An open thread

To talk about whatever is bothering you....



ah, wonderful intersection. Back in 1998, I was returning from Chapel Hil to Raleigh, and exited 15-501 east to get on 54 east to go to I-40. The car ahead of me stopped suddenly at the yield sign, and stupid me thinking that I could go right on after him rear-ended the other driver. It cost me $500 extra annually on car insurance for 3 years, plus a $250 deductible for repairs to my car, since I was "at-fault"

I don't believe that's how that intersection is constructed -- I'm talking about traffic coming east/northbound on the 15-501/54 bypass (from Carrboro) and exiting with 54 east towards I-40. Traffic coming down the hill from campus & trying to get onto 15-501 northbound will have cloverleafed onto 15-501 immediately before the 54-exiting traffic enters the roadway.

There *is* a stopsign at the bottom of the ramp as you exit 15-501 southbound to get onto 54E, but it doesn't seem to cause the same level of backup. Or maybe I just don't drive that way as frequently & thus don't care as much ;-)

I suspect that the problem was that cars on eastbound NC-54 that were trying to get onto the entrance ramp to 15-501 North (the ramp that starts right after you go under the bridge) were encountering cars that had exited off of 15-501 South that were failing to yield. You basically have two sets of cars, one trying to merge right, the other trying to merge left, trying to share one lane. Given the very limited length of this shared lane it really creates a bad situation. Since you don't want the cars exiting NC-54 to slow down to the point of backing traffic up in the travel lanes of NC-54, you try to slow the traffic in the exit ramp with yield signs. My guess is that too many drivers were ignoring the yield signs and trying to do a high-speed merge onto NC-54 without regard to the fact that some of those cars are in the process of exiting. Unfortunately, a the stop sign exacerbates the problem in the other direction.

WillR, I would like to see you make more of your points sans insinuations, accusations, and personal attacks.

If you really care, perhaps it is time to give up the hard edge that is ‘undermining the possibility of pursuing shared commitments.'

Cool John Freguson tonight for free. I've heard nice things about him. It should be a very good time.

Mary, I don't get your challenge to Will who I think is usally pretty direct if also not one to mince words.

Here's what he wrote on the other thread that I assume you're referring to:

a leader whom had genuine concerns about this corridor would've worked harder to get some solid answers. Maybe it's easy to avoid the complexities as a candidate, probably forgiveable for a non-incumbent that either is unaware of the problem or think it lies outside of their purview, but for an incumbent candidate that trades on his NC-DOT/transportation credentials, Ed's response is kind of lame.

I don't see insinuations there, he's very direct. I do see "accusations" but accusing an incumbent candidate for re-election of not living up to his hype seems very appropriate to me. Nor do I see this as a "personal attack" in any negative sense since elections are all about whether that person should be elected to office.

Hi Dan, I was referring more to the general body of WillR's OP writings. But thanks anyway for analyzing WillR's recent post, and attempting to keep me honest.

WillR often has important things to say. The point I was trying to make is that (for me) much of what WillR has to say gets lost in his bloviating style.

Thanks Mary for listening in spite of the my stylistic choices. BTW, I'll take bloviating rather than bovin-ating any day of the week.

You're welcome, Will.

What bothers me....

No Squeaky Dogs when it rains.


In spite of your best efforts Ruby, the "Ray" thread this morning shows that some are not able to follow your posted guidance: "Try to criciticize (sic) ideas instead of people." Maybe you need to be more specific about what you mean.

What's bugging me is the new stop sign at the 54/15-501 split south of campus (you know, at the Glen Lennox Teeter). As you're exiting 15-501 to take 54 to I-40, there is a separate lane of travel on 54 dedicated to the traffic coming off the bypass. For lo these many years there has been a yield sign there, which is annoying enough, because it always caused a ton of people to stop unnecessarily. (There should be a solid-white line protecting the lane, and a "keep driving" sign.)

Now, however, there's a full-on stop sign. This makes no sense at all, as there are fewer accidents at that intersection than there are on most other sections of 54 around town (anecdotally speaking, that is---I haven't seen numbers). Now that there's a stop sign, traffic is backing up onto the bypass to a much greater degree than before, which is far more likely to *cause* your all-too-common rush-hour rear-ender on the bypass itself.

