With the demise of the regional light rail project last April, Chapel Hill officials have been working on a new solution to serve the Town’s continuing need for better public transit. Bus Rapid Transit has been proposed as an alternative. Chapel Hill Transit is currently working on a North-South Route between the Eubanks Road Park & Ride and the Southern Village Park & Ride lots. In recent town elections, most candidates supported BRT as the next step in transit development. Yet with all this hype surrounding BRT, there seems to be one lingering question among many: what exactly is BRT?
BRT is essentially a spiced-up version of the bus system we already have. Under BRT, buses have dedicated lanes, traffic light priority and improved stops and stations. The idea is to make everything about riding a bus as frictionless as possible. The increased ease of bus movement aids in the frequency buses arrive at stops, making planning for the rider simpler. Under BRT, you can trust your bus to arrive in a short period of time and you won’t wait more than thirty minutes.
Passengers with wheelchairs, mobility challenges, or strollers would also be better served under a BRT system. Elevated platforms at stops will enable encumbered passengers to embark and disembark from buses more easily, providing better transportation access. Although our current bus system has some initiatives for these passengers, like EZ Rider and fixed-route services, along with features of buses themselves, a BRT system would better serve their needs with additional features.
“This all sounds great on paper,” you might say, “but how much is this going to cost and why do we need BRT?” We're glad you asked! Let’s first talk about the need. Chapel Hill’s transportation system is one of the best in the country for serving the needs of its residents and out-of-town workers. In fact, it’s the largest fare-free system in the country. But while it’s good at doing what it does now, our transit system needs to be better.
BRT can be developed over time to serve the needs of Chapel Hill residents and workers. Just consider your morning and evening drives: the intersection of MLK and Franklin is a nightmare, not to mention the rest of the roads. What if you had a reliable and fast bus system you could take instead, a short walk from your door? BRT can provide that for you.The potential for economic development along transit corridors is unfathomable. And that doesn’t even consider the reduced emissions from fewer cars on the road.
The Town Council has said they will release cost estimates this fall, but has yet to do so. Although they claim funding will come from a combination of state, local and federal funding, they have yet to release figures. We urge the Town to release costs and implement funding initiatives to make BRT feasible in Chapel Hill. A better transit system will allow Chapel Hill to continue to develop as a town and improve the quality of life. BRT is the best solution we have to do it. Get it done.