One less excuse not to use TTA

I got to watch the Simpsons last night!

On the rare occasions when I can go straight home after work I like to watch the Simpsons, which is on from 6-7 PM every week night.

But in the past the earliest bus I could get from Raleigh to Chapel Hill when I finished work was at 5:40. By the time the bus got to downtown Chapel Hill and I walked to my apartment it was usually 6:50. No Simpsons for me.

Well TTA has now added two extra routes in the morning and afternoon to give folks who work in Raleigh and live in Orange County more flexibility with their daily schedules.

The bus already left at 6, 7, and 8 AM. There are now 7:30 and 8:30 departures as well.

The old afternoon routes set off from Moore Square in downtown Raleigh at 4:30, 5:40, and 6:40. The new times are 4:40, 5:10, 5:40, 6:10, and 6:50.

What does this mean for me? Took the 5:10 bus home last night, walked in at 6:15 and got 45 minutes of Simpsons watching in!

What does this mean for you? If you work in downtown Raleigh or at State and don't take the bus because it's not convenient, it's really hard to claim that now unless you have meetings you need to drive to during the day.

The new Chapel Hill to Raleigh schedule is here. If any Wake County folks who work in Orange County happen to be reading this, you have expanded flexibility now too. Schedule here.

Patrick McDonough who posts here and works for TTA had a lot to do with these changes, so thank you to him. Our two TTA board reps, Chair Alice Gordon and Treasurer Bill Strom, have been pretty big advocates for these express routes too.

I think I've only driven to work three times in the past eight months. Using TTA really is comfortable, convenient, and a lot less stressful than driving 70 miles on 40 every day. I hope this expanded service gives some folks the impetus to, as TTA says, 'dump the pump.'


I'm driving, at the moment, because, well, it takes 3 hours otherwise.

Thanks Patrick, I know this was a long time coming. Bill said that "fare free" TTA was in the air. Any idea how real that option might be?

This is great news. When I used to work in downtown Raleigh 10 years ago, the buses were hourly at most and we had to change in RTP making the trip a minimum of 90 minutes each way.

Thanks for the tip Tom.


Kirk, Bill S. had a bit more information he presented during the last Council meeting on the new schedule and fare free.

Tom, thanks for the kind words. There are MANY people who helped make this happen, from all parts of the authority.

Will, as to fare-free, Bill Strom did ask staff to look into it at the June 27 TTA Board meeting. We're at the very beginning of that discussion, so there's nothing to report right now.

The changes TTA is making this summer reflect a good deal of the customer input we received last fall. People are interested in faster travel times and more direct routes. The expansion of the express schedule follows this theme.

Another service that started Monday is a new midday route (303) connecting Downtown Cary, NCSU, and Raleigh. This has been a high-priority request from customers for some time. The route the 303 takes is more direct than the path that the rush hour 301 takes between Raleigh and Cary. Again, the directness theme.

A subtle change in our midday service between Raleigh and RTP sends bus 105 to the District Rd Park-and-Ride lot. This is meaningful to people who work in Chapel Hill because now park-and-ride customers can get back to their car during the middle of the day without having to walk across the Blue Ridge Rd bridge over I-40.

Finally, in August, night services (after 7:20 pm) will change significantly throughout the region. There will be no more transfers at RTP to go to Raleigh from either Chapel Hill or Durham. Instead, there will be routes that are more direct, but not as fast as the rush hour express routes.

Let's say Tom decides to pass on the Simpsons on a Friday night and join friends in downtown Raleigh for dinner after work. He'll still be able to catch a bus that takes him from downtown Raleigh to downtown Chapel Hill without a transfer up until 9 pm or so. Evening trips between Chapel Hill and Durham will also be faster.

Maybe this will be a catalyst for rebalancing the routes closer to home?

Patrick, will there ever be a way to get from Chapel Hill
to NCSU's Centennial campus
efficiently, both during rush hour and in the middle of
the day. Here's why I ask: I need to go to the EE department
at NCSU periodically, for various classes. But since they
moved the engineering school out to centennial campus,
it's difficult.
I actually took the bus there once -- with a change at
RTP, then a change at Hill Library to get on the WolfLine,
it was so inefficient that I abandoned my plans.

Of course what I'm looking for is the UNC-NCSU equivalent
of the UNC-Duke Robertson bus, a straight shot with no
stops between the campuses, and I can understand
that this wish is unrealistic. However I understand that
the university libraries shuttle books around daily using
vans. Is there any way that TTA could collaborate with
the libraries?

