Planning & Transportation
The Morgan creek trail has been in place and heavily used by residents of Chapel Hill for some time. The paths popularity is in spite of being isolated and lacking any connectivity at the ends. Most people, wanting to enjoy this fine path must drive on a highway, and then park their cars in a lot that is often overflowing on weekends. Families, living only a couple hundred yards away on either end, have no safe way to reach the greenway other than to drive there in a car.
Town counter data backs up how popular this trail really is. A counter, installed on the path last year, recorded an average of 307 trips per day on the trail over the last 329 days. A total of 101,297 trips in all. Most users of the trail pass the counter twice as they head in and out from the lot, so that is over 50 thousand trips in less than a year.
When I have run past the lot for this trail, and seen bikes loaded up on cars, I wondered why the town cannot make it fully accessible to the thousands that use it. My feelings were this situation is a failure in urban planning to have a recreational facility that requires a majority of the people to drive there to access *
With the rollout of regional transit plans in our area, we can see that Wake County plans 20 miles of bus rapid transit (BRT) routes. Here in Orange County, we have an 8 mile BRT route planned in additional to a proposed 18 mile light rail line connecting Durham and Chapel Hill. Should we deploy BRT as the anchor of our transit network and replace the Durham Orange Light Rail line with BRT?
First, a bit about BRT. It takes many of the things that make riding light rail transit (LRT) attractive, but uses diesel buses in dedicated exclusive roadways instead of electric rail cars on tracks. A true BRT system has stations with shelters and raised platforms like LRT. Fares are paid in advance to speed loading and buses come at regular intervals. Most importantly, a true BRT system has its own exclusive roadway. If the bus is stuck in the same traffic with cars, it’s not really “gold standard” BRT. It’s just a bus.
I emailed the Orange County Board of Commissioners a letter supporting the light rail connecting Orange and Durham Counties and am posting that letter publicly below.
The June 29, 2016, "Off the Rails" INDY Week piece by David Hudnall, which discusses the Durham-Orange light rail transit project (DOLRT) is a poorly researched opinion piece that does a tremendous disservice to INDY Week readers, residents of Durham and Chapel Hill, and—most importantly—current public transit riders in Durham and Orange counties who stand to benefit greatly from a significantly enhanced bus and rail transit network with DOLRT at its core.
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