Half a Cent for Our Transit Future

Damon Seils's picture

In a February work session of the county commissioners, Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt took the podium to present a sweeping overview of the past 25 years of his town's approach to land use planning. Speaking with the didactic urgency we now expect from Kleinschmidt when he's both prepared and fired up, the mayor encouraged the commissioners to maintain their commitment to long-term planning for public transportation by adopting the Orange County transit plan.

Kleinschmidt's presentation highlighted Chapel Hill's planning for a transit-oriented future. In comprehensive plans and small area plans as far back as 1989, the town has identified opportunities for an integrated approach to land use and transit. Development plans for Meadowmont, Hillmont, East 54, the Friday Center, and the Ephesus Church area all reflect, in part, this integration.

For many years, the county commissioners also have worked with our regional neighbors on a long-term vision for transit. In June, after years of planning and public comment, the commissioners adopted the Orange County transit plan. To pay for the plan, they placed a half-cent sales tax referendum on the upcoming November ballot.

The Orange County transit plan includes nearly 41,000 new hours of bus service throughout the county, new park-and-ride lots, more accessible bus stops, and technology for real-time passenger information. Most of the bus service improvements will be provided in the first five years of the plan. The plan also includes an Amtrak passenger rail station in Hillsborough, light rail service from Chapel Hill to Durham, and bus rapid transit on Chapel Hill's Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard.

Funding for the transit plan will come from a combination of local, state, and federal contributions. A vote for the referendum in November will allow the county to collect revenue from a half-cent sales tax. (This tax will not apply to food, medicine, health care, gas, or housing.) Also, small proportions of the funding will come from an additional $10 in the annual vehicle registration fee and from Triangle Transit's rental car tax.

Opponents of the plan have expressed concerns about costs. For example, one persistent and false rumor is that the light rail component of the plan will soak up 90 percent of the funding. In reality, light rail service will account for about 50 percent of the funding.

Opponents also claim that the transit plan will not benefit residents outside the southeastern corner of the county. Of course, most service improvements will occur in and around Chapel Hill and Carrboro. This area has the greatest concentration of county residents (and is the greatest source of sales tax revenue). Nevertheless, in the first five years alone, the plan will bring weekend service to the Hillsborough circulator bus, a new express bus route from Mebane to Hillsborough to Durham, more hours of on-demand service in the county's rural areas, and an Amtrak station in Hillsborough.

In the longer term, the plan includes additional enhancements to bus service and more frequent service on the 420 route between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill. The plan also includes new park-and-ride lots in the northern half of the county. Triangle Transit estimates these lots will have a "catchment area"—the area typically served by the lots—that reaches 90 to 95 percent of the population of the county

The population of our region continues to grow. We can respond to growth with sprawl, or we can adopt long-range plans that concentrate growth around transit corridors. Sprawl harms the entire county, rural and urban, stripping these places of their unique heritage, cultural significance, and aesthetic appeal. Transit-oriented planning encourages urban areas to be urban and rural areas to be rural.

When Mayor Kleinschmidt spoke with the county commissioners, he explained that we plan for transit not because we want transit, but because we want livability. A vote for the half-cent transit tax on November 6 will preserve and promote livability for all Orange County.

[A version of this post appears in the October 6, 2012, issue of the Chapel Hill News.]

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33 Comments

Bonnie Hauser's picture

lets at least share a fact set

The ballot is for 1/2 cent; the plan calls for an additional $10 per car per year for vehicle regislration fees.  Can't speak to opponents or proponents, but the plan says that $477  (70%) of the $660 million plan (for OC only) will be used for a four mile light segment along the already developed corridor on East 54,  that doesn't include the costs for park and rids and bus service to the train stations. The 41000 bus hours are over 22  years.  The first 5 years adds 34,000 hours (about 7,000 hours a year), the remaining 7000 hours are added in later years.  Applied to the base of 200,000 hours a year, that's about a 3.5 % increase per year.   Any changes require unanimous approval by TTA, CH/D MPO and Orange County.   Of course there are no guiding principles about priorities - in the event of cost overuns. Dont believe me - here's the plan http://www.ourtransitfuture.com/images/uploads/files/Orange-County-Transit-Plan-DRAFT-5-31-2012.pdfHere's the financials (see page 3) http://www.ourtransitfuture.com/images/uploads/files/OC-Transit-Plan-Appendices-ALL-5-31-2012.pdf

