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The Daily Tar Heel

Towns Set To Work Together

Chapel Hill and Carrboro officials have stressed the need for cooperation with the fare-free bus system.

The fare-free service, which started Jan. 2, will be financed by transit funds from Chapel Hill and Carrboro in addition to an increase in UNC student fees.

The two towns will take on 60 percent of the costs, leaving UNC to fund the remaining 40 percent.

The University will charge undergraduate students an additional $8.49 per semester in fees, and summer school students will be charged an extra $1.49 per credit hour.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Flicka Bateman said the system's benefits will take time to come to fruition but that eventually they will be worth the investment. "The town, just looking at it from a financial point of view, really felt like it was good move," she said.

Carrboro Board of Aldermen member Diana McDuffee said the system will not be without its problems.

"I think the lack of talking to each other about issues regarding the bus has to do with the fact that Chapel Hill is the body that operates the bus systems, and we just forget sometimes what kinds of things are operational issues and what kinds of things really need discussions by partners in the system," she said.

Chapel Hill Transit serves as a hub for housing and maintaining the buses for both the towns and UNC.

Town Council member Jim Ward said in order for the system to succeed, the towns need to cooperate on the most basic level. "Communication is so obvious, and still we do an inadequate job of it sometimes," he said.

The most recent example of miscommunication came in mid-November, when the council was given a presentation that addressed putting advertisements on buses as a way of funding the fare-free service.

Council members rejected the proposal without first discussing it with either Carrboro or UNC officials, eliminating bus advertisements altogether as an option. "The Town Council had a presentation, and from what we saw, the aesthetics of the buses and the very minimal funding that it would achieve, it was clear to us that it didn't make sense," Ward said.

But Ward said Chapel Hill should have sent the presentation to all three parties before a decision was summarily made by one group. "We need to work extra hard to make sure that Carrboro and the University have an equal opportunity to know the options and weigh in before decisions are made," he said.

McDuffee said she thinks past conflicts arose from a lack of an infrastructure that would ensure that all parties have the opportunity to participate. Officials from the two towns are working on an agreement that would facilitate communication, which might provide the towns with an opportunity to having input, McDuffee said.

Ward said he is optimistic about the future of a cooperative fare-free busing service. "The track record with regard to the system has been great as far as how Chapel Hill and Carrboro and the University have worked, and I see that will only get better."

The City Editor can be reached


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