Transit plan would add bus service, rail station

At an Orange County public hearing Tuesday night, students rallied for Orange County Commissioners to pass a proposed transit plan that would provide them with better access to more of the area.

The plan would include increased bus services, improvements for existing bus stops, a rail station in Hillsborough and plans for a light rail between the University and Durham. It would be funded in part by a half-cent sales tax.

If commissioners choose to pursue the plan, residents will vote on a tax in a referendum during the November elections.

Patrick McDonough, senior transportation planner for Triangle Transit, said the plan would use $6 million in the first five years for bus capital, like bus shelters and bike racks.

McDonough also said the proposed plan would add 34,650 hours to existing bus schedules, to be implemented by 2017.

While most attendees supported the transit plan, some worried that it wouldn’t provide the economic development it promised.

“When looking at this, who is this going to profit?” said Will Raymond, a Chapel Hill resident. “The people in Durham, the investors in Durham.”

About six students, including recently elected Student Body President Will Leimenstoll, also spoke. All supported the plan.

Freshman Jasmine Ruddy spoke on behalf of the UNC Sierra Club and said she felt the plan would both give her greater access and be environmentally smart.

“As a first year student, I do not have the option of having a car on campus,” she said. “So this is something that I definitely support.”

Leimenstoll said the number of students that spoke at the meeting showed how important the transit plan would be for UNC.

“Anything that improves access to the rest of Orange County would be good for Carolina,” he said following the meeting.

Commissioners will decide on the plan at their meeting on May 15 and on the tax in June.

Commissioner Earl McKee said he is still opposed to the light rail aspect of the plan.

“We should take out the light rail and do this with buses as needed, where needed,” he said.

Commissioner Steve Yuhasz said he wants the plan to meet the needs of the 40 percent of residents without direct bus access.

Residents can meet with commissioners and transit planners at an open house Monday night at Extraordinary Ventures in Chapel Hill at 4 p.m.

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