New regional bus service on weekends from Triangle Transit is making intercity and interstate travel to and from Chapel Hill/Carrboro without a car easier than it has ever been.
If you try to visit the Research Triangle region of North Carolina without driving your own car here, you will generally arrive by one of three methods:
- By Plane – To RDU Airport, which is in between Raleigh and Durham, just north of the town of Morrisville
- By Bus – To Durham Station in downtown Durham via Megabus; or to the Raleigh Greyhound station on Capital Blvd
- By Train – To the Raleigh, Cary or Durham Amtrak Stations
None of these arrival points are in Chapel Hill or Carrboro, which means if you want to get to our neck of the woods, you need to then either use Triangle Transit’s regional bus service, rent a car, or take an expensive cab/UberX ride.
Before August 2014, Triangle Transit had offered service that stopped serving Chapel Hill around 6:45 pm on Saturdays, and there was no Sunday service at all.
Triangle Transit Expands Weekend Service August 2014
But as of August 18th, 2014 – these gaps in the regional bus schedule have been filled in!
Regional Saturday service now runs as late as the weekday service on routes 400 and 800, and Sunday service runs from 7 am to 7 pm. What this means is that trips that were either impossible or forced a car rental for a weekend visit, can now, in most cases- be accomplished using Triangle Transit regional services, local buses, and walking in the urban core of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. This will give travelers more options, and save them money.
Here’s a quick rundown of your options.
Downtown Durham and Bus 400 or 405 = best Ground Transport Access to Chapel Hill / Carrboro
Arriving by Amtrak in Durham, every train arrival of the entire week except for the last train from Charlotte (#76) on Sunday nights – allows for a successful connection on to Chapel Hill via Triangle Transit bus 400 or 405. Unfortunately, the earliest southbound train out of Durham leaves before the first bus from Chapel Hill each morning reaches Durham. Hopefully this connection will be added in the future.
However, the rest of the daily outbound train schedule in Durham is well served. Amtrak has direct connections from Durham to everywhere Amtrak’s Carolinian and Piedmont travel, including Charlotte, Greensboro, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC.
Also arriving in Durham, directly across Chapel Hill Street from the Amtrak Station at the corner of Willard and Chapel Hill, is the one stop for Megabus in the Triangle. Megabus has direct service from Durham to Charlotte, Fayetteville, Richmond, and Washington, DC.
To get from either the Amtrak station or Megabus stop to Chapel Hill / Carrboro, walk to the bus center and connect via routes 400 and 405. 400 runs all day long, and 405, which is slightly faster, runs on the weekdays during rush hour. You can find schedules for bus 400 and 405 here.
To be sure, you could also reach the Triangle by train in Raleigh or Cary, and by Greyhound bus in Raleigh as well. That said, if you’re trying to get to Chapel Hill or Carrboro, your connection will be shorter and more convenient from Durham. The only time this might not be true is if you arrive at the Raleigh Amtrak station by one of the trains that do not stop at Durham, such as the Silver Star, Silver Meteor, and the Palmetto. If this is how you reach the Triangle, use the Trip Planner at www.gotriangle.org for the best way to continue on to Chapel Hill / Carrboro on Triangle Transit.
RDU Airport, Bus 100 and Connect to Bus 800 = best Air Transport Access to Chapel Hill / Carrboro
If you fly into RDU Airport, the bus that will pick you up, no matter whether you land at Terminal 1 or Terminal 2, is Triangle Transit bus 100. Note that this bus follows the same traffic pattern through the airport whether it is going to Raleigh or to the Regional Transit Center (RTC). When 100 arrives, assuming you’re headed for Chapel Hill or Carrboro, just confirm with the driver that you are boarding a 100 bus headed towards the RTC, and you’ll be on your way. The RTC is quite close to the airport, and after departing Terminal 2, you’ll reach the RTC in just under 15 minutes.
Once at the RTC, you will find that every time bus 100 arrives, so do bus 700 (goes to Durham) and bus 800 (goes to Chapel Hill). Board 800, and about 30 to 35 minutes later, you’ll be in Chapel Hill at the UNC Student Union. If you’re headed to downtown Chapel Hill or Carrboro, it’s best to stay on to the first stop past the Morehead Bell Tower (can’t miss it), and then either walk up Columbia Street to Franklin, or if you’ve got heavy luggage, catch any Chapel Hill Transit bus with a name that doesn’t end in “X” at Sitterson Hall heading north to get to downtown, which is only 2 stops away.
Franklin and Columbia Streets – the Heart of Chapel Hill Transit
Now that you’re in downtown Chapel Hill, if you’re at the corner of Franklin and Columbia, you have easy access via Chapel Hill Transit to pretty much everywhere the bus system goes in either Chapel Hill or Carrboro. The F, J, or CW bus will take you to downtown Carrboro in about 7-8 minutes. The NS will take you to Southern Village or the north end of Chapel Hill. The D or F can take you to eastern Chapel Hill.
Transit Information is Text and Smartphone-Ready in the Research Triangle
If you’re reading this for the first time, I can understand how this may all sound a little complicated. That said, if you’re a visitor, there are lots of ways to get customer information about these and other bus services. Perhaps the most useful are the Transloc and Transloc Rider apps in the usual smartphone stores. They are free and integrate real-time arrival information for every bus and every bus stop in the Triangle. You can see the system in action on the web as well at triangle.transloc.com You can also call 919-485-RIDE to speak to customer service representatives who can provide trip planning assistance.
The base fare for Triangle Transit for a one-way trip is $2.25. Chapel Hill Transit routes within Chapel Hill and Carrboro are free to everyone, so unless you’re planning to ride Triangle Transit multiple times in one day, paying for regional buses by trip with cash is the best, most cost-efficient way to pay. More information on fares, including youth and senior discounts, can be found here.