This Week in Orange Politics: November 17-23

The focus will be regional this week, with all four of the county’s elected boards meeting together Wednesday to discuss affordable housing, the use of sales tax revenue for economic development, solid waste and the rural buffer. Triangle Transit will also be hosting workshops in Durham and Chapel Hill to get feedback on the current phase of the light rail project.

Several elected bodies will also be having their own meetings. The Carrboro Alderfolks will follow up on the town’s recent community police forum, while the Chapel Hill Town Council will tackle the Edge development proposed on Eubanks Road and the county commissioners discuss parks and rec.

Here’s the full summary:


  • Wednesday, November 19th, 7pm @ the Whitted Building
    • The governments will talk about use of the quarter cent sales tax for economic development
    • The governments will discuss affordable housing
    • The governments will get an an update from the Solid Waste Advisory Group
    • The governments will review the agricultural support enterprises proposed for the rural buffer



  • Public Hearing: Monday, November 17th, 7pm @ Chapel Hill Town Hall
    • The Council will open a public hearing on the proposed Edge development on Eubanks Road next to the Park & Ride Lot,
    • The Council public hearing on proposed modifications to University Presbyterian Church in downtown
    • Council will also review a concept plan for a Montessori School expansion on Pope Road


  • Closed Session: Thursday, November 20th @ Lincoln Center
    • The Board will meet in closed session on Thursday. The Board’s next open meeting will be December 4th.


  • There are no meetings this week. The next meeting is a work session on Nov. 24th.



  • There are no meetings this week. The next meeting is on Nov. 24th.


  • Durham-Orange Light Rail Workshops
    • Tuesday, Nov. 18th 11 am to 2 pm (Durham Station Transportation Center, 517 W. Pettigrew St.)
    • Tuesday, Nov. 18th 4 pm to 7 pm (UNC Friday Center, 100 Friday Center Dr, Chapel Hill)
    • Wednesday, Nov. 19th 4 pm to 7 pm (Marriott/Spring Hill Suites, 5301 McFarland Road at Patterson Place, Durham)
    • Thursday, Nov. 20th 4 pm to 7 pm (Hayti Heritage Center, 804 Old Fayetteville Street, Durham)



Slight correction -- the CHCCS interview of applicants for the open position on the board is an open meeting on 11/24.  I'm not aware of any regular business for that meeting.

They're under "Miscellaneous" in the list, but they're anything but random.

I hope folks will attend the Friday Center workshop today, a walk-through anytime from 4 to 7.

If for some reason, you'd like to be completely legal about parking there, here's a link for a visitor pass for today:

(I don't know if I was supposed to distribute that, and I don't care). 

With the fee system instituted at UNC's park and ride on Friday Drive, the Friday Center lot itself is under pressure. So there's a daily permit system of visitor passes. Having said that, it's the huge number of UNC staff and students who take express bus from the Friday Center park&ride lot to the campus that justifies conversion of NC 54 from "bus-mixed traffic' to "light rail" -- carrying several times (say, 4 times) as many people per trip as a bus with the same single operator. Personnel costs dominate the operating costs of transit systems.  

Calculating the cost of transit without including the cost of constructing the facilities, amortized over time, as well as operating costs is a false comparison.

Busses are by far more flexible than rail allowing for capacity to be added, deleted or redeployed in a much more efficent manner. A fixed route/guideway for busses (ala BRT) would combine the best of both and the technology improvements of driverless vehicles promises to make the point about operating costs moot.

The alternatives analysis of the Durham-Orange corridor did include the capital costs and the long-term operating and maintenance costs of the various transit modes that were under consideration, including BRT.


The comparison was to covering the same area with busses, to which BRT compared favorably. The comparison was not what 1.4 Billion (or just the tax increase) could do to the transit picture if it was spent on things other than a 12 mile LRT route. A route that serves a small number of well-off people, bypassing the existing shopping density and cuts a new swath through a watershed. 

All of the discussion around Ephesus-Fordham and Obey Creek development density and the proposed LRT is miles away. Seems to me like there are some major planning disconnects.

Meanwhile CHT is being starved for new busses, park and ride now costs money and TTA is wasting tax money on studies and business cases that are unlikely to yield and federal or state dollars when one looks at the competition. 

Makes no sense to me.

