Car Free Day, 9/22

On Friday, September 22, residents of Carrboro and Chapel Hill will for the third straight year join millions of others around the world in celebrating World Car Free Day, leaving their cars at home and using other means of transportation instead.

Residents of Orange County who formally pledge to go Car Free or at least Car Lite (reduced car use) for September 22 will be entered into a drawing for prizes that include Amtrak tickets to Washington, DC & New York, a new bicycle, gift certificates for Squid's, Spanky's or 411 West, and more. Anyone can pledge on-line at; pledge forms that can be mailed will also be available in the Chapel Hill News and Chapel Hill Herald over the next three weeks.

Prizes will be drawn at a Car Free Day celebration to be held on the lawn of Weaver Street Market from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on Friday, September 22. Celebrants will find information about public transportation, local biking and walking opportunities, and how to create communities that are less dependent on cars. The Village Project will show their designs and models for transit-oriented, walkable communities on the lawn, and Chapel Hill Transit will demonstrate how to load bikes and wheelchairs onto buses at the Fitch Lumber parking lot (309 North Greensboro St.).

Additional activities will take place at the Carrboro Music Festival the afternoon of Sunday, September 24. The ReCYCLEry will show their new Blue Urban Bikes and will have a free bike tuneup clinic in the parking lot of the The Clean Machine (104 West Main St.) from 2 to 4 pm. Volunteers will also be on-hand at the downtown shuttle dropoff (Town Hall) to help Festivalgoers figure out how they can replace decrease car trips and increase walking, biking, carpooling, telecommmuting, and bus use.

Car Free Day 2006 is presented by Students United for a Responsible Global Environment (SURGE), the ReCYCLEry, and The Village Project, a local non-profit that promotes walkable communities. Additional event sponsors include the Community Action Network (CAN), Chapel Hill Herald, Chapel Hill News, Open Eye Café, Weaver Street Market, and Chapel Hill Restaurant Group.

The goal of Car Free day is to demonstrate that it is possible, fun, and healthy get around without using cars. “As our fare-free local transit system improves and the network of bikeways and sidewalks grows, getting around without driving is becoming easier. Rising gas prices and the dangers of climate change have also increased incentives to find alternatives to driving,” says Car Free Day coordinator Sarah Bruce.

Each of the past two years, more than 1,000 people in our area pledged to go Car Free or Car Lite on September 22. Thousands more throughout the Triangle have also taken the Triangle Transit Authority's Smart Commute Challenge , August 15 through September 30, demonstrating that they can get to work easily, comfortably and cheaply using public transit, carpools, and other automobile alternatives.



Carrboro - Chapel Hill Transit Forum

Thursday September 21
7:00 p.m.
Carrboro Century Center

Send transit comments & questions to:
or call us at 918-7311.

Meet representatives from
Chapel Hill Transit

Dale McKeel
Transportation Planner
Town of Carrboro
301 W. Main Street
Carrboro, NC 27510

Thanks for posting this, Ellen. I hear a lot from folks wanting improvements or increases in bus service. This forum is where ideas and suggestions start working their way through the pipeline. Those interested are very much urged to attend.

I commented on OP last year about the need for increased transit service and the fact that a small increase in the property taxes assigned to transit could give us a reasonable boost in service. At that time I think I calculated that transit service could be increased by about 10% if the CH tax rate was increased by an ammount that would result in a $20-30 increase on a $6,000 tax bill. This 10% increase in service assumes that Carrboro and UNC would also increase their contributions to CHT proportionately.

If people want increased service they need to lobby their elected officials, not CHT, for such increases. CHT can't increase service without increases in its budget. Furthermore, it can't increase service during the day without additional equipment (buses) since the use of the current equipment is maxed out. At last night's CH Town Council meeting councilmember Kleinschmidt mentioned having to wait for 2-3 buses going southbound on MLK in the morning because the earlier buses were filled. We have a great transit system but, like schools, there comes a point when you can't squeeze any more out of them without spending some more money.

Unfortunately, the CHT transit forums don't usually get much of a turnout and even more unfortunate, they rarely have elected officials in attendance. If we really want to increase density in our transit-friendly community we are going to have to figure out how to expand transit to bring in those potential riders (the 85-90% of non-UNC associated) who aren't using it now because it isn't convenient enough.

