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City Beautiful 21 » Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Maps, Public Comment Opportunity, Public Transit, Surveys » Chapel Hill Transit Proposes New System Maps – Scenario 3 Is The Best

Chapel Hill Transit Proposes New System Maps – Scenario 3 Is The Best

The bottom line: in the past week or so, Chapel Hill Transit has released three potential service scenarios that could inform the transit service we have in the fall of 2019.  Scenario 3 is a major, positive game-changer. The new service concept in Scenario 3 will make it easier for people to use transit for types of trips in Chapel Hill and Carrboro that were not previously possible, while also giving lots of people access to jobs 7 days/week instead of only 5 days/week. This can drive ridership, making positive impacts for equity and helping to slow or mitigate climate change.

But first, here’s the most important map made by the consultant, Nelson Nygaard: CHT Ridership by Stop

This map shows ridership by the size of the circle at each bus stop. Bigger circles = more riders.Within the massive pile of circles on campus, the U, RU, and other campus routes do a lot of business because it is so hard to park at UNC. Whenever you wonder why the consultant might have recommended something, return to this map.

Below is a map of Scenario 3.

Scenario 3

CHT Scenario 3 System Map_V3-01


Scenario 3 Notes:

This is the “Start from Scratch” map where the consults tried to be maximally responsive to where ridership activity is. These routes look quite different from what we have today, and there are some strange bends in the routes here and there. But look closely- you’ll see that the six core routes: EW, J, T, NS, V, and U -do something really compelling. You can make direct transfers from each route to each of the other routes somewhere in one of the two towns or on campus!

CHT As a One-Connection Network

That means you can make ALMOST any trip on these routes with only one transfer. Let’s watch how this works in practice:

  • Live Along the V? Catch the T at Glen Lennox, J, NS, T & U on South Columbia St. Connect to EW at Franklin/Columbia corner, of catch EW again at Carrboro Plaza.
  • Live Along the T? Catch the NS on MLK Blvd or downtown, Catch the EW downtown or near Rams Plaza, catch the V in Northside or at Glen Lennox, catch the U or J on South Columbia St.

The Washington Metrorail system is designed like this. While there are sometimes ways to make trips faster with 2 connections, you can get from pretty much any station on any Metrorail line to any other with one connection if that’s what you prefer.

The EW Route is the Most Needed Route We Are Missing Today

We have had a solid North-South route in Chapel Hill for a long time, the NS. What we’ve been dealing with in pieces across the F, J, CW, D, CL, are all the major East-West movements in town. The EW route is a true game-changer. As the parent of elementary schooler, a bus like EW running from 6:30 AM to 11:30 PM is going to provide great freedom to DC as he gets older. Using ONE bus you could go to the following places on the EW:

  • University Lake
  • Carrboro Plaza
  • Johnny’s
  • Carrboro Farmers Market
  • PTA Thrift Shop
  • Downtown Carrboro
  • ArtsCenter
  • Downtown Chapel Hill
  • Caffe Driade
  • Bolin Creek Greenway (bike on bus!)
  • University Place
  • Rams Plaza
  • New Hope Commons
  • Patterson Place

That’s a lot of freedom! And a lot of places to work. With connections to NS, V, and T, pretty much every commercial center in Chapel Hill and Carrboro is within reach.

Is There Anything I Would Change About Scenario 3?

I have one major quibble with this otherwise really exciting concept- the J route. It has not been adjusted. And what this means is that we continue to have a situation where we have a high density, lower-car ownership area south of town near Carrboro High School and Rock Creek Apartments- that cannot take a bus easily to downtown Carrboro or Chapel Hill for work. The J brings residents from that neighborhood to the bottom of South Greensboro Street, less than 1 minute by bus from downtown…and takes them on long trip on NC 54 through campus before reaching Franklin St and Main St.

It seems like the primary roadblock to doing something like this is making sure CHT can continue to serve the significant ridership east of Greensboro St and west of South Columbia along NC 54. I see two ways to address this.

  1. Turn the JFX into a non-express route to provide additional service to those apartment complexes on weekdays, and move the J off of this stretch of NC 54, sending it north from Rock Creek to downtown Carrboro and then Chapel Hill instead. This helps those apartments during weekday peak hours, but would leave them with no weekend or evening service.
  2. If it is important to provide those apartments all-day service, and it seems to be, what about modifying the J to run like this?

Modified J Route- No Crazier than the Current Version!

Here’s how the modified J would work.

