Raleighites made a small-area plan for the Entertainment and Sports Arena, they suggested putting a hotel here … or the Terry Sanford Center for the Performing Arts, if it’s ever built. Far-fetched? The Capital Area Soccer League’s new soccer center, where the Carolina Courage will play, is going up not far away. You could put a little city in around it, especially if N.C. State built some housing. The State Fairgrounds station (10) is viewed as a destination, but there are gravel pits and an NCDOT equipment yard that could also make way for people. The small-area plan calls for mixed-use developments not far away and a city bus loop to connect everything up, says City Councilor Janet Cowell, who worked on it.

What’s needed: A confab with citizens and developers led by Cowell, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, N.C. State Chancellor Marye Anne Fox and (who else?) Glen Lang. Who’ll throw out the first incentive?

(11) N.C. State: Another destination the TTA is counting on, but State students don’t live where the train tracks go–yet. The station is across from Reynolds Coliseum. Come and catch a women’s game. The university’s long-range plan calls for a people-mover to run up the hill from the station and under Western Boulevard, connecting the old campus to the spiffy Centennial Campus (golf course, convention center and all). Or walk to a reborn Hillsborough Street, which Raleigh’s going to make all urbane by 2008, we hope.

What’s needed: Sell off N.C. State’s parking lots to the Hillsborough Street Partnership; true scholars would leave their cars home and read on the train.

(12-13) Downtown Raleigh: The rail corridor quits short of downtown and doesn’t quite reach the state government complex either. So Raleigh needs to s-t-r-e-t-c-h four blocks east to meet the station at West and Hargett (12). State government needs to s-t-r-e-t-c-h to meet the station at Lane and Capital Boulevard (13). Both are do-able. Downtown Raleigh has plenty of room for new housing and offices near (12); and the State’s 1995 Capital Area plan calls for selling off the converted mansions (and parking lots) over by Oakwood and putting new buildings in on the west side near (13). Bingo.

What’s needed: What isn’t? Political leadership. Strong planning. Follow-through. Say no to developers–and state agencies–when they try to scatter stuff all over town that belongs downtown. Shuttle buses. Big investments in sidewalks, crosswalks and lighting. Traffic-calming: Put an end to the one-way, racetrack streets and let pedestrians use them too.

(14-15-16) North Raleigh: Park-and-ride, kiss-and-ride for the downtown worker who lives in the ‘burbs. The Highwoods station (14) could maybe deliver some folks there, except it’s on the wrong side of Atlantic Avenue. TTA board member Carter Worthy isn’t happy that her colleagues have voted to delay opening these three until 2011 to save money. It’s an equity issue, she says, since taxpayers here are paying their share. And she wants a station at I-540, where Triangle Town Center and a lot of other new development is going. Sounds right.

What’s needed: Worthy says Triangle legislators need to find a little more money for TTA so these stations can open with the rest. Last year, with Republicans balking, an effort to do that failed. EndBlock