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Thursday August 18th

Orange County seeking feedback in development of new transit plan

A GO Triangle bus stops at a bus stop on West Franklin Street in Chapel Hill on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022.
Buy Photos A GO Triangle bus stops at a bus stop on West Franklin Street in Chapel Hill on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022.

Nearly 600 people have responded to a survey on proposed updates to the Orange County Transit Plan as of Thursday morning.

The Orange County Public Transportation Department published the English version of its survey on Feb. 8, in partnership with Chapel Hill Transit and GoTriangle, to seek public feedback.

A complementary Spanish survey was launched on Wednesday and has since received two responses, Orange County Transportation/Land Use Planner Tom Ten Eyck said in an email. 

The survey asked for feedback on proposed service improvements for several Chapel Hill Transit routes, including the CW, HS, NS, D, and J, as well as GoTriangle route 400/405 and the Orange County Mobility on Demand service to meet increasing peak frequencies and needs on evenings and weekends. 

Some proposed infrastructure projects include shelter and pedestrian crossing improvements at U.S. 15-501/Fordham Boulevard at Ephesus Church Road and an added $10 million queue jump lane and shoulder-running bus lane at Fordham Boulevard and Manning Drive.

Residents, transit system users and other interested stakeholders were invited to provide their thoughts in the survey by evaluating potential projects and prioritizing regional connections.

“COVID has been an ongoing challenge,” Ten Eyck said in the email. “We’ve had to adapt our strategies to be able to reach out to people in a way that was totally different.”

Consultants will continue to visit bus stops and park and rides to collect public opinion. The next visit is scheduled for Friday. 

Once the survey closes and the data has been analyzed, the findings will be posted to the project's website.

In 2009, the N.C. General Assembly ratified Act 43 to authorize the half-cent transit sales tax, or using 0.5 percent of the local sales and use tax for public transportation. Three years later, Orange County welcomed its first comprehensive transit plan that connected the Durham and Chapel Hill areas.

The Orange County Transit Plan was then updated in 2017 to accommodate the Durham-Orange Light Rail Project, regarded as the backbone of a transit-oriented neighborhood.

GoTriangle and its partners intended to “connect people to education, jobs, shopping, dining, recreation and healthcare by creating walkable, transit-supportive places around each of the 19 stations along the Light Rail Corridor” with a $1.7 million federal grant, according to the Transit-Oriented Development Guidebook. 

The project was halted in March 2019 because of stakeholder disagreements, Ten Eyck said.

“An additional reason was the fact that the financial assumptions that were true in 2012 were no longer true in 2017; federal and state contributions were less than what was assumed in 2012,” he said.

As a response, Orange County began to update the plan in late 2019.

In its updated plan, the Comprehensive/Transportation Planning Department aims for resilience and practicality by:

  • Allocating available resources to a more diverse set of transit projects
  • Identifying and implementing projects that can be fully funded with the half-cent transit sales tax
  • Beginning to lay the critical groundwork for aspirational future projects

 “We meet with the Metropolitan Planning Organization every four years to match with their thoughts," Orange County Administration Director Craig Benedict said. "But this plan is for the next 20 years."

The final plan is expected to be created by the end of April, Ten Eyck said.

“Like many things, the plan itself is and the public engagement effort has been delayed as a result of COVID,” Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield said.

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@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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