Bus 1 departs Rock Creek Apts following the Green pattern, proceeding first to downtown Carrboro, then turning RIGHT towards Chapel Hill. When it reaches South Columbia Street by the Skipper Bowles building it follows the purple line south to Fordham Blvd /15-501 and then takes that path back to Rock Creek Apts.

Bus 2 departs Rock Creek Apts following the Purple pattern, proceeding first to downtown Carrboro, then turning LEFT towards Collins Crossing/Davie Rd. When it reaches Frat Court by the Ackland Art Museum, it picks up the Green line north to Franklin St, then west to downtown Carrboro and back to Rock Creek Apts via South Greensboro St.

What are the benefits of this change?

  • Every part of the J route now has bi-directional service. No more one-way loop on Jones Ferry Rd, NC 54, and South Greensboro. That’s good! Jarrett Walker, author of Human Transit, has laid down the definitive explanation of why one-way loops are not good for transit here.
  • People boarding the J who previously could go straight to Chapel Hill along Main/Franklin will need to transfer to the EW at the Club Nova bus stop between to make the same trip. But the EW is pretty frequent at every 15 minutes. If CHT schedules the eastbound modified J buses from Collins Crossing to South Greensboro St to pass Club Nova 5 minutes ahead of the EW in the morning, and 5 minutes later westbound in the evening, this will work out smoothly for passengers. Also- now that the J runs along 54 without getting off, riding the OPPOSITE direction from Collins Crossing/Davie Rd probably gets them to south campus FASTER, even if they make stops along NC 54. There’s also the GoTriangle 405 at the same stop.
  • People who used to ride from Rock Creek to campus via NC 54 have had their trips lengthened a bit, but now they have access to both downtowns for work or social opportunities that they can connect to before or after going to campus or on weekends. If they accidentally catch the bus that is going towards Collins Crossing once it reaches downtown Carrboro, they just hop off and catch the EW, or stay on the J and enjoy the ride.
  • Businesses in downtown Carrboro and Chapel Hill who face parking challenges for workers and customers should benefit from this move. It makes the J work as well for the two downtowns as it does for the UNC campus.

Overall, moving to something like Scenario 3 is going to be a significant change in how people use the system. It’s impossible to make these types of changes without some folks losing the service they have today, but we also have to think about how the service improvements in this scenario could potentially make the service useful for more people than currently find the service useful today. I chose to live where I live today in part because it was a certain number of feet from a CW bus stop. Scenario 3 takes that stop away from me, and makes me walk farther to catch a bus in the first place. But the type of service I can walk to will be DRASTICALLY more useful, and I want that kind of service because my family will ride it much more often. I’m betting others will too.


Okay, that’s my take. What’s yours? Leave a comment!

And more importantly, head over to the Chapel Hill Transit Survey and leave your suggestions there!



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Filed under: Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Maps, Public Comment Opportunity, Public Transit, Surveys

6 Responses to "Chapel Hill Transit Proposes New System Maps – Scenario 3 Is The Best"

  1. Michael Adamson says:

    Patrick, as always I appreciate your talent and intense focus on transit in Carrboro. I agree with the principles of a one-connection network and no one-way loops. Scenario 3 as originally proposed looks good to me. However, I don’t agree with your suggested changes to the J Route.

    The J is the main transit connection between Carrboro (especially western Carrboro) and Chapel Hill, especially the University. The apartments surrounding the Davie Rd stop house many UNC students and other workers headed to UNC. In fact, I believe the Davie Rd stop is the most used bus stop in Carrboro. For those riders, not all destinations are created equal.

    The trip from Davie Rd to the UNC campus takes 12 minutes and continues to UNC Hospitals, originating from a weather protected stop. Your suggested changes would potentially more than double that trip time and leave riders waiting for a bus in the weather. The suggestion of synchronized routes sounds good but introduces an unacceptable uncertainly in arrival times. And while the Eastbound segment of the J is technically a one-way loop, the portion of Jones Ferry on the one-way segment is short and does not likely contain both origination and destination points.

    I am concerned that the suggested route change to the J would undermine the value of the J to Carrboro and especially to a segment of workers and students who rely heavily on transit.

  2. Patrick says:

    Michael, I appreciate your concern for making sure the trip from Collins Crossing to UNC is timely. This is where the bidirectional routing comes in handy. Google Maps has this trip to the Health Sciences Library being 3.2 Miles using Fordham Blvd. A 15 mph average speed would be reasonable to assume, getting someone who boarded at the BP on Jones Ferry Rd (across the street from Collins Crossing) to the center of campus in 13-14 minutes. I think these extra 1-2 minutes for this trip are a very modest impact to the biggest destination in the local network.

