Orange County Transit Plan

Over several decades, the Triangle has been one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the United States, and this growth remains strong. Each day, 20 new residents call Durham and Orange County home, while Wake County adds over 60 new residents daily. This growth brings challenges and opportunity for both how our communities develop and how we get around. This region is what it is today because of numerous strategic decisions – the siting of the State Capitol in Raleigh, the creation of the first public university in the United States in Chapel Hill, the construction of the North Carolina Railroad through Durham, and the decision to build a research center amid these communities that has grown into a globally recognized center of science and technology.

Built to complement each other, the transit plans of Durham, Orange, and Wake counties are the expression of the region’s next strategic decision: that exceptional public transportation can bring all of our communities together in a way that accelerates economic growth, expands travel choices beyond increasingly congested roadways, enhances job access and opportunity for residents across the income spectrum, and helps preserve our natural resources by focusing growth more in transit corridors and less near environmentally sensitive areas.

The 2017 Orange County Transit Plan updates the 2012 Bus and Rail Investment Plan adopted by the governing boards of Orange County, the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO), and GoTriangle.  The goals of this plan have not changed from the original plan. They remain:

  • Improving overall mobility and transportation options
  • Providing geographic equity
  • Supporting improved capital facilities
  • Encouraging transit-supportive land use
  • Providing positive impacts on air quality


There are four dedicated revenue streams used to fund the local share of projects and services in this Plan, referred to throughout the Plan as Tax District Revenues. These revenues are collected in both Durham and Orange Counties; the revenues governed by this Plan are those collected in Orange County. These four dedicated Tax District Revenue streams are as follows:

  • Article 43: Half-Cent Sales and Use Tax
  • Article 50: Five-Percent Vehicle Rental Tax
  • Article 51: Three-Dollar increase to GoTriangle Regional Vehicle Registration Fee
  • Article 52: Seven Dollar County Vehicle Registration Fee

Many of the projects and services in this Plan will be funded through a combination of Tax District Revenues and other funds including farebox revenues, state funds, and federal funds.  Using these various funding sources, this Plan strives to equitably meet the transportation needs and goals of Orange County.

Projects and Services

  • New hours of bus service in both urban and rural Orange County above and beyond the bus service that was available in 2013, as well as and financial support for the existing system, providing connections to destinations throughout the county and in Alamance, Durham, and Wake Counties. In total, nearly 33,500 hours of bus service are funded in this Plan
  • A light rail transit (LRT) project that will provide 50,000 annual hours of high-quality, efficient, and reliable rail service between Chapel Hill and Durham, with the goal of improving regional mobility, accelerating economic growth, and encouraging the growth of transit-oriented development. When light rail service begins, it will free up thousands of existing bus hours where rail service can replace trips served by buses today. GoTriangle, Chapel Hill Transit, and GoDurham will work together to deploy these “rail dividend” hours to connect neighborhoods throughout the counties to light rail stations and other bus routes
  • A set of bus capital projects to improve the transit passenger’s experience, including new and improved bus stops with amenities such as benches and shelters and access improvements such as sidewalks and trails
  • An intercity (Amtrak) train station in Hillsborough, linking northern Orange County to destinations throughout North Carolina, and along the East Coast with fast passenger rail service
  • A bus rapid transit (BRT) project that provides more efficient and effective transit through the congested core of Chapel Hill, UNC, and UNC Medical Center

Through these investments, there is an opportunity to develop an exceptional public transportation system in Orange County, improving the travel options and local economy for those who live in, work in, or visit Orange County, and transform the way people get around their community.

Changes Since the Original Plan

Significant progress has been made in delivering the investments from the 2012 Plan, though some milestones have been reached more slowly than originally projected. Section 2 describes the status of all projects and services implemented or advanced since the levying of the transit taxes in 2013.

The most significant differences between the 2012 Plan and this 2017 Plan are driven by the funding assumptions. Changes to state and federal transportation funding laws and policies have greatly affected revenues available to implement projects and services. This is true for bus purchases and bus facilities, as well as for the major capital investments in the Durham-Orange LRT project and the North-South BRT project. These changes to state and federal funding assumptions are explained in more detail in Section 3.

As the staffs of GoTriangle, Orange County, and the Towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough have implemented the 2012 Plan, more definition has been given to the services and projects that are expected to be delivered over the next 12 years. Section 4 describes these projects and services, unfunded priorities from the 2012 Plan, and additional expansion that would remain unfunded in this Plan.

More of the Tax District Revenue is required to deliver the projects and services in the 2012 Plan, because of reduced funding from state and federal sources, and a new cost-split with Durham County for construction and operation of the Durham-Orange LRT Project, is required. Representatives from Orange County, Durham County, and GoTriangle have worked to achieve consensus on an appropriate cost-split. This Plan includes a prospective scenario with Orange County’s share of Tax District Revenues paying 18 percent of the local share of the Durham-Orange LRT Project costs, and 20 percent of the light rail operating costs. This assumption does not represent an agreement or a recommendation, but is included in this draft Plan for discussion purposes. Table ES-1 below compares the Tax District Revenues used to fund projects and services between the 2012 Plan and this draft 2017 Plan.

Errata & Revisions

Following release of the draft Orange County Transit Plan on March 31, 2017, several minor errors were identified in the Plan text.

The Plan has been updated to reflect these changes. The table below lists the differences between the initial March 31 Plan release and the April 4 revision.

Change # Section Column Location Change
1 ES Both Figure 1: ES-1 Figure 1: ES-1 has been updated.
2 4.1.4 Right Second full paragraph Delete typo “…Tax District Revenuefiscalyear…”
3 4.2 Right First full paragraph Final sentence reads: “Due to the change in funding assumptions and requests from the Staff Working Group, the total Tax District funds set aside in this Plan for the purchase of 13 buses, future mid-life repowers and replacements (for eight of the buses), is $13.3 $14.2 million YOE through fiscal year 2045.”
4 4.3.2 Both Table 13 Inserted new Table 13: Program of Access Improvements in FY 2018-20, which was inadvertently left out of the original draft Plan. Subsequent tables were renumbered accordingly.
5.2 Right Last paragraph of section First sentence of paragraph modified to read: “In addition to financing needed for D-O LRT Project construction, an additional $71 $72 million YOE in borrowing is needed to fund Orange County’s share of State of Good Repair costs for the project.
5 5.4 Both Figure 7, Figure 8, and Figure 9 Figure 7, Figure 8, and Figure 9 have been updated.
6 5.6 Both Figure 10 Figure 10 has been updated.
7 Appendix A N/A N/A Formatting errors led to the omission of several columns in Appendix A: Cash Flow Details. The document has been reformatted and now includes all years between 2017 and 2045 for both counties. April 7, 2017
April 10 Revision
1 ES Left ES-3 The previous revision discussed the cost-sharing assumption for the D-O LRT Project being assumed for purposes of this draft Plan, subject to further negotiation by Durham County and Orange County. This errata adds additional detail about the rationale for the modified cost-sharing assumption.
2 1 Right New Section 1.1, Page 6 A new Section 1.1, “Why Transit?”, was added. Other subsections in Section 1.1 were renumbered accordingly.
3 4.5.1 Right First Paragraph Final sentence modified to read: “The project is currently scheduled to open in calendar year 2020 2022, although the opening date is subject to change based on the outcome of the project’s environmental and design work.
Translate »