Bonnie Hauser

gercohen's picture

Hillsbrough AMTRAK stn connected despite Bonnie's misinformation

In a letter to the editor published in the News of Orange 10/10, Bonnie says that the proposed AMTRAK station in Hillsborough that is part of the plan was a "last minute addition" (as if this is a negative) More importantly she says in the letter that the station is "not connected to any planned service in Orange or Durham Counties" .So much misinformation (disinformation?). The next stop on AMTRAK east of Hillsborough is Durham. At Durham station in the plan there will be a light rail stop, and across from Durham station is the Durham city bus station with local, regional and Greyhound service as well as the free Bull City Connector bus which has 20 stops from Duke East and West campuses, including AMTRAK, the bus depot, and as far east as Golden Belt and runs six days per week. In Hillsborough itself both a circulator bus and the TTA regional bus will go right to the station. Bonnie, how do you get to just make stuff up?

Bonnie Hauser's picture

Amtrak is not part of tegional plan

Hey I'm all for the amtrak station in hillsborough - its an inexpensive way to connect Orange County to the Amtrak network throughout the country - but that has nothing to do with the LRT or commuter rail service in TTA's plan. The Amtrak station is the result of years of  good work from Hillsborough Leadership with its citizens. And yes - it was added at the last minute to TTA's in an attempt to secure HB vote.  Of course Durham is the big winner here - cause their station connects  LRT to AMtrak - and if Wake County comes on board - then the Wake commuter rail connects at the same Durham Station.  No wonder they approved the tax. I'm all for transit -but the plan on the table benefits Durham - not Orange.  If Wake County came on board, I'd be strongly supporting a form of rapid transit to RTP, RDU and Raleigh. Until that happens, we should only be pursuing bus service.  If you all want to vote for a train to Durham - that's your right.  But if you have to mislead and minform to secure support,  shame on all of us. Bonnie Hauser

gercohen's picture

exccept that AMTRAK station IS in the regional plan

except that the AMTRAK station IS now in the regional plan (despite the title to your post) and has been approved by Orange County/ DCHC and Burlington/Alamance MPOs and TTA to be in the plan. In any case, I totally rebutted the comments in your News of Orange letter that the AMTRAK service was not connected to any service in Orange or Durham and instead of responding to that you choose to launch an ad hominem attack on me saying I "mislead and misinform to secure support". That's an amazing bit of projection. So, tell me where you got the info in your News of Orange letter that the Hillsborough train station was not connected to any Orange or Durham service?

Bonnie Hauser's picture

its not personal

sorry Gerry - the comments weren't personal. The misleading information is everywhere.  And I'm disappointed to see people that I respect talk around the facts.  I posted my view below.  WRT to the Amtrak Station - that's a fantastic project that HB been working on for a long time. TTA through it in - and its not part of TTA's regional vision for transit. It connects HB to Greensboro, Charlotte, durham and elsewhere.     Its way more than this regional plan. That said, in my opinion, when the state funding doesnt come through or now that TTA gave most of the vehicle fees to Chapel Hill transit, I suspect the first thing to get cut will be the Hillsborough Train station.  Bonnie Hauser

Mark Chilton's picture

Speaking to the facts

Bonnie, you are the one who is failing to speak to the facts. TTA didn't "throw in" the Hillsborough Train Station.  The Orange County Transit Plan wasn't developed by TTA.  It was negotiated by the elected officials of Hillsborough, Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Orange County.  The station in Hillsborough was brought forward by members of the Hillsborough Town Board and endorsed by formal resolutions from all four jurisdictions.  It is an essential part of the plan.If the state winds up choosing not to participate in the Light Rail component of the plan, then there will be more money available for the train station, not less, as the entire plan will have to be more focused on bus service, BRT and commuter rail (i.e. commuter service on existing AMTRAK/freight rail lines).But thanks for playing.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Vote for a train to Durham

