Ready for Rail

A high-quality, high-capacity transit service is needed in the Durham-Orange Light Rail transit corridor.

Durham and Chapel Hill have much higher usage rates of existing bus transit than similar mid-size cities and even larger ones. Durham and Chapel Hill already carry nearly as many transit passengers as Charlotte did the year before Charlotte’s light rail opened, even though Charlotte had an additional quarter million residents.

Durham and Chapel Hill will also grow for another 10 years before light rail begins operation.

How Many People Ride Transit Today in Durham and Orange County?

As planning for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit (D-O LRT) Project has advanced, GoTriangle has received questions about how many people currently ride transit in Durham and Orange counties. Analysis of local and national peer transit agency data show that when it comes to transit usage, Durham and Chapel Hill “punches above their weight” and achieves per capita transit use levels of much larger metro areas.

In 2013, local fixed-route transit agencies reported the following average weekday ridership:

•   GoDurham Avg. Daily Weekday Boardings: 20,400
•   Duke University Avg. Daily Weekday Boardings: 16,100
•   Chapel Hill Transit Avg. Daily Weekday Boardings: 29,900
•   GoTriangle (Durham/Orange routes) Avg. Daily Weekday Boardings: 4,900

For a total of approximately 71,300 Average Daily Weekday Boardings in Durham and Orange Counties. In 2012, the Durham-Chapel Hill Metropolitan area population was approximately 523,000 people.

In the same year, transit ridership in Wake County was as follows:

•   GoRaleigh Avg. Daily Weekday Boardings: 21,400
•   NCSU Wolfline Avg. Daily Weekday Boardings: 17,600
•   GoCary Avg. Daily Weekday Boardings: 900
•   GoTriangle (Wake County Routes) Avg. Daily Boardings: 1,700

For a total of approximately 41,600 Average Daily Weekday Boardings in Wake County. In 2012, the Raleigh-Cary Metropolitan area population was approximately 1,189,000 people.

When comparing the number of transit trips taken per resident at the metropolitan area level, the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area is a national leader among cities in the fast-growing south and west, with:

•   More annual transit trips per person than Portland, Oregon and Denver, Colorado
•   More than two times as many annual transit trips per person as Charlotte
•   Roughly four times as many annual transit trips per person as Raleigh-Cary

See below:Metro-Transit Service Usage Comparison

Finally, when comparing Durham and Chapel Hill to other cities that opened their first light rail line in the past 15 years, bus ridership compares favorably again.

In 1998, Salt Lake City opened the first line of their TRAX system, with 89,090 weekday boardings the year before the rail opened. In 2007, Charlotte opened the Lynx Blue Line, carrying 73,102 weekday boardings the year before. With 71,300 bus boardings over ten years before light rail is scheduled to open between Durham and Chapel Hill, the bus success of the Durham-Orange corridor is evidence of the potential for future rail success.

Urbanized Area

Year of Rail Opening

Urbanized Area Population

Avg. Weekday Bus Ridership (Pre-Rail)

Salt Lake City 1998 887,650 89,090
Charlotte 2007 758,927 73,102
Durham-Chapel Hill 2026* 522,826 71,300