The only accident danger at that intersection as it was before was from eastbound traffic on 54 cutting recklessly across the right lane to get into the Teeter, but the new stop sign doesn't seem like the most effective solution to that problem.

This morning there was a city engineer parked on the grass watching the traffic backed up, so I rolled down my window & yelled "this really sucks" and he just kinda shrugged and shook his head, possibly in sympathy, as it's fairly obvious to anyone with a brain that it's a change for the worse. Or maybe he was just sitting there to laugh at all us RTP-commuting suckers.

So whose brilliant idea was this, and why?

Gerry, you're right on, but it's much worse than that.
When the bypass was widened, with
construction finished about 1992, the next year, the intersection
of Raleigh Road westbound onto the bypass southbound
won the dubious distinction of having the most accidents
in all of Chapel Hill. A brand new intersection! Great engineering
design! Even the mayor had a fender-bender there. To remedy this, the traffic light was put in a
year later. As DOT reps explained to us, the southbound
bypass bridge over Raleigh Road was not wide enough to build
an acceleration lane for these drivers. This argument was
so totally specious, because the bridge was newly built
for the bypass widening.

Civil engineers of the world, unite!

I thought your advice to candidates under the New OWASA Board Members thread, "when you don't know the answer just bash DOT", was just a bit of sarcasm. But from your description of the engineering screwup on the new bridge on the NC54/15-501 bypass, it sounds like good advice. It's hard to find good things to say about a well-funded state bureaucracy that is so isolated and independent that they notify Chapel Hill staff the night before they begin repaving Franklin Street. You wonder whether its incompetence or arrogance.

The NC Builders are at it again--now they are trying to get the legislature to protect them from paying property taxes on property that is underdevelopment or not yet sold:

Perhaps we should just turn all local control over to this very powerful lobby.

It is odd - and inaccurate - for the N&O article to use the phrase "home builders" when it should be using the phrase "Home Builders Association".

I am a home builder who resigned from the Home Builders Association when it became clear that its policies run counter to my own principles and the principles of my customers.

The N&O should issue an apology and an explanation for their clumsy & sloppy writing.

Also I would encourage people who care about local democracy and authentic sustainability to refuse to do business with builders who support the HBA.

Joan's question above has also been on my mind: why can't CH and Carrboro get their acts together and create bikeable/walkable shoulders along Estes between Seawell School Road and North Greensboro? Why did they just stop dead at Seawell School Road?

Who would be the person to ask?

I just read in the N&O that Thursday is the Carolina Theater's last show. What a loss for the community. Back in May, I suggested Carrboro try and recruit them and Dan Coleman wrote back to say they were alive and planning to stay where they are. What happened in 2 months to change that?

Why are the crosswalk signals so bad in carrboro at greensboro and main or greensboro and weaver? It seems that pedestrians should be given priority at those intersections. I don't believe I have ever seen the crosswalk signal on the wendy's side crossing greensboro ever change. Most people have given up on using the buttons and just bolt across quickly dodging the cars.

Does anyone know why there are so many abandoned cars in Durham on major roads? And why some of them have a white shirt or white bag hanging from the window?

The re-paving project on Estes Ext. has included a slight road widening and bike lanes. But the re-paving and bike lanes stopped at Seawell School Road (running from there to Airport). I'm hoping that this is an unfinished project, and that the bike lanes will soon extend all the way to North Greensboro, along that narrow part of Estes that really needs some bike and pedestrian-safe areas. Does anyone know? It'd be great to be able to bike to the CH Public Library from Carrboro along Estes.

The white flag of shame. It means, my poor car died, please don't tow it away before I get back with my tools and try to fix it. As someone who lived and died with two VW Vanagons, I am afraid I know the white flag of shame all too well.

From the DMV

Do not attempt to make repairs on a vehicle while it is in an area exposed to other traffic. Ask a passing driver to get help for you by calling any law enforcement agency.

What you should do if your vehicle breaks down:

* Exit the main part of the road - move the vehicle completely onto the shoulder of the road.

* Make sure you leave the car by the passenger side, and do not allow passengers to remain in the car.