A train to Durham? Yes, please! Me and many many thousands of others using 15-501, NC 54, and/or riding TTA every day would like that very much.Every day, Chapel Hill becomes less isolated and more a part of the Triangle region.Every day, human beings use more non-renewable fossil fuels, irreversibly polluting our environment.Every day, we are a step closer to the day when gas is so scarce that personal cars are considered either a luxury or a burden. Not if, but WHEN these things come to pass I will be glad to live in a community that was forward-thinking enough to plan ahead. First by developing the rural buffer to prevent the sprawl that infects the rest of the Triangle, and second by investing in transportation infrastructure that will allow people to walk, bike, ride buses, carpool, and yes ride trains to and form their home, jobs, schools, stores, and cultural destinations. We will all be the winners then: Durham, Orange, Wake will all benefit from the connections. Even those who chose to stay in their cars will benefit by having cleaner air, less traffic to compete with, and a more robust economy.It seems you are the one misleading people, Bonnie. You haven't answered several challenges on that point so it's not clear whether you are doing it on purpose or because you just don't  understand the policies being discussed.

Bonnie Hauser's picture

Opinion and Ideology are not facts

I not going to debate opinion  or ideology.  You are entitled to yours; I am to mine.  My facts are correct and I haven't heard any challenges to them.  I've heard nostly soaring rhetoric and ideology - and I hate to spoil the party with a few facts. Re the environment, the MPO has stated publically that the LRT will NOT help congestion or air quality.  Partly because the cars aren't going away -and probably (my speculation) because the emissions on cars and buses are getting better all the time.Re development, the land on the Orange county segment of LRT is already developed - and the town and county development priories are barely serviced Wake County is not part of the plan. I'm pretty tired of hearing that the plan will serve 1 million people coming to the area-  The million people are coming to Wake County, not Orange or Durham.  If and when they do, we're likely to have the opportunity to  build a truly regional plan - but if we're committed to a train to Durham, our options become limited. We cant find a community that;s close to the size of Orange/Durham anywhere that has invested in LRT - even with the projections to 2040.  That includes residents and commuters.  We are not New York, chicago, Philadephia, Houston, Charlotte or Phoenix.  Not Close,  And an infrequent train service to Durham is not going to enrich our transit experience.  So if in your opinion, voters should support LRT to Durham to serve a couple of hundred thousand people, then vote for the Tax. In my opinion, based on the facts, we should be investing in bus service to increase ridership and start to create a transit-oriented community (which will improve congestion and air quality).In my opinion, If/when Wake County joins the region, leaders from three counties should discuss options for rapid transit based on commuter volumes,  available commuter rail infrastucture and emerging technologies for bus rapid transit. If LRT was taken out of the plan, and the tax went to buses and the Amtrak station,  I'd vote for it. But that's not the plan on the table so I'm not voting for it.  Bonnie Hauser

gercohen's picture

zzzzz

Bonnie says:

"My facts are correct and I haven't heard any challenges to them."

well, I guess you didn't bother reading my reply because the "fact" that I cited was incorrect and I challenged it. Malarkey.

Jason Baker's picture

Actually, your "facts" have been challenged numerous times.

Re the environment, the MPO has stated publically that the LRT will NOT help congestion or air quality.  Partly because the cars aren't going away -and probably (my speculation) because the emissions on cars and buses are getting better all the time.

 

In the words of Wikipedia, [citation needed]. Especially since it contradict's the MPO's own model. The "percent of VMT experiencing congestion" drops from 14% to 5% under the "All-in transit" scenario. What are the assumptions of that scenario? "The All-in-Transit scenario replaced the land use assumptions around light rail and regional rail stations from the CommPlan with more dense and mixed-use transit oriented development (TOD), and increased the attractiveness of land parcels in those areas." In other words, it's not just about the reduction from LRT alone. It's about the intensive transit oriented development that LRT makes possible.

 

Wake County is not part of the plan. I'm pretty tired of hearing that the plan will serve 1 million people coming to the area-  The million people are coming to Wake County, not Orange or Durham.  If and when they do, we're likely to have the opportunity to  build a truly regional plan - but if we're committed to a train to Durham, our options become limited.

