First Part of a Bigger System
The proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project is the first transit line to be built in a larger system to build out over time.
Future lines are expected to include a connection to RTP, Morrisville, Cary, Raleigh and then other communities in Wake County. Early conversations have occurred with the RDU Airport Authority staff about a future connection between the Airport and the nearest stations once the Durham to Raleigh line is underway.
The line connecting Durham and Chapel Hill makes sense as the first line because The D-O LRT Project connects two of the largest employers in the state, Duke Hospital and UNC Hospital, in addition to two major universities and Downtown Durham. Travel for these institutions goes in both directions all day.
As far back as the year 2000, the US Census Bureau began separating Raleigh-Cary and Durham-Chapel Hill into two separate Metropolitan Statistical Areas for analysis purposes. When the US Census completed the 2010 data collection for the American Community Survey (ACS), the findings on commuting further validated that Durham and Orange county traffic patterns had a stronger travel relationship with each other than they did with from Wake County. The ACS found that:
• Only 7% of Orange County residents commuted to Wake County for work
• Only 1.3% of Wake County residents commuted to Orange County for work
• Only 14% of Durham County residents commuted to Wake County for work
• 82% of Wake County residents commuted within Wake County for work
Other findings included:
• Over 26% of Orange County residents commuted to Durham County for work
• Over 70% of Durham County residents commuted within Durham County for work
• Another 10.4% of Durham County residents commuted to Orange County for work
These findings from ACS confirm what the analysis from the STAC Report in 2008 reported- that Durham and Chapel Hill have a strong internal travel market that stands on its own separate from Wake County commuting patterns.
Finally, as noted in the first question in this document, transit ridership is significantly higher on both actual trips and a trips per person basis in Durham/Chapel Hill than in Raleigh. High levels of patronage on existing bus services is a strong predictor of future usage on light rail (Learn more about transit ridership today).
Wake County is beginning its transit planning in earnest and you can find out more at waketransit.com.
The Wake County plan is contemplating major investments that could be done with either buses or heavy rail operating in the NCRR corridor. The D-O LRT Project has been designed to interface successfully with either choice by Wake County.
The Downtown Durham station is less than 100 feet away from the platforms of the Durham Multimodal Transportation Center, home to current local and regional bus services — that could also receive BRT connections from Wake County. The same station is also a short walk to the Durham Amtrak station where rail service from Wake County could connect to Durham.
The Airport connection is not a part of the first project because most residents in the region go to the airport less than ten times per year. Most residents go to their job 250 days per year. By serving the three most concentrated employment centers in Durham and Orange Counties, the D-O LRT Project serves the places where the largest number of people make trips most frequently.
The current transit network provides access by GoTriangle buses to RDU Airport seven days a week. When the D-O LRT Project opens, the bus network will be redesigned to take advantage of the D-O LRT Project’s operations, but connections by bus to the Regional Transit Center and RDU will be maintained.