George, last Fall there was some talk about rebalancing the schedules - was that defer ed until the new bus tracking system came online? There's definitely capacity issues on some of the lines (I've seen it like Mark has) but, in the short term, it seems like route rationalization would be a good 1st step. Now that the ridership has bought in, it would be a shame to lose them because of the capacity issues we're having on some routes.

We moved the forum much earlier in the cycle this year, from February 16 last fiscal year to September 21 this year. This is precisely so that we have more time to be responsive to ideas like George's and to fully consider the budgetary implications and benefits of proposed changes.


I can't comment specifically on whether the routes have been reconfigured since those changes. However, in the past it has been CHT's policy to routinely track ridership on each route and if a route routinely falls below a certain level of service to consider changing it. You must keep in mind though that what is sometimes perceived as low ridership is often a function of where the bus is on its route. Many of the buses run fairly empty until they get in closer to town where more and more students are getting on (and yes Wayne P, this is a good argument for people walking more but I'll let you fight that battle).

CHT tries to be careful about eliminating or downsizing a route too quickly. After all, if you are encouraging people to leave their cars in the driveway and to take the bus and then 6 months later you pull the plug on them it tends to put them off on the idea of using transit. And the people we should encourage the most are the people who don't HAVE to use transit (because they have no parking space on campus) but the people who can electively decide whether to drive downtown or not.

If UNC is serious about public transit, why don't they increase the indirect rate for NIH grants by 1% and dedicate that money to public transit? The current indirect rate is much lower than places like U.Michigan, Harvard, Yale, Duke, Cal-everywhere. The places we are competing with for faculty and students. The current funding from NIH alone is $300 Million. Total external grants are $593 million.

The state/town/campus could really do something special with contributions from each.


UNC can't unilaterally set it's NIH indirect cost rate. It has to come up with justified costs based on traditional auditing methods, determine a rate to cover those costs, and then present them to NIH for approval. The things that are allowed to be included in indirect costs calculations are very specific and I'm sure that bus service isn't one of them. And NIH has really cracked down over the last several years as to how costs are being allocated (if only the government was so fastidious with the accounting principles used by some major corporations). I can't say for sure why UNC's indirect rate is lower than some of the institutions you named but I strongly suspect that their allowed rate is adjusted for the support the University receives from the State. Most of the institutions you named are private and thus don't receive any such support. I actually think the lower rate helps UNC since it can offer to perform similar work at a lower total cost (direct + indirect). Although reviewers aren't supposed to consider such things in vetting the science, I'm not sure that program officers don't look to get the most bang for their buck.

Thanks GeorgeC. BTW, I noticed that there's two vacancies on the Transportation Board if anyone is interested....

More info here.


In case you're wondering how I came up with my calculation as to how we might finance increased CHT service it is below (based on last year figures):

Current contribution to CHT:
CH (taxes): $2,583,000 21%
UNC: 4,674,000 38%
Carrboro: 861,000 7%
sub-total: $8,118,000
add another $4,200,000 in federal & state monies, etc.
total: $12,318,000

CH's contribution of $2,583,000 from taxes is 9.7% of what it collects in property taxes ($2,583,000 / 26,631,000). If we increased the transportation tax portion of property taxes by 10% we would increase the total property tax bill by 0.1 X 9.7% = 0.97%. Since CH taxes amount to roughly 1/3 of a citizen's total tax bill (county taxes & school taxes comprising the other 2/3) this increase would amount to about a 1/3 of one-percent increase in CH property taxes. Thus, on a $3000 property tax bill the increase would amount to about $9.60.

Now, if all the transit partners increased their contributions by 10% as well, we would realize:
CH: $258,000
UNC: 467,000
Carrboro: 86,000
$811,000 new funds

This $811,000 would buy us an additional 14,000 hours of service. On existing routes we could add 4 hr/day for 12 routes for 6 days/week for 50 weeks. Or a number of different scenarios. But remember, you could only increase service on nights & weekends unless you spring for additional buses for use during the day when equipment is currently maxed out.

A %1 solution?