 

Do you not expect Durham and Orange Counties to continue to grow as well? The MPO projects Durham County to grow by 59% by 2040, from 265,590 to 421,749 people. Orange is projected to grow from by a much more modest 39% from 135,097 to 187,659. That's over 200,000 new people, and that's not counting the 84% increase in Chatham County from 38,449 to 70,921, many of whom commute from Chatham to Durham counties along the 54 corridor which the light rail component of the plan will serve.It's also incredibly misleading to say that Wake County is not part of the plan; they are not a part of this particular investment opportunity, but they are a part of our long term planning efforts, and hopefully they will see the political change necessary in order to get their own transit initiative on the ballot next fall. Last I checked, Orange County is adjacent to Durham County, not Wake County, and any car-free trip to the latter will necessitate trips involving the former. Most commuter trips leaving Orange County go to Durham, not Wake, so I'm not sure why we need to hold up our own plans to wait on them. There are of course exceptions; I commute from Orange to Wake county myself. And I look forward to the direct benefits of the current plan, including the improved local bus connector service, which will help me get from Orange to Wake county regardless of what Wake County decides to do.

We cant find a community that;s close to the size of Orange/Durham anywhere that has invested in LRT - even with the projections to 2040.  That includes residents and commuters.  We are not New York, chicago, Philadephia, Houston, Charlotte or Phoenix.  Not Close,  And an infrequent train service to Durham is not going to enrich our transit experience. 

I'm sorry your research hasn't worked out for you. Here, I'll help. Current population of Orange+Durham Counties: 400,687. Expected population by 2040: 609,408. Here's a link to a list of US light rail systems, ordered by ridership. Check out some of the cities with light rail, and then compare them to our population. Oceanside, CA; Tacoma, WA; Norfolk, VA; Trenton/Camden, NJ; and others. In fairness, I left out many of the other cities on the list with populations that are also smaller than ours, because they are directly adjacent to major metropolitan areas, and/or because their light rail connects to commuter rail systems, both of which help to make it viable. But wait a second... we're part of a major metropolitan area, and our light rail system will connect to commuter rail, too. Huh, funny coincidence.The truth is, light rail isn't going to fix all of our transportation problems. But no one is claiming that it is. What this investment plan is, is a first but important step on what is going to be a long, difficult, and expensive path towards reinventing our land use and transportation infrastructure to being viable in the years to come.

Bonnie Hauser's picture

agree to disagree

Lets agree to disagree.  I'm not going to argue wikipedia - I'm discussing Orange County NC  In addition to the comments about congestion and emissions, the MPO has been asked by Chatham and most recently the BoCC to correct their projections downward.   And Durham + Orange isn't Orange - but I guess that's part of the spin that's needed to justify the plan. As I've said before - the plan which connects durham to everyone is great for durham - but its a misfit for Orange.  A better first step would be a robust plan to align bus service to the changing population and commuter patterns and try to increase transit usage.  For well developed, high use corridors, BRT would be a great first step to rapid transit.   Even the MPO's latest presentation to the council suggested BRT for the high transit corridors. If voters understand the facts - that they are voting for a plan that never provides rapid transit from Chapel Hill to RTP or Wake,and that takes 70% of our transit dollars for light rail to Durham, the should vote for the tax.I've studied the plan and have lived in transit communities .  in the context of our changing demographics, targeted development, and commuter patterns,  the dots don't connect and the transit vision never comes into focus - for Orange County citizens.   We can do betterBonnie Hauser

Jason Baker's picture

Uncited claims and moving goalposts...

Lets agree to disagree.  I'm not going to argue wikipedia - I'm discussing Orange County NC

I wasn't asking you to argue Wikipedia. I was asking you to provide a citation for your faulty information. You still have not provided a source for this, or many other of your claims.

And Durham + Orange isn't Orange - but I guess that's part of the spin that's needed to justify the plan. As I've said before - the plan which connects durham to everyone is great for durham - but its a misfit for Orange. 

You had posted in just your previous comment "We cant find a community that;s close to the size of Orange/Durham anywhere that has invested in LRT." I provided you with a source to multiple examples that met the exact criteria you had asked for. What you are doing is simply moving the goalpost. It's dishonest.I won't rebut the rest of your points, because they have largely been dealt with already somewhere else in this thread. On the whole, I just find it to be disappointing that you continue to make claims that make it sound as if the transit referendum that we are voting for starting in a few weeks is the entirity of our regional transit plan. It's not, and you know that as well as I do. Just because a particular item isn't funded in this particular plan, does not mean that it's not going to be funded. Claiming otherwise is to tell a lie. Yes, we do need improved transit service to many other areas that this particular investment will not fund directly. I look forward to your support of the necessary fiscal policies to fund these investments as well, since it is clear that you value them even more than our current regional priorities.

