Chapel Hill Transit presents new study to public

Chapel Hill Transit held a public workshop Wednesday to present an update on the North-South corridor study and receive input from the public on the study.

The North-South corridor begins at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Eubanks Road and ends at U.S. 15-501 near Southern Village. The study, which began in winter 2013 and is projected to end in fall 2015, aims to make it safer and quicker to travel along the corridor.  

The transit department plans to implement a Bus Rapid Transit system, which would enhance the speed, efficiency and comfort of public transit along the corridor.

YeYing Huang, a UNC graduate student studying city and regional planning, attended the workshop for a class and to give her opinion on the study. She said she approves of the study, even though she doesn't really ride buses herself.

"Overall, I think that this would improve the Chapel Hill community," she said.

One of the possible changes being considered would provide larger buses to the area, instead of the typical 40-foot bus. This would help combat overcrowding by increasing capacity of the buses. 

The department is also considering building separate bus lanes to increase the speed of travel along the corridor. The lanes would be constructed to the sides or in a center lane of the road. 

URS Corporation of North Carolina, which has experience in transit planning, was chosen to perform the study.  

Gavin Poindexter, senior transportation planner at URS corporation and presenter at the workshop, said there are many factors to consider when deciding on the changes to make to public transit in the area.

These factors include cost and public approval of the changes, he said. 

Transit Service Planner Mila Vega was also among the presenters at the workshop. She said the department plans on having buses along the corridor running more frequently and possibly providing longer service hours.  

She said the improved transit system would result in less time waiting for the bus as well as less time riding the bus. 

Vega also stressed that the plans for the system are in the beginning stages. Once the plans are approved, the department has to secure funding for the improvements and decide on a construction schedule if need be.

Through a grant, up to 80 percent of the improvements could be funded by the federal government, with the town being responsible for the other 20 percent, Vega said. But it is possible the town could end up paying more than that.

The improvements could take 10 years or longer to complete, Vega said. 

Dan Meyers, lead consultant on the project and vice president for transportation at the URS corporation, said he thinks the improved system will increase ridership by attracting riders who might not need to use public transit, but would choose to if it were more accessible.

Public transit in the area will become more efficient and more reliable as a result of the study, he said. 

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