You got it!! The question is: how many times would someone have to take the bus downtown at night or on the weekend to recuperate their investment in added taxes (let's put that at $20) in saved expenses for parking & gasoline & wear/tear on their car. And don't forget, this would be per residence so a family with multiple drivers would only have to make a few trips to recover their costs.

well people with disabilities and the elderly that dont drive or cant drive need access to events after6pmon weekends nothing runs but taxicabs arent a solution because they dont have a lift on any of their cabs ive ask.and god forbid us getting sick and cant find a friend to take us to the doc on sat night .i just have to suck it up and dont go until monday morning its very very difficult to get any one in a wheelchair around without the buses i cant go to the movies at night.


The reasons you mention are some of the most compelling reasons we need increased bus service on nights and weekends - because public transit shouldn't be a half-day operation. In addition to the reasons you list I think it would also make good business sense. It would allow people to come downtown in the evening or on Saturday without worrying about where they will park or how much time is left on the meter. It will also give our college students a safe way to get home after a night of partying without endangering themselves or others. This is really a case of building for our future and we have the opportunity at this time to shape the future we want.

Sad that all the comments on this OP post are about bus service - replacing one form of fossil-fueled motorised transportation with another. The dubious environmental economics of this strategy have already been critiqued on this site and I won't repeat it. I hope tomorrow that folks will spend time thinking less about buses than about what they can do to mitigate the development and infrastucture mistakes of the last fifty years or so. For a visual reminder of how difficult our infrastructure makes it to go car-free, look at this aerial view of the University Mall area - more parking lot than (mostly one-storey) building:,+nc&ie=UTF8&om=1&z=1...

Look at the empty space between the buildings and picture in your mind walking from the Mall to, say, the Post Office: the unchanging view, the traffic, the blank patches of hot asphalt, the absence of urban resource, of other walkers, of any kind of pleasure in the journey. There are nine parking spaces for every car in the US, and untold amounts of wastefully-designed road surfaces, mostly in our towns. Prius schmius! If our cars ran on air we would still have to deal with the negative environmental and social effects of this vast amount of paving. We can do better. Forget about the transportation board: why should we need to be transported all the darn time? Get on the planning board if you want to work for a more walkable bikeable future.

james its because the transit forum is tonight

James, I couldn't agree more that smart land use is the key to getting people out of their cars. (And I did join the Planning Board, for just that reason.)

I'd like to encourage people to think about where they go and whether those places and the roads around them feel as if they were designed for cars or for people. Then think about how we can ensure that new development - and critically, RE-development - puts people first.

By the way, I just got this e-mail from Chapel Hill's Town Information Officer:

Many Town of Chapel Hill employees, including Town Manager Roger Stancil, will leave their cars at home on International Car Free Day this Friday, Sept. 22. Mr. Stancil encourages employees to join him in exploring new ways to commute to work. He plans to take a 7:40 a.m. Chapel Hill Transit NS bus from Southern Village to the corner of Columbia and Rosemary streets and walk to Town Hall at about 8 a.m. Several Town department heads are expected to join him for the ride and walk to work.

How quaint. But seriously, I guess a gesture is better than nothing.

I didn't get a chance to attend the RAM Development concept plan presentation on Monday but I had looked at their current design.

One (of a few) concerns I had with their current design was a lack of an integrated approach to walk-ability/bike-ability. There are a few relatively easy layout choices RAM could make to encourage folks to walk downtown instead of drive.

That said, we're still increasing traffic. The target demographic, young professionals working in RTP, will be driving on Hillsborough. Grocery, hardware, etc. shopping, I imagine, will create more traffic. From what I understand, the folks living there now are not much different than the folks I knew living there 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years ago. Because these apartments have stayed relatively inexpensive, they attract students that are more likely to walk to either save money on gas or because they don't have a car, than "young professionals" that jet off to work, to eat out, etc.

I use the various bus routes servicing this area, many heavily utilized, but I rarely see anyone with groceries or hard goods. It'd be interesting to find out why folks currently living in that corridor (there's quite a few just to the north of Hillsborough St.) don't avail themselves of the relatively easy access to the stores at Chapel Hill North. I know why I don't - I wonder if my reasons are very common?

Planning a decent transit strategy coupled with a design encouraging walk-ability would seem to be the only way RAM will be able to "fix" the traffic problem.

yes i agree and until we do this we will be in this same fix and fix the sidewalks up on west franklin

the transportation board and the planning board tie together

i heard that they were going to get 15 new low floor buses3 of which run on something besides desil

In other towns, they may walk the walk. Carrboro staff skate the walk!


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