Bonnie Hauser's picture

its in the plan

Early voting starts Thursday.  The transit plan behind the referendum is a poor fit for Orange County and appears to me to be TTA's attempt to get a second county onto Durham's plan so they can attempt to get Durham's light rail funded. My information comes mostly from the plan itself with supplemental info from the MPO meetings with the transit boards and the elected boards, BoCC meetings with TTA.  Some of the questions I asked personally.  You'll have to trust me - or you can go find the audio tapes. I'm not going waste anyone's time on the demographics - our population numbers are so far from any of the examples offered, that its not worth discussing.  You'd have to be interested in understanding the  population of the county vs the towns and the growth projections.But the important population trend is that our growth and commuter patterns are decentralizing - along wiht UNC and its Healthcare system. so why focus on light rail to service an area that's already developed. Why not build a system that covers the entire service area,  and provide frequent and convenient bus service. That's the only way to encourage ridership.  I take transit seriously and well done, its fantastic.  But this plan lacks basics on priorities, trends, technology, phasing and adoption.   Its as though light rail was the presumed solution and the plan was built to justify it.  Of course that's just an opinion   If I understand the history, light rail was assumed a long time ago. Technology has changed along with our growth patterns, but the plan was never updated to reflect who we are becoming. Why not vote the tax down and have the real discussion.  We can bring the tax back in 18 months to fund buses and start planning a 21st century rapid transit system with Durham and Wake.The good news for all of us, is that if the tax fails, there's other money for bus service  Bonnie Hauser

Jason Baker's picture

The transit plan is a great fit for our current & future needs.

1) Telling someone to go find the audio tapes of a meeting with telling them the time, date, or location of said meeting is not a citation. Neither is "trust me."2)  "[O]ur population numbers are so far from any of the examples offered, that its not worth discussing." I offered multiple examples that directly contradict your statement.3) "[O]ur growth and commuter patterns are decentralizing." That's called sprawl, Bonnie. It's what a lot of us in Orange County are actively trying to prevent. This transit plan is a tool for helping in that effort. Our transportation plan should help drive a revitalized land use plan with dense concentrated nodes along transit corridors, not continue to support an unsustainable decentralized growth pattern.4) "Why not vote the tax down and have the real discussion.  We can bring the tax back in 18 months..." That would just put us further behind. Our transit infrastructure is already severely behind where it should be. We've been having this discussion for years. I'm not interested in waiting another 18 months to begin funding something that we should have started building a decade ago.

gercohen's picture

NOT

The good news for all of us, is that if the tax fails, there's other money for bus service 

um, NOT. Unless you are paying. Or I suppose we can increase property taxes. I doubt we are going back for a second referendum if this fails. When it passes, next step will be pushing for a vote in Wake.

The transit plan ... appears to me to be TTA's attempt to get a second county onto Durham's plan so they can attempt to get Durham's light rail funded.

You act as if TTA is some sort of evil empire and if Durham is some sort of remote unconnected planet.  Actually, the plan came from THIS, a legislative study commission 2006-7 that came up with the tax authorization, SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO FUND A REGIONAL RAIL PLAN. I was the principal staffer on this study. The General Assembly passed it for the purpose of authorizing a regional rail plan.and from the Special Transportation Advisory Committee (STAC) from 2007 (sorry, domain expired 9/15/12 so I can't send you directly to the report.) I served on that committeeSo you might as well blame me for everything

Connection?

If the plan connects Durham to everyone and Orange is connected to Durham, then doesn't it follow that Orange is also connected to everyone?  Is the problem that Durham becomes the hub?  Does it not make some sort of sense that the place in the middle of all the connections would become the hub?

gercohen's picture

without Durham

two years ago when there was some restistance from Durham (they eventually went first as we all know) one wag said "No need for Durham, we can get from Orange to Wake via Chatham"

harrycjohnson's picture

This is a reasonable and balanced plan.