* Stand off the road and away from the car - do not stand in front or to the rear of the vehicle.

* If you need help, tie a white cloth to the left door handle or the radio aerial and raise the hood of the car.

* If it's dark, turn on the parking lights or emergency flashers. Always have flashlights or flares in your car for emergencies.

That's pretty funny. How many times do you see a car with a white T-shirt tied to the door and someone actually waiting for help? I would guess not many people understand the TRUE meaning of the white cloth or else they forget to remove it once help comes.

I believe the Robertson scholars bus is funded by the same grant from the Robertson family that established the scholars program. As far as I know, they have not excluded non-students (such as employees, faculty members) from using the buses but I don't think capacity has been an issue thus far. Whether they check IDs or not I don't know so whether non-university (either UNC or Duke) people have been riding I can't say. I think it would be a great idea if there was a regular shuttle between the two campuses and would recommend that TTA approach the two universities with the idea. The Robertson Scholars program could pay for the shuttle during the academic year and the universities could subsidize it during the other periods. If it was open to all citizens TTA could request that each town contribute to the subsidy as well. This is really a convenient service and if there is any way to extend it I think we should try.

Well, it is sad to see the Carolina Theater go. I can only hope that Mr. Riddle puts in a "Wings" and gives people what they want - kitsch.

That's really too bad. Stone must have been putting on a positive face when I spoke with him before. The Carolina was definitely the best of his six screens.

From Free Press: Don't get squeezed by Big Cable

"If you're fed up with constant cable rate hikes, poor service and a lack of local and independent programming, the FCC needs to hear from you -- right now.

The FCC may allow the three largest cable companies to control up to 90 percent of the cable TV and broadband market in the United States.

Cable costs are growing at more than five times the rate of inflation. But giant cable companies aren't content to merely gouge you. As they control access to more American homes, big cable will have final say over the shows and channels you can watch.

In the future, video, telephone and Internet services will all be provided via the same "pipes." Giants like Comcast and Time Warner -- which are poised to get even bigger if the FCC approves their takeover of Adelphia -- are positioning themselves to be the ultimate gatekeepers of the media you're allowed to access and create.

Tell the FCC not to give more monopoly control to cable giants.

The FCC needs to hear from you. Act now to stop the consolidation of the cable industry.

(FYI--Some of us on the Chapel Hill Information Technology Committee have been advocating for a fiber optic mesh laid throughout town (in conjunction with traffic signal upgrades) in order to facilitate a municipal network that would provide low cost access to internet, telephone and cable)

Very timely Terri. As reported a couple days ago in the Edmonton Sun, Telus, a Canadian ISP, used it's monopolistic control over a means of communication to block access to the Telecommunications Workers Union website criticizing Telus.

Telus has blocked access to a union-run website, claiming it posted confidential information and was attempting to harass and intimidate workers by publishing their pictures.

The Voices for Change site, operated by members of the Telecommunications Workers Union, has been effectively closed to all customers with or accounts.

Internet users who subscribe to other service providers can still browse the site.

"They're restricting our members' free speech," said Mimi Williams, who said she was offended both as a customer and as an elected representative of TWU Local 207.

"Any impediment of our members' rights to free speech and right to freedom of association causes me grave concern."

Now, Telus might've had some legitimate concerns about workers (or scabs as the Union sees it) safety but they censored the Union's speech extra-legally.

For a democracy to function, we need to protect the free flow of information, conversation, debate and the continuing coalescing of the power to censor into fewer and fewer hands is quite troubling.

With a muni-network, the People (as in "We the...") own the means of communication and, hopefully, would be resistant to censorship.

About the lack of shoulders and bike facilities along our
major roads: Most of the main roads in both CH ar Carr
are designed, built, owned and maintained (sort of) by NCDOT,
not by the towns. DOT does not comprehend that
bikes are a form of transportation. A few years ago when
Airport (MLK) was widened between Homestead and Weaver
Dairy, marked the first time ever in the state that DOT had paid
for bikepaths along a road. Alex Zaffron, many others, and
I can recite one DOT horror story after another
about their inability or lack of desire to spend money or
effort on pedestrian or bicycle facilities. To DOT, the only
important thing is to move car traffic efficiently and
quickly Everything else takes a back seat, itself a bad pun.

