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The Daily Tar Heel
Town Talk

Chapel Hill participates in national public transportation movement

A broken down bus can ruin anyone’s day, and Chapel Hill Transit has joined a nationwide movement for better funding in hopes to reduce such problems in the future.

The Stand Up 4 Transportation movement aims to unite communities to try to convince Congress to allocate more long-term federal funds for public transit.

This year, public transportation departments across the country celebrated Stand Up 4 Transportation Day on Thursday.

“The Town of Chapel Hill and its partners are very committed to public transportation, and a big part of that is having long term federal funding,” said Brian Litchfield, Chapel Hill Transit director.

The Chapel Hill system is the 2nd largest transit system in North Carolina with 7 million riders each year, Litchfield said.

“We have a strong public transportation system that we’re very proud of,” said Chapel Hill Town Council member Lee Storrow. “Nationally taking a moment to recognize the important role that public transportation plays in building communities is really valuable.”

Chapel Hill receives under $2 million a year for transit, and the average price for a bus is $500,000, Litchfield said. In recent years the cost to support the transit system has gone up, but the federal funding received has not.

“We use predominately federal funds to purchase new buses,” Storrow said.

There are currently 42 heavy-duty buses in the system that are beyond their useful life, Litchfield said. This means that while the buses still meet all safety regulations, it is harder and more expensive to repair and maintain them.

Litchfield said after 12 years, most buses should be replaced. And most of the 42 Chapel Hill buses that could be replaced are between 12 and 16 years old, and some are even older. When buses age, it is hard to find parts to maintain them, and they are less reliable on the street.

Ideally the town would receive funding to replace all 42 buses, but that is not realistic, Litchfield said.

There are a number of events going on around the country to bring awareness to the Stand Up 4 Transportation movement. Chapel Hill is supporting the initiative through social media, and the transit department is spending time working with elected officials, Litchfield said. 

Litchfield said he hopes to see long-term comprehensive federal funding and investment in new infrastructure come out of the movement. 

The movement is national, but transportation is a local and regional issue, he said.  

“We are working hard to do our part locally,” he said. “It’s important to tell the story and get the message out.”

Storrow said he hopes the movement will reinforce how valuable public transportation is in the community.

“Standing up to ensure that we have continued prosperity for our future transportation system and funding for all components of the system is vitally important,” Storrow said.

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