Finally, there is a lesson here for Carolina North.
Expecting someone to bus first to the main UNC campus
and then change to another bus to get to CN is just
not realistic. TTA will have to serve both UNC-CH
campuses efficiently.

Now if there was only a way to get from where I live (near Starpoint) to where I work (near DUMC) that didn't take 3 hours one way, including walking time to the nearest bus stop.

UNC has made TTA free for commuters, at least that is what I have heard. I'm a CHT/walking commuter myself, so I have only taken TTA to the airport.

Are you taking the commuter lot bus to Franklin Street then catching the Robertson bus to Duke Chapel? I wonder if there aren't enough people going to DUMC and University to create a TTA Vanpool?

About free Robert. UNC students, staff, and Hospital staff can get a TTA pass for $10 per month. That pass will also get some one onto Durham's DATA busses or Raliegh's CAT busses for free. What with the price of gas it might as well be free. Carolina dining staff have to pay the full price.

In regards to the Robertson Scholars bus: it's great when it's running and terrible when it's not, like during the summer and when classes aren't in session. I'd love to see TTA work to run this route when the Robertson Scholars fund isn't. Of course, formally the Robertsons bus is only for Duke and UNC affiliates (they never ask for ID but it is a requirement, technically), so it'd be tough for a non-Duke or UNC person to count on this bus and then not be able to get on it.

I'm not sure that it would be a good idea for the TTA to take over
the Robertson bus, either for only the summer or for all
12 months of the year. The TTA would likely want to make
stops at various points along the route, e.g., the shopping
centers, and this would increase the time for the riders,
especially the Robertson scholars, who
want a direct, time-minimized Duke-UNC ride.

A few years ago, CH Transit experimented with the F bus
route by inserting a side trip to the library along its primary
route from NE Chapel Hill along Franklin
Street to the campus.
To satisfy a few people who wanted to go to
the library, the bulk of the passengers on the bus whose
destination was the UNC campus were all penalized.
It must be tricky to figure out the tradeoffs among the

Joe, thank you for your 2 questions/comments above. They accurately portray two sides of the same issue that comes up over and over again in bus route planning.

The issue is this: "Do we make some deviations along our route to provide access to more destinations, or serve fewer destinations to keep travel times faster by being more direct?"

In your first question, about Centennial Campus, your ideal situation would be to have the Chapel Hill to Raleigh express deviate a bit from its current route to serve Centennial Campus. (the bus currently serves NCSU main campus on Hillsborough St, but not Centennial)

If TTA made this adjustment, we would serve you better for your occasional trip. However, those traveling to Downtown Raleigh would certainly get a longer trip.

In the second instance, on 15-501, you raise the concern of wanting to move as directly as possible between UNC and Duke, without stopping at shopping centers because that would slow down trip times.

As you can see, whether or not to be more direct or serve more destinations can change depending on where you are trying to go. The question is, which approach provides the biggest benefit to the largest number of citizens?

This tension is present at all times in route planning. Recent feedback to TTA has suggested that the public is more interested in faster travel times and direct routes than serving more destinations. The express routes have been very successful in a short amount of time.

Let me share one more anecdote from a few years back. The 412/413 TTA route from Chapel Hill to RTP used to loop through the Falconbridge neighborhood behind the BP station off of NC 54 on its way to and from campus. TTA sent the route into the neighborhood because of requests for service there, and the idea that there were a lot of UNC employees who did not have local access to Chapel Hill Transit. The experiment did not work out. Very few people boarded in Falconbridge, maybe 2 to 5 per day, but EVERYONE riding between RTP and Chapel Hill had 7-9 minutes added to their trip.

When TTA eliminated the Falconbridge loop in 2003 or 2004, the daily ridership in the RTP-UNC hospital was about 360 people a day. One month later, the ridership was about 385 people a day. Two months later, 400. Four months later, about 430 people per day. In short, by saving those riders the 7-9 minutes of travel time each way through Falconbridge, TTA picked up almost 90 more passengers a day by eliminating a deviation from an otherwise straight-line path.

For the time being, I think a Chapel Hill to Centennial direct trip is unlikely. However, during rush hours, a TTA Express to Wolfline connection can be done in 1 hour and 19 minutes.

I was at the Chapel Hill Public Library yesterday and saw the M shuttle there,
the eventual compromise was to serve the library from the M shuttle Crest Dr to University Mall route, people can still get to the library, if they are not on that direct route they can transfer at any of the routes serving University Mall or anywhere along Franklin Street west of Estes drive. A smaller bus is used on the M shuttle.


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