Joe, I hear you, but that doesn't explain Estes Ext., which now has bike lanes on half (the recently re-paved half, from Seawell School to MLK/old Airport) only. Apparently their tune has changed somewhat.

I have another transportation issue on my mind (thanks, Ruby, for the open thread!): TTA

I made the unfortunate discovery that it's not only a much shorter commute, but an easier and cheaper one, to drive from Carrboro to Duke than deal with TTA. I live in Carrboro and take the bus or ride my bike to UNC during the school year, for work and school. This summer I'm working at Duke and intended to take TTA (the free-for-UNC-folks Roberson Scholars bus doesn't run in the summer). However, it was going to cost me $4/day and about an hour extra of travel time to take TTA (which would have included a lot of walking, too). Instead, I drive back on Whitfield and Erwin Roads, park on central campus to free, then take the free Duke bus over to Duke Chapel, near where I work--in 40 minutes instead of 75.

I would prefer to take the bus--and the big incentive for taking the bus to UNC is how much easier it is than driving--but TTA seems too long and too expensive.

Isn't a TTA monthly pass far less than $4/day? If you work or are a student at UNC, isn't a TTA pass $10/month??

I want to pay a complement to TTA. About a month ago, I
took a plane trip out of RDU on a Saturday and I decided to
try the TTA. I didn't have a lot of luggage, so I walked
up to the Ambulatory Care Center at Mason Farm and
South Columbia, caught the TTA bus to the RTP, changed
efficiently to the airport shuttle which took me to my terminal.
Total cost $2. The trip took 70 minutes.
The return trip was equally easy. To have someone drive me
would take (me) half the time, but the someone has to drive
back home. To park a car at RDU costs $5-8 per day and uses up the saved time. And, of course, cab fare is about $30 now each way.

Gerry, you might be right about passes for $10, but I didn't find that information on the TTA website, which says that monthly passes are $64 and can only be purchased at the transfer center in RTP.

Last year, I flew in from Washington and took the TTA bus to work in downtown Raleigh. Had to transfer at RTP.

from a year ago tomorrow:
July 27, 2004
TTA Kicks Off Three New Pass Programs
Research Triangle Park, N.C. - Riders on Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) buses and shuttles will soon have easier ways to purchase tickets and passes. Starting August 2:

UNC will begin selling monthly regional passes and semester passes to UNC employees, faculty and non-resident students at a price of $10 per month, or $45 per semester (5 months). UNC-affiliated vanpool riders will also begin receiving a $10 monthly subsidy. These programs have been made possible through a partnership with UNC's Department of Public Safety and UNC Memorial Hospital.

I find is useful in planning trips.

In order to get this out as quickly as possible, I am pasting in an invitation I sent out earlier tonight inviting folks to the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday morning for a briefing on the update of the campus master plan. I hope the OP community will attend.

I will be there and hope that you will introduce yourself; it would be great to meet those of you I only know "virtually".

My email address is

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

In his Sunday column in the Chapel Hill Herald, Chancellor Moeser invited the community to a briefing of the University's Board of Trustees on the campus master plan update and its implications for future growth of the University. I wanted to extend the invitation to you electronically so that you can share the meeting information readily with your friends, neighbors and community groups.

Luanne Greene, with Ayers/Saint/Gross, our campus plan consultants, will brief the Trustees this Thursday, July 28. The board convenes at 8 a.m. in the Chancellors' Ballroom at the Carolina Inn and the master plan update is the last item on the morning agenda.

This update follows a series of campus and community meetings in the spring to discuss the purpose and scope of the update and potential changes to the campus master plan. The presentation from those meetings is posted at

The presentation to the BOT on Thursday will continue the refinement of this work. After the briefing on Thursday, the PowerPoint slides will be posted at No action on the master plan or Carolina North is expected at Thursday's meeting

We know there is deep interest in the community regarding development issues on campus and hope that you will attend the meeting or take a look at the presentation afterwards. We encourage your feedback and expect to have another community meeting in the fall to continue our discussions on campus development.

Please share this information broadly. My apologies if you receive duplicate copies. As always, feel free to call or email me with questions or comments on our campus plans.