Bonnie: Your fact set would be nice if it weren't so misleading.  It's almost like saying "let's agree on this statement where half of it is my own opinion."  There’s a lot of assertions in your comment, so I’ll go through them one by one. We're not voting on the 10 dollar vehicle increase, just the 1/2 cent sales tax.  The vehicle registration fee is decided by commissioners alone and doesn't require a vote.  There are a lot of funding sources for transit in Orange County, including federal funding, state grants, and UNC student fees.  None of those are on the ballot this fall.  What is on the ballot is a dedicated source of funding for public transportation that will come out of a half penny of every dollar spent on goods and services while excluding food, medicine, gas, housing, and utilities. Where to start with your "analysis" of light rail?  It might be with the most misleading figure of all: that this goes to a four-mile light rail segment.  In reality, it helps pay for the county's share of a 17.3 mile light rail line that: 

  • a) connects the largest employer in Orange County and the largest employer in Durham County;
  • b) connects two of the three research universities that give our region its name; and
  • c) provides a commuting alternative for two of the busiest corridors in the Chapel hill Region: US-15/501 and NC 54.  

  Your cost figures are also oversimplified and misleading (I'm noticing a trend here).  It's true that 70 percen of all dollars will be spent on light rail from now until 2035.  However, Saying that "70 percent" is the whole story of the Orange Transit Referendum is like saying that Moby Dick is a story about a whale.  In reality, about 50 percent of local funding (which, you might remember, is on the ballot this November) is dedicated to both light rail construction and operations.  The federal money that makes up the difference comes from a competitive grant-based program, which the county could not use for bus operations.  As it stands, 38.8 percent of local dollars between 2013 and 2035 will be used for construction of the light rail line, while 11 percent of local dollars from 2013 to 2035 will be used to operate the line.  That ratio will change after 2035, as the capital funds used to construct the light rail can be redirected to other uses.  This transit plan runs until 2035.  The ½ cent of dedicated funding lasts a whole lot longer.  You also underemphasize the sizeable and immediate investment made in existing local and regional bus systems.  As Damon stated, this plan adds 41,000 hours of bus service.  You spread that out by year to 3.8 percent even though most of that service will be implemented in the first 5 years.  In any case, the increase from 200,000 hours to 240,000 hours represents a twenty percent increase in bus service throughout the county.  But “bus hours” is difficult to conceptualize, and it’s easier to talk about the potential on-the-ground improvements.  For transit riders in Chapel Hill or Carrboro, this means a bus system with longer hours of service, more frequent service, and better weekend service.  For riders in Hillsborough, it means improvements to local and regional service and new routes from Mebane to Durham.  And for transit-dependent riders everywhere, it means a massive increase in the capability of on-demand para-transit service for the elderly, the poor, the disabled, and those who cannot either use a car or access fixed route service.  Again, simply throwing out a number like “3.8 percent per year” obscures the real and immediate impact of this dedicated funding. Finally, your “facts” make no mention of the planned capital investments in either the Hillsborough train station or the enhanced bus service on NC 86.  A train station in Hillsborough connects northern Orange County to the existing intercity rail network as well as planned high speed and intercity rail service.  The MLK improvements increase the reliability and comfort of existing bus service.         If the Federal or State Governments refuse to play ball, then the plan can of course be changed.  It’s true that such a change requires the approval of the three boards, but saying it requires “unanimous” approval insinuates that all members of all boards have to approve changes, which isn’t true.  Additionally, elected officials from both the County and Chapel Hill sit on both the MPO and Triangle Transit, so Orange County citizens have representation on all boards regarding changes to the plan.  Let’s not forget that this plan required the approval of all three bodies, and I trust that our elected officials are dexterous enough to adapt to changes as they occur.  Assuming that they can’t reveals a deep distrust and hints of malevolence that border on conspiracy without a scintilla of evidence. We do share a set of facts: The Orange Bus/Rail investment plan.  I encourage people to read it.  Read the appendices, too.  When they do, I think they’ll read about a balanced plan that provides a short-term shot in the arm to our bus system while making a long-range investment in a regional rail system.  You may disagree.  But cherry-picking numbers from the plan and presenting them as the unvarnished truth is, as our Vice President might say, a bunch of malarkey. Harry Johnson, MCRP UNC Law c/o 2014 Raleigh Environmental Advisory Board NC Sierra Club

Land Use Plans is Flip Side of Transportation