A resolution that supports increased funding for transit passed unanimously at the Chapel Hill Town Council's April 10 meeting.
The resolution is in response to significant cuts made by the N.C. Department of Transportation to the State Maintenance Assistance Program, from which Chapel Hill Transit and other transit systems in the state receive funding.
The resolution noted that NCDOT’s SMAP payments to the Chapel Hill Transit reduced by more than 23 percent from fiscal year 2018 to 2019.
Karen Stegman, a Town Council member that worked with the mayor’s office on the resolution, said the Strategic Transportation Investments program, a state policy that funds transportation projects, has designated more funding to highway projects than others.
“NCDOT has implemented the policy so that only about 6 percent of transportation funding goes to projects other than highways (that means ferries, aviation, buses, trains, light rail, bike and pedestrian facilities),” Stegman said in an email. “As a result, lots of these modes are severely underfunded.”
She said funding more highway projects encourages “poor land use, long commutes and a car-dependent life style," which will raise problems of climate change, citizens’ health and economic development.
“Cutting funds devoted to transit is taking us in exactly the wrong direction,” she said.
She added that costs of maintaining vehicle conditions and talented operators have also increased.
Brian Litchfield, director of CHT, said the department has taken measures in the past fiscal year to make up the gap through collecting funds from local funding partners — the University, the Town of Chapel Hill and the Town of Carrboro — and delaying capital purchases like buses.