I have to drop my kids off at camp/daycare, but I would be interested in hearing this address. The email to you says that the master plan update is the last thing on the agenda, do you have any idea what time that would be?

I like the TTA too. Yesterday I bought the four dollar day pass. Went to Red Cross in Durham to donate platelets and too another bus back to campus. Later that day I went to Southpoint to see the new Star Wars deal and got back to Chapel Hill about 10:00 pm. Even If I owned a car the gas would have cost close to $4. The nicest part for me is that I like to space of and let some one else wig on the traffic. I'm happy to see a fairly decent ussage now days. In the past there'd be just a few people riding. Now I'd say it's normal to see ten, twelve people. We'll still have to breath the orange color ozone but it's an easy start.

I really don't know what time it will be. It's not unlike the Town Council meeting - you can't really guarantee what time something will be up.

But if I do get any clearer sense of the time, I will post it here so be sure to check back.

Good morning- it's great to see discussion of TTA bus services on this board. I'm happy to put on my TTA hat and address some of the questions and comments raised here.

Joan- you are right that getting directly into Duke's main campus from Chapel Hill-Carrboro could be easier. TTA often feels the tension between providing regional mobility (moving people from town to town, city to city over long distances) and providing local access (dropping people off at the most convenient walk point to major destinations), and the Duke campus is a great example.

TTA previously routed the 402/403 bus to turn off Research Drive and proceed one block into the Duke Campus to facilitate an easier walk to main campus buildings, trying to attract more main campus riders at Duke. We did not see a noticeable increase in ridership in that portion of the route, and through-travelers between Chapel Hill and Downtown Durham expressed frustration in a slower trip time resulting from the multiple turns off of Erwin Rd. We also experienced a degradation in On-Time Performance on those routes in the afternoon, particularly westbound towards Chapel Hill, because the dogleg down Research Drive required 4 left turns, 2 through the same signalilzed intersection. Thus, in spring 2005, we removed the Research Drive segment and moved the bus back to a straight run on Erwin Rd.

One of our most frequent requests at TTA has been to reduce travel times to major destinations. On August 8, we are rolling out two new rush hour services that will speed up longer trips across the region, including a Chapel Hill/Raleigh Express that will be 30 minutes faster than existing bus services between the two cities. Details here:

As for financial incentives to take the bus, thanks to Gerry for pointing out the existence of the UNC pass program, which is a great deal- reducing the monthly cost of a TTA Regional Bus Pass from $64 to $10 for employees and non-resident students. To obtain a pass, contact the UNC Commuter Alternatives Program (in the UNC Dept of Public Safety), which sells them on campus.

One non-financial incentive we implemented this year that has been quite successful is the Emergency Ride Home program, which provides registered participants (commuters who regularly ride the bus, vanpool, carpool, bike, or walk) with a reliable, emergency ride home on the day the person has used an alternative mode of transportation to get to work.

Finally, just two days ago, TTA received a letter from the Town of Carrboro requesting that TTA examine how it can improve regional access to and from Carrboro via bus. If you have any suggestions on this topic, you can send them to We're at the very beginning of looking into this question, so don't worry- there will be plenty of opportunity for public input in the upcoming months.

Has TTA considered running the Roberson Scholars bus route in the summer?

By introduction, I'm Monica Evans and I work in the Orange County Commissioners Office coordinating volunteer boards and commissions. For those of you who are interested in having a direct impact on local government, I invite you to apply to serve on one or more of Orange County's boards and commissions. Serving on boards and commissions is a great way to get involved with Orange County politics. Right now there are open positions on the Unified Transportation Advisory Board (OCUTAB). OCUTAB will advise the County Commissioners on major transportation issues; and provide recommendations to them regarding the overall planning and programming of transportation improvements in the County. Volunteers are needed from all County townships, plus pedestrian, bicycle and transit advocates.

Visit the Orange County website at for these and other volunteer opportunities.

Robert, to my knowledge, TTA has never been approached by the Robertson program about running the bus. (which is currently operated by Duke Transit)

On the surface, TTA and the Robertson service share one significant distinguishing characteristic: year-round service (TTA) versus academic-year only service. (Robertson)

I'm not sure to what degree the Robertson bus is used by non-students, which would probably be the primary indicator of demand for use of the bus in the summer, regardless of who operates it. Funding, of course, would be another issue.