The purpose of the Durham-Orange LRT project is to serve what is now and will continue to be the most heavily traveled commuter corridor in the region. It is not intended to address all public transportation needs in our community. The fact that Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and all of Orange County have other public transportation needs does not diminish the importance of implementing transit service to address the Durham-Chapel Hill corridor. And when it comes to cost, as the alternatives analysis indicated, LRT will have a lower long-term per-passenger cost, despite having a higher initial capital cost, than BRT or other service designed to achieve the same goals.

You need to get out more. The highway 54 through the New Hope watershed is not "the most heavily traveled commutor corridor in the region" by a long shot (even during a UNC/Duke basketball tournament). Where did that misinformation come from, the TTA? 

There are places in the region where density and congestion are orders of magnitude higher.

A short examination of historical LRT budget and ridership mis-estimates will give even tha casual reader pause, and is likely the reason the FTA and GAO both prefer to fund BRT for projects of this size.

The study also shows that there is no long term advantage to LRT in terms of cost especially when density is taken into account.

"We also heard from stakeholders and project sponsors that operating costs for BRT and rail transit depend strongly on the density and ridership in the corridor." 

The point remains there are limited funds for transit. Proposing a 1.4 billion spend for a very short fixed route through a low density area is a waste and unlikely to attract the federal and state funds needed to complete it. The TTA is wasting tax money that can be better used elsewhere.


A quick note: Last year I recall the estimate was for 1.4 Billion. Now it is 1.8 Billion. Hold on to your wallets folks.

The Durham-Orange corridor (shown below), which consists of more than just NC 54, has greater travel intensity than other areas in the region, in terms of car trips per square mile and other variables. More information about travel demand and other topics is provided in the Purpose and Need Report for the alternatives analysis. (This image is from Figure 1-2 in the report.)

Durham-Orange Corridor Study Area

I don't understand how you can include the 54 and 40 intersection in this corridor and then plan a route which will do nothing to impact that intersection, which is the worst in the area.  If you're going to measure based on cars, those there need to be excluded from the calculation, because I can't imagine there are any people travelling through that intersection who can reasonably use the LRT route proposed -- they aren't travelling to downtown Durham that way.

James: Regional planners identified 18 transportation corridors in the Triangle region that, on the basis of travel demand and land use data, "represent the most heavily traveled and congested routes serving our most intensely developed activity centers as well as areas emerging as new high-activity places" (STAC report, p. 25). More information about the corridors is available in Appendix C of the report.

One of those 18 corridors connects Durham and Chapel Hill. The purpose of the LRT project is to address travel demand along that corridor (not congestion at a particular intersection that may fall within the corridor study area). The corridor "roughly follows an alignment that begins at NC 55 (Alston Avenue), parallels NC 147 through downtown Durham, turns west to Duke University campus, then parallels 15‐501 to I‐40, extending west to UNC Hospitals. [The corridor] boundaries were delineated to include the 15‐501 and NC 54 corridors as well as the existing rail corridor within downtown Durham for data collection and analysis purposes" (Purpose and Need Report, p. 1-1). A discussion of travel demand in the corridor appears in section 2.4 of the report.

There is a lot of information out there--only a click away at help answer questions about why a fixed-guideway transit service was selected as the preferred alternative for the Durham-Orange corridor. In particular, I recommend the STAC report (and appendices), the Purpose and Need Report, and the Alternatives Analysis Final Report. Enjoy!

understand how they missed 15-501 in Chapel Hill. Hasn’t anyone at TTA talked to the planning staff in either Orange County or Chapel hill? BRT up 15-501 would be a much better choice and provide a guideway/right of way if and when the density ever justified LRT.

.......misuse of the term "region" if there ever was one. Very funny! I bet if you included Churton Street in Hillsborough you could make a case for LRT there too! HA!

The image above shows the corridor study area. The region I referred to is the entire Triangle region, as shown below.

So, you are saying that the study you linked above asserts that the "Durham-Orange corridor" is now the "the most heavily traveled commuter corridor in the region" ? Where does it say that? 

Have you ever even sat in traffic on I-40 by the airport?

I am not arguing that money shouldn't be spent on transit just not 1.4 (now 1.8) billion dollars on a 17 mile light rail in a carefully selected "study area" in a "region" the might become the most heavily traveled in 20 years because TTA says so.

... for you to respond Damon. Whre is that present tense "is now and will continue to be" statement?


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