Question #1 Why do we need the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project?
In order to attract new residents and businesses and maintain a high quality of life, the region needs a multi-modal transportation system, including improved high-quality transit services. The D-O Corridor needs a long term solution that provides accessible transit service, and a competitive and reliable alternative to congested roadways; that seamlessly serves many popular destinations in Durham and Chapel Hill, and that fosters growth, compact development, and economic development along a high-capacity transportation network.
The Triangle has experienced extraordinary growth in recent years and growth forecasts continue to show the population increasing by 80 percent between 2010 and 2040; from 1.6 to 2.9 million. Within the Durham-Orange (D-O) Corridor, the population is projected to double and the highest expected travel intensity (number of trips per acre) in the Triangle region is predominately located in this corridor.
The region’s roadway network and transit systems are beginning to strain even under current demands. Levels of congestion are increasing and are anticipated to worsen, which will lead to increased travel times and sprawling development patterns. The region’s explosive growth is also outpacing the ability to repair, replace and expand the existing roadway network. Simply increasing highway capacity to meet these demands is not a viable option considering financial and environmental constraints.
The region’s existing transit network is currently operating at close to maximum capacity including 84 buses per hour servicing UNC Hospitals and 46 buses per hour servicing Duke University and Durham Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers. The combined bus routes that currently serve the D-O Corridor provide a high level of transit service, however, there are portions of the corridor within Chapel Hill and between Duke and downtown Durham where adding additional buses will not improve service due to congestion.
The D-O Corridor was identified as a high priority transit corridor as early as the 1990s due to the rapid growth in the corridor. The D-O Corridor includes the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), Duke University, downtown Durham, and North Carolina Central University.
Question #2 Why should we spend money on the proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project?
The D-O LRT Project’s benefit include: improved mobility, increased connectivity through expanded transit options, and support of future development plans. Enhanced mobility will provide a competitive, reliable alternative to automobile use that supports compact development.
Enhanced mobility will also increase transit operating efficiency: offer a competitive, reliable transportation solution that will reduce travel time. Increased connectivity will expand transit options between Durham and Chapel Hill by enhancing and seamlessly connecting with the existing transit system.
Increased connectivity will serve major activity and employment centers between Durham and Chapel Hill, including: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), east Chapel Hill, US 15-501 Corridor, Duke West Campus, Duke and Durham Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers, Duke East Campus, downtown Durham, and east Durham.
The D-O LRT Project will promote future development by supporting local land use plans that foster compact development by providing a transportation solution that supports compact development, promotes environmental stewardship, helps manage future growth, and maximizes the potential for economic development near activity centers.
Question #3 Why can’t we put more buses on the road?
Bus routes that currently service the D-O LRT Corridor alone carry an average of 9,700 passengers every weekday. Overall, Chapel Hill Transit, GoDurham, and GoTriangle’s services within Durham and Orange Counties carry 71,300 passengers per weekday. Transit ridership in Durham and Orange Counties has grown over the last few years, and is projected to grow in the future as the communities encourage the growth of walkable, pedestrian-friendly communities and the universities continue to grow and encourage transit use to their campuses.
Question #4 Why are you building this system? Why light rail?
The D-O LRT Project provides a high-capacity transit service within the D-O Corridor, (along Highway NC 54, I-40, US 15-501, Erwin Road, and NC 147), that improves mobility, increases connectivity through expanding transit options, and supports future development plans.
The D-O LRT Project will:
• Improve Mobility
o Enhance mobility: provide a competitive, reliable alternative to automobile use that supports compact development
o Increase transit operating efficiency: offer a competitive, reliable transportation solution that will reduce travel time
• Increase Connectivity
o Expand transit options between Durham and Chapel Hill: enhance and seamlessly connect with the existing transit system
o Serve major activity and employment centers between Durham and Chapel Hill: serve the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), east Chapel Hill, US 15-501 Corridor, Duke West Campus, Duke and Durham Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers, Duke East Campus, downtown Durham, and east Durham
• Promote Future Development
o Support local land use plans that foster compact development,
o Provide a transportation solution that supports compact development, promotes environmental stewardship, helps manage future growth, and maximizes the potential for economic development near activity centers
The D-O Corridor supports the travel of residents, visitors, and employees to major activity and employment centers throughout the corridor. Population and employment projections for 2040 predict that these key activity centers will continue to generate a high number of trips. The highest number of trips is predicted to occur in the areas of UNC, UNC Hospitals, Leigh Village, Patterson Place, South Square, Duke University, Duke University Medical Center, Ninth Street, downtown Durham, and along Alston Avenue.
Light rail was chosen for the D-O Corridor because this technology will:
• Connect residential, educational, and major employment centers throughout the corridor;
• Serve the people in the D-O Corridor more cost-effectively in the long term than other transportation options;
• Efficiently serve a corridor with some of the highest projected trips per acre in the Triangle region;
• Support land use patterns that require closely spaced stops, best served by vehicles that are able to accelerate quickly;
• Provide solid anchors needed to shape land use along this critical corridor; and,
• Provide high-frequency rail service shown to support transit-oriented development (TOD) (ES-3).
Question #5 What is the big picture? Why does the D-O LRT Project make sense?
The population in the D-O corridor is projected to double by 2040, adding strain to the roadway network. The project will provide an alternative to traveling on congested roadways, and will maintain or improve transit travel times between existing and planned activity centers since light rail is not affected by increases in vehicular congestion.