On lists of community concerns, ever-accelerating traffic congestion in the Triangle often comes out on top. Fortunately, Orange, Durham and Wake counties are investing $5 billion through 2028 to enhance bus service and connections, create bus rapid transit in Wake and Orange counties and build commuter rail between Garner through Raleigh to Durham.
One way to beat the traffic now, though, is to see what already expanded bus routes might work for you.
Another is to use current train routes. Tickets on NC By Train come with free transfer passes and rides on other public transit routes once you’ve reached your destination.
GoTriangle recently conducted an experiment to see how taking the NCDOT’s Piedmont passenger train from Durham to Raleigh during the evening rush hour compared with driving on I-40. While the train passenger read, listened to music and even worked on learning another language, the vehicle driver sat in traffic, got stuck behind a wreck and circled downtown Raleigh multiple times looking for parking.
“Thanks to our partners at GoTriangle, and services like the Transit Pass or taking bicycles on board for free, reaching your destination by train is easier than ever,” says Jason Orthner, director of the NCDOT Rail division. “With eight daily trips, spacious seating and free Wi-Fi, you can get to your destination safely, productively and stress-free.”
A video of the experiment, available here, will kick off tonight’s News & Observer editorial board’s Community Voices forum on “Beat the traffic" or "how we got into this traffic jam and how we might get around it." Register for the free event, which will be at the North Carolina Museum of History starting at 7 p.m., here.
Participating on the forum’s panel will be GoTriangle CEO and President Jeff Mann; Sig Hutchinson, Wake County commissioner and GoTriangle board member; Jason Orthner, the director of NC Department of Transportation’s rail division; Kimberley Sirk, a GoTriangle rider who regularly uses buses to commute between her home in Cary and job in Raleigh; and Kym Hunter, a senior lawyer with the Southern Environment Law Center who focuses on reforming transportation policies to protect the environment and reduce sprawl.
“We know people want to live and companies want to locate in areas with a strong public transit system so we are fortunate that all three counties passed a half-cent sales tax to invest in transit improvements,” Mann says. “Now every year we’re adding more and better-connected bus service and improving stops and shelters, and we’ll be adding bus rapid transit and a 37-mile commuter rail. It’s about connecting more people to more opportunities to work, learn, get health care or just to enjoy our great community without having to get into a car.”
More than 2 million people already live in the Triangle, and the region grows by more than 80 people a day. Since Durham County voted to devote the tax to transit in 2011, followed by Orange in 2012 and Wake in 2016, many improvements already have been made.
More airport service
In the past three years, for example, GoDurham and GoRaleigh have added frequency to their most popular routes, GoCary has added Sunday service to all six of its routes and GoTriangle has added so much service to its Route 100 that it runs every 30 minutes to Raleigh-Durham International Airport every day of the week from about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and then hourly until about 10:30 p.m.
As the regional transit provider, GoTriangle is the only agency that currently runs on I-40 with routes that connect municipalities. The agency’s routes between Chapel Hill and Raleigh, Durham and Raleigh, and Cary and Raleigh get more popular all the time, so the transit investments have led to expansions on these routes nearly every year.
Since its referendum, Durham County has added more than 114,000 hours of new bus service on GoDurham and GoTriangle routes and more than 36,000 trips on Durham ACCESS. That includes increasing frequency on GoDurham’s most popular routes.
Since its referendum, Orange County has added more than 68,000 hours of new bus service on Chapel Hill Transit, Orange County Public Transportation and GoTriangle routes and more than 900 more paratransit hours.
Wake County added more than 26,500 hours of new service on GoRaleigh, GoCary and GoTriangle routes and an additional 6,010 revenue hours of GoWake ACCESS service in fiscal year 2018 alone.
Coming up next
In fiscal year 2020, which starts July 1, Holly Springs and Rolesville will be getting new express service, Knightdale will get all-day service and service in Morrisville will expand to serve the new RTP Wake Tech campus.
Also, GoTriangle will be adding the exciting North Raleigh Express, which will run from a park-and-ride lot at Triangle Town Center, stop at a park-and-ride lot on Falls of Neuse at Strickland roads and then travel to the Regional Transit Center off Page Road in Durham.
From the Regional Transit Center, or RTC, those North Raleigh Express passengers can catch GoTriangle Route 700 to Durham, Route 800 to Chapel Hill, routes to Cary and to downtown Raleigh. Starting in August, they also will be able to use the new Transit Connect program, which will offer Uber and Lyft subsidies for transit passengers traveling to offices in RTP.
On the horizon is mobile ticketing. All Triangle transit agencies are working together to provide a uniform system for using smartphones to buy and download transit passes by early 2020.
Find out more about the counties’ transit plans at goforwardnc.com.