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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill Town Council Discusses Transit System

But after outlining potential solutions, including bus systems and railways, questions still lingered.

The consulting group HNTB Inc. started an evaluation of the area in 1995, at the council's request. The council initiated the study to look into the most viable solutions for eliminating congestion along the corridor between Chapel Hill and Durham.

David Bonk, Chapel Hill's transportation planner, presented the report to the council outlining the issue and possible solutions.

Bonk said the ridership on the Chapel Hill public transit system totaled 39,000 riders a day in 1995. He said that by 2025, this number is expected to be closer to 119,000.

Bonk said potential solutions include improving the existing bus systems and creating a light railway system.

The new bus system would include a guideway system where buses would have their own roads, separate from the main flow of traffic.

There also is a possible system that would combine traffic and guideways for the public transit.

The second option Bonk presented for reducing traffic is using lightrail transit in the corridor. The proposed lightrail would use either electric or diesel power.

A key difference between the electric and diesel trains is the cost of construction and operation, he said. The electric system costs between 20 and 30 percent more than the diesel trains, he said.

Several council members expressed reservations about the HNTB recommendations.

Council member Pat Evans said she was concerned the project would not leave the ground anytime soon. "I don't know if this will happen in my lifetime," she said.

Council member Joyce Brown pinpointed certain drawbacks with the lightrail systems. "These trains are extremely loud when they start up and can be heard from a good distance," Brown said.

Several members also were concerned with the environmental impacts the various systems would have on the community.

Bonk said the firm will conduct further studies to address these issues.

Another issue raised by council members dealt with how the transit corridor would be affected by a road proposed by UNC's Master Plan. The 50-year blueprint for campus growth proposes a link through Mason Farm Road in the same area of the discussed corridor.

But Bonk told the council members that it was too early to get too specific because both the corridor and the road are still in the planning process.

"We will have to look at the effects the proposed road might have," he said.

Bonk said a HNTB representative would be attending next Wednesday's council meeting to explain the more technical sides of the proposed systems.

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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