Comparing Technologies

Light Rail Transit v. Traditional Bus in the D-O Corridor

The proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project will provide significant time savings for many transit users currently using buses in Durham and Chapel Hill. The D-O LRT Project is more direct than several of the bus routes it will replace, and by operating in its own right of way, it will not be subject to traffic congestion like existing buses. Electric-powered light rail also has superior acceleration to a standard diesel or hybrid bus. Here are some of the improved travel times compared to the current bus system.

Origin Destination Bus  Today Light Rail  2025 & beyond
Alston Avenue Patterson Place 51 min. 27 min.
Leigh Village UNC Hospitals 28 min. 12 min.
Gateway Station Downtown Durham 51 min. 28 min.
Woodmont Station Duke/VA 69 min. 24 min.
Ninth Street UNC Hospitals 69 min. 34 min.
MLK Jr. Parkway Downtown Durham 29 min. 17 min.

Can BRT produce the same results as LRT with less money?

The proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project will better support the community vision for compact, walkable neighborhoods and dense, vibrant downtowns, universities, and medical centers. Developers both locally and nationally have repeatedly stated that the certainty of a rail system’s location does more to drive real estate considerations than Bus Rapid Transit services that can be re-routed away from a development opportunity.

In 2010, Triangle community residents and their elected officials identified four core issues that a transportation project should address to support and advance a sustainable economy and the region’s quality of life. Therefore, the purpose of a proposed high‐capacity transit investment in the Durham ‐ Orange Corridor is to provide a transit solution that addresses the following mobility and development needs:

•  Need to enhance mobility
•  Need to expand transit options between Durham and Chapel Hill
•  Need to serve populations with high propensity for transit use
•  Need to foster compact development

The Alternatives Analysis for the Durham-Orange corridor looked at two BRT options in addition to the D-O LRT Project — one high-cost option designed to emulate LRT (comparable travel time and reliability) and one lower-cost option (less time savings and more interaction with traffic). The BRT options cost estimates were both over $800 million to build — 60-70% of the D-O LRT cost estimate.

While the BRT options were competitive regarding the first three project goals, the LRT Alternative clearly surpassed the BRT Alternatives with demonstrated success in cities across the country for fostering walkable, transit-oriented development. Further, in support of planned growth management initiatives, LRT’s proven ability to focus growth would, in the long run, have a more substantial impact on mobility because the land use impacts result in more choices that can reduce impacts to the highway system.

Self-Driving Cars v. LRT

Jarrett Walker, author of the book Human Transit, who is currently working on Wake County’s transit plan, uses the following illustration to show how transit moves more people in confined spaces.

60 people across different transportation modes