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How satisfied are local residents regarding Chapel Hill Transit services?

Community responses to Chapel Hill public transit are generally positive

The Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro both offer a variety of free transportation options, including greenways, bike lanes and the Chapel Hill Transit bus system. 

Chapel Hill Transit provides fixed-route and demand-response bus services throughout the two towns while simultaneously operating longer routes within the Triangle area.

In January and February of last year, the ETC Institute administered a survey to Chapel Hill residents and 429 households responded. The responses were used to help the Town establish budget priorities and refine policy decisions. Chapel Hill Transit was ranked sixth out of 13 in a poll on which initiatives should receive the most support from the Town. 

Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents reported they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with Chapel Hill Transit, according to the survey.

Katie Whittington, a UNC sophomore, said she is fairly satisfied with the bus system. Although, she added that it would be more convenient if the buses were consistently on time.

“You just kind of have to show up around the time it gets there and hope,” Whittington said. “I live really far away from campus, so I take the bus every day. So, it's really nice I can rely on it to always come, but it would be nicer if it was on time.”

David Kekejian, a postdoctoral research associate at UNC, said he is satisfied but mentioned the lack of nighttime buses. 

“The only reason I would not give it 'entirely very satisfied' is because the night buses basically don't exist — what I mean is after 8 p.m., there's no buses,” Kekejian said. “I know there are Safe Rides, but that's very late and it's only for three days a week.”

Overview of Chapel Hill Transit

Emily Powell, the community outreach manager of Chapel Hill Transit, said having the option to use public transportation is a cornerstone in many people’s lives. 

“It's the building block to a really successful life for a lot of people to get the access to the other things that they need to grow and thrive,” Powell said.

Chapel Hill Transit has been fare-free for over 20 years. Additionally, Powell said the department strives to serve all neighborhoods equitably by ensuring they have enough destinations for transit users to get to places safely and frequently.

All buses are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act as they have "kneeling" technology, which lowers the bus to allow people to board without having to climb steps, as well as ramps for wheelchair users.

The Town of Chapel Hill also provides EZ Rider: a paratransit service with an appointment-based shuttle that takes individuals who can't use the standard route door-to-door around Chapel Hill and Carrboro. 

Chapel Hill Transit is also working to improve language access by ensuring they have documents and services in multiple languages so all customers are able to use their services, according to Powell. 

Powell said the Town's Transportation and Connectivity Advisory Board also represents people who have different demographics and diverse backgrounds and use the system. They use it as a checks and balances system to ensure they are serving everyone equally. 

“We want them to be able to safely walk down to a bus stop and safely shelter at a bus stop so we're making sure that our bus routes are well connected with greenways and safe sidewalks,” Powell said. 

Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils said he uses public transit to commute to and from work every day.

“Having public transportation encourages a way of developing in the community that's more compact and has less impact on the environment,” Seils said. “By developing in a transit-oriented way, we develop in a way that is more sort of people-centered and human scale.”

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Chapel Hill Transit started implementing a short-range transit plan to increase the frequency of bus service in specific transit-dependent areas of the community. The plan was disrupted during the pandemic, but the plans have since been set in motion, Seils said. He added that he hopes to gradually implement the full plan to make promised improvements. 

Services are still limited due to the impacts of the pandemic, and Chapel Hill Transit is currently looking to recruit more operators.

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Operating at full service will return when the number of average operator absences decreases. 

The full bus route map, schedule, employment opportunities and other services can be found on the Town of Chapel Hill's website.

@bridget_bendezu

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 


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