When considering where to site a public library in Southern Orange County, one of the criteria studied by both town and county staff has been the presence of public transportation, in this case, Chapel Hill Transit bus service. Evaluating this criteria has been conducted by noting the distance to the nearest bus stop in materials we have seen thus far. However, transit service is not evenly distributed at every stop and different bus stops provide different levels of access to the rest of the transit network at large.
Fortunately, there is a great tool called Mapnificent that allows you to calculate how far you can travel from a specific point on transit at a certain time of day. This calculation is completed using the Google Transit data for a community that is publicly available.
Using Mapnificent, I created the following maps for the three county sites that the Carrboro Board of Aldermen sent to the Orange County Board of Commissioners, as well as two other sites that were previously mentioned by Carrboro elected officials: 201 S Greensboro St and 300 E Main St. Here are the results. The tool was set to see how many places could reach the library sites within a 15-minute bus ride at 9 am on a weekday.
The light-colored areas can reach the library site within 15 minutes by bus and walking. The remainder of each map cannot.
1128 Hillsborough Rd – County’s Preferred Site as of March 2013
As you can see, the site has limited access to most Chapel Hill residents and the most heavily populated parts of Carrboro along Jones Ferry Rd and NC 54 are generally not included in the 15-minute travel zone to this library site.
401 Fidelity St
401 Fidelity St fares better, covering the major North-South and East-West roads in Chapel Hll, and getting down to part but not all of Southern Village. Coverage is barely reaching Carrboro High School.
301 W Main St (Town Hall Site)
The Carrboro Town Hall site shows expanding coverage through more of Carrboro, as well as improved access to Glen Lennox and other neighborhoods near Eastwood Lake.
201 S Greensboro St (Roberson St Parking Lot Site)
Everywhere in Carrboro that has bus service can reach this site in less than 15 minutes by bus. In Chapel Hill, residents along Eubanks Rd and Ephesus Church Rd can reach the library in 15 minutes by bus.
300 E Main St
With 300 East Main’s super-central location, now even residents in Durham County have 15-minute or less access by bus to the library. Luckily for us, if we put the library there, those Durham residents might spend some money with our merchants while they visit.
Obviously, there’s more that goes into library site selection than how easy it is to take the bus there. But conversations I’ve had in Carrboro suggest that this is an important criteria for many people, not only for environmental and local economy reasons, but also for social justice ones- like making the library as easy to access as possible for households that may not own a car.
The level of transit service to the library cannot be judged simply by “is there or isn’t there a bus stop nearby?” We also need to look at the amount of network you can reach from that stop, and (perhaps a topic for another post) the level of frequency and hours of service available throughout the day, evening, and weekends.