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April 2012

  • CAT Needs Half Cent Tax to Update Routes to be Functional

    April 30, 2012


    RALEIGH -- As ridership continues its steady climb, Capital Area Transit plans to add more buses on popular routes, reduce or eliminate little-used routes and expand weekend and holiday service.

    Some of the immediate tweaks are possible in the current CAT budget. But delivering wholesale upgrades, local officials say, depends on passage of a half-cent sales tax for transit. Wake County commissioners are weighing whether to hold a referendum, possibly as early as November.

    “We’re crippled without the half-cent sales tax,” said City Councilman Bonner Gaylord.

    “Until that passes, we’ll be limping along with whatever efforts we’re able to make… It’s taking things and shuffling them around.”

    CAT officials say their short-term plan lays out a guide for the next three to five years, aimed largely at reacting to areas and times of greatest demand.

    “We’re trying to take our existing resources and apply them where they can be most productive,” said David Eatman, the city’s transit administrator.

    This year, ridership on CAT buses is expected to reach 6.45 million, up from 5.83 million in 2011, and more than double the amount from 2003, according to agency figures.

    An open house last week at the Wilmoore Cafe on Wilmington Street gave transit riders an early glimpse of changes to the bus system. Visitors gazed at big posters filled with maps and charts. Many nibbled onfree cookies and crackers provided by the cafe, which sits next to the Moore Square Transit Center.

    Orneze Moore took a long look at plans for the No. 6 bus. The route takes Moore from his Crabtree-area home to downtown, where he boards another bus toward his office on Capital Boulevard.

    Sometimes, Moore, 47, has to work on Sundays and must make a longer walk to a weekend route farther from his home.

    “If you know anything about Glenwood, there are two big hills,” he said. “I’m kind of used to it, but there are those days when you’re kind of tired.”

    For Moore, the changes added up to a mixed result. CAT does plan to introduce Sunday service on the No. 6 bus, but not until 2014.

    A half-cent sales tax would go toward what Wake County Manager David Cooke refers to as a “core” transit package with bolstered bus service and new rush-hour commuter trains.

    The plan calls for bus service to be nearly doubled in the first five years, and for commuter trains to start rolling within eight years.

    Additions, some cuts

    Short-term fixes are no longer sufficient, said Karen Rindge, executive director of WakeUP Wake County, an advocacy group pushing for more transit options.

    “The reality is, our bus system simply doesn’t have enough resources,” Rindge said.

    As part of the adjustments, CAT would cancel low-performing routes such as Saturday service on the 16 Oberlin past Crabtree Valley Mall. The 13 Chavis Heights route would be replaced by a rerouted 22 State Street line.

    “It’s very difficult,” Eatman said, “for us to sit back and look at some of our services in the late evening hours that aren’t all that productive when we have afternoon services that are very productive.”

    Eatman said he expects to hear complaints as people become aware of route changes, particularly cuts in service. He called it a tradeoff intended to serve riders in high-demand areas.

    “The positives for those it will assist far outweigh those it will impact negatively,” he said.

    Read more here.



  • Bus Ridership Flexes with Gas Prices

    April 29, 2012


    Tags: Triangle Transit | bus | Durham | Raleigh | Chapel Hill Transit | DATA | CAT

    ON INTERSTATE 40 -- Public transit ridership numbers are rising across the Triangle, and some of the reasons can be found each weekday on the rush-hour express from Durham to Raleigh.

    “The buses are very reliable, so why drive back and forth?” Kathleen Brown, 62, an N.C. State University library administrator, said Friday morning. Brown started riding the bright green Triangle Transit bus more than a year ago.

    “I used to put 25,000 miles a year on my car. Now I’ve had a car two years, and I’m not even up to 20,000. It’s really made a huge difference, saving on gas and wear and tear,” Brown said, looking up from a magazine. “And it’s much more relaxing.”

    The growing popularity of its Durham-Raleigh Express (DRX) prompted Triangle Transit to add more buses to the route in February. DRX helped make March the busiest month on record for the three-county transit agency. Triangle Transit counted nearly 142,000 riders, a 14 percent increase compared to March 2011.

    “The gains we’ve made in the last four years are a clear indication that Triangle residents are embracing transit as a commuting option,” David King, Triangle Transit’s general manager, told his trustees at a meeting this week.

    The bigger city transit agencies in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill also report steady growth. Raleigh’s Capital Area Transit (CAT) and the Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA) logged more than 543,000 riders apiece in March and registered one-year gains of 7 and 9 percent, respectively.

    Budget constraints last year forced Chapel Hill Transit to cut bus miles and hours by 8 percent. But its fare-free buses are packed with more passengers on each trip this year – enough to register a 2 percent ridership increase in February.

    In recent years transit agencies have seen rider counts surge every time the price of gasoline spikes. But when pump prices subside, bus ridership numbers tend to fall back only a little. The Triangle average price for regular gas was $3.80 a gallon Friday, down 11 cents from its recent peak in early April.

    “When gasoline starts pushing $4 a gallon, we see more people making the switch” to transit, said Steven Spade, Chapel Hill Transit director. “And I don’t think it’s a temporary switch. These folks appear to be here for the long haul.”

    The DRX bus makes five runs each workday morning, in each direction, between Durham and Raleigh. Like Triangle Transit’s similar CRX route between Raleigh and Chapel Hill, the DRX frequently is crowded with commuters and university students.

    Transit patrons across the region are beginning to make use of real-time bus arrival info they can receive in on their tablets and smart phones. And they have come to take free Wi-Fi service for granted.

    “The bus is relaxing, and I think it’s great,” said John Kirby, 49, who commutes from Durham to the state Department of Transportation headquarters in downtown Raleigh.

    “You know, I-40 is getting more and more crowded. I’m safer being on this bus than driving ’40.”

    Kirby doesn’t pay for his ride. State government agencies and the region’s three biggest universities pay transit fees for employees and students, who flash their fare-free GoPasses when they board the bus.

    Boosting transit helps offset parking and traffic costs for the big universities and government agencies, and the GoPass is a popular employee benefit. Student fees help cover the GoPass cost for students.

    About 43 percent of Triangle Transit’s riders use the GoPass.

    “I thought maybe I would get a discount, but I didn’t realize it would be free,” said Jonas Freit, 32, of Durham, who began studying economics at N.C. State University last fall.

  • Capital Area Transit Looking for Input

    April 26, 2012

  • Morrisville Takes Lead in Support of Transit

    April 26, 2012