The Orange County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a revised financial plan for Orange County’s Transit Plan on Tuesday night to increase public transport accessibility in the county.
The 2022 plan maintains components of the 2017 and 2012 transit plans, but without the light rail transit project. The plan adds capital investments and service improvements funded with transit tax revenues.
Tom Altieri, a comprehensive planning supervisor for Orange County, unveiled the 2022 Orange County Transit Plan Update during the meeting for the commissioners' approval.
“The plan is really an update in the true sense of the word,” Altieri said. “It’s not a new plan. It builds upon our existing plan.”
The most recent transit plan was created to further equity, environmental sustainability, economic prosperity, affordable and attainable quality of life and transportation access for all.
Five new or expanded bus services will be instated under this plan to uphold these values.
Additions include service improvements to the CW route and HS route to make stops more frequent. The NS bus route will be expanded to have service on Saturdays until 11 p.m. and service on Sundays until 9 p.m.
The plan will also include midday frequency improvements and a D route extension to Patterson Place, and it will have Orange County Public Transportation increase services to two days per week, which will serve to expand the Mobility on Demand program.
Renée Price, chairperson of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, stressed the importance of MOD during the meeting. She said the program is used for those within rural areas and is expanding for common uses.
“We still need transit out in the rural areas coming in during the week so that people can go to the doctors office, do groceries,” Price said. “I also know that people have been using the mobility on demand also to go to the movies.”
Capital improvements will also be made to the program. At Ephesus Church Road, improved stops, pedestrian crossing and transfers between D, F and 400 bus routes will be added. On Manning Drive, the queue jump lane and shoulder-running bus lane will be improved to help the efficiency of D and 400 routes.
Altieri said the Orange Unified Transportation Board recommends that the transit plan receives additional funding — an additional $15 million over 20 years beginning in the 2027 fiscal year.
This will enact the Next Generation Transit Vision, which would include the North-South Bus Rapid Transit project — an approximately seven-mile transportation connection from Eubanks Road to Southern Village in Chapel Hill.
Commissioner Earl McKee said he would like to have the NSBRT implemented soon, after the failure of the implementation of a previous light rail transit plan.
“I’ve known all along that this is a critical corridor to develop out, to get something in place, and then get the feeder routes to that in a manner that is equitable, in a manner that provides the services that are going to be needed,” he said.
However, revenue must be built beforehand, so the NSBRT would launch in 2029, Altieri said.
Before the updated fiscal plan for the 2022 transit plan was passed, Price said she is grateful for this plan update following the failure of the light rail plan.
“I’m glad that not everything went to waste after the light rail and that the information is being put to good use,” she said.
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