Everyone I know who uses the Robertson bus talks about how convenient it is, and Duke Transit deserves credit for running this well-regarded service. That said, if the Robertson Scholars or Duke Transit thought that TTA's participation would somehow make a good thing even better, we'd certainly be glad to sit down and talk with them about it.

While we're at it, why don't we figure out a way to get a shuttle bus service between Streets at Southpoint and CH/Carrboro? Sure, you run the risk that some people will use it to do their shopping at the mall rather than with local merchants. On the other hand, people who are already parked and have seen everything there is to see at Southpoint might say "Let's hop on the bus and see what's happening in Chapel Hill and Carrboro". Where would you rather sit back and enjoy an expresso or have a light bite to eat, at the food court at Southpoint or in one of our great little establishments? And they don't have to worry about parking because they're already parked. A comfortable 20-min bus ride and they're here. And the money saved on parking can buy them their expresso. This would probably drive the Southpoint management crazy but what would they do? - put a 2 hr time-limit on parking? Sure it's risky, but according to most of the local merchants claim that they're already losing the game so why not take a few risks.

Patrick, thanks so much for your comments on TTA. I would also like to see TTA service into Carrboro, since it's not always convenient to through Chapel Hill to get to other places. I saw that the (new?) Hillsborough route goes up 86; if this is a popular route, maybe an additional route could go up old 86 through Carrboro to Hillsborough.

I'd love to see a TTA or Chapel Hill transit bus that went up and down Estes, perhaps from downtown Carrboro to the university mall (and maybe points beyond if it's TTA). I might be dreaming here, but I do think there are plenty of folks who could bypass downtown Chapel Hill.

As for the Robertson scholars bus and program, check here for info:

Anyone affiliated with UNC or Duke can hop on and ride for free from Morehead Planetarium to Duke Chapel; I don't know if they ever check ID cards (certainly I've never seen that at Duke, and it sounds like it's the same drivers).

Thanks to all for the info on the bus pass.

I've had some inquiries as to what time the master plan briefing will start tomorrow. I can't say for sure, but it is unlikely to begin much before 9. Beyond that, I have no way of predicting.

Hope to see some of you there.

I rode the Robertson Scholars' bus for EE classes at Duke
for three semesters, three times per week in the middle
of the day. It was great! Straight shot from Morehead
Planeterium to the Duke Chapel in 22 minutes, every 30 minutes,
generous hours into the night. No one checks IDs, but it is
obviously students, faculty and staff of both schools. Typically
the buses had about 10 riders, but I didn't ride it during
peak hours. On weekends, it runs every hour. One of the
directors of the scholars program said that the operating
expenses of the bus run about 330K per year, paid by the
Robertson grant. It's a happy bus, where lots of people
know each other.

I would hesitate to have TTA run it if that meant that other
stops would be inserted in the route, thereby slowing it down
for the bulk of the riders. It's not designed as a regional
bus, it has a specific task, to efficiently link the two
campuses so that the scholars have a quick shot back and forth. I wish there were a similar bus between UNC and NCSU.

Paradoxically, it would have
been cheaper for the Robertson family to have bought a
car for each of the scholars than to run the bus. Of course
that would mean parking issues, so no one is serious
about that.


Thursday, August 4th from 7 – 9:30 p.m.
The United Church of Chapel Hill
1321 Martin Luther King., Jr. Blvd.
(NC-86/Historic Airport Rd.)

*A screening of Bill Moyers' historic address on the threat posed to public broadcasting by the Bush administration at the National Conference for Media Reform
*A discussion panel featuring Congressman David Price and Jim Goodmon, president and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting and national board member of Common Cause
*Q+A, comments, calls to action.

Event sponsored by the Committee to Defend Public Broadcasting. Co-sponsors: Common Cause North Carolina, the Independent Weekly, Balance and Accuracy in Journalism, the People's Channel, Orange County Democratic Party, Orange County Democratic Women, UNC Young Democrats

For more details or directions, contact Pete MacDowell @ 968-9184



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