    But what if you’re a Southern Village restaurant worker living at Collins Crossing? This modified J is quite fast from the BP across the street to Merrit’s grill on South Columbia. Cross the street and you have the NS to take you to Southern Village without having your bus needing to get through downtown traffic in the afternoon to make your shift.

    Finally, I freely admit to valuing trips to jobs for non-students more highly than trips to campus when we are talking about travel time changes of less than 10 minutes one way. Our system is currently designed to serve UNC well, but our other commercial centers struggle to connect workers to jobs when routings are UNC-oriented instead of connection-oriented. I think that using my strategy with the J would help get downtown Carrboro workers to jobs and social/entertainment activities downtown.

    The great thing about Scenario 3 aside from this one issue with the J (for folks living along the Smith Level Rd corridor) is that it appears to be BOTH network-oriented AND UNC-oriented at the same time. Would love to hear any further thoughts you may have.

  3. Patrick says:

    One edit: I should have said “connection-oriented “ instead of “network-oriented “ in the last sentence above.

  4. Matt says:

    Scenario 3 makes sweeping changes in northeast Chapel Hill that I want to make sure I’m interpreting correctly:

    1)How frequent would bus service be on the new EW route?

    2)How late would the EW route operate?

    3)Am I understanding correctly that instead of having one-way loops as the D, F and CL have now, the new EW route would be bi-directional? In other words, instead of the D going only northbound on Legion Road (forcing riders to waste time going away from UNC before looping back to go to UNC) riders would board the EW route on the east side of Legion Road if they were headed to Patterson Place and on the west side of Legion Road if they wanted to go to UNC? Eliminating loops would save a lot of wasted time. (From the route’s namesake Colony Lake neighborhood, you can drive to NC State faster than you can get to UNC on the CL route.)

    4)Am I reading the map correctly that the EW route would spilt in northeast Chapel Hill, with one leg going along Legion Road and Old Durham Road to Patterson Place and one leg going along Fordham Boulevard to New Hope Commons? Would the same level of service exist on both legs?

    The most unfortunate aspect of Scenario 3 (and Scenario 1) is that F bus riders along Ephesus Church Road and Colony Woods lose service entirely. I contend that today’s F route could potentially double its boardings through Colony Woods simply by establishing a pedestrian connection with Colony Lake along the OWASA right of way. 10 years ago, a makeshift connection existed in the form of a lumber plank across the drainage ditch that divides the two neighborhoods. It was removed at the recommendation of the police due to crime concerns.

    If the EW route would indeed run until 11:30 and run more frequently, consolidating the D, F and CL into the EW route deserves serious consideration.

    However, I would also encourage CHT to work with the town to establish pedestrian connections through the American Legion property that would provide better access to Colony Woods residents to the new EW route.

  5. Patrick says:

    Matt- from the January 23rd CHT Partners’ Committee Packet:

    Route EW would be a new service added in Scenario 3. This route would provide service between Patterson Place, Rams Plaza, the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, Downtown Chapel Hill, Downtown Carrboro, Carrboro Plaza, and the Jones Ferry Park-and-Ride. Service to Southern Village and UNC Hospitals would still be provided by Route NS on S Columbia Street and US 15-501.

    Route EW would operate on two branches that split at the intersection of Franklin Street and Ephesus Church Road. The northern branch would continue on Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, Sage Road, and Eastowne Drive, serving Eastowne and Walmart. The southern branch would operate on Legion Road, Old Durham Road, and Mt. Moriah Road, providing service to Rams Plaza and Patterson Place.

    Route EW would operate every 15 minutes in mornings and evenings and every 30 minutes during midday and on nights and weekends. Each branch would operate every 30 or 60 minutes, depending on the time of day. Route EW would operate between 6:30 AM and 11:30 PM on weekdays and from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM on weekends.

  6. Patrick says:

    To parse the above using your questions:

    1. Every 15 minutes peak, 30 minutes off-peak in the primary route. Every 30 minutes peak, every 60 minutes off-peak in the branches in East Chapel Hill.

    2. EW runs to 11:30 PM on weekdays and 11:00 pm on weekends.

    3. It appears both branches would be bi-directional, ending the “travel away from UNC to go to UNC” loop phenomenon.

    4. See question number one for the branch service levels. They would need to match to create the 15-minute frequency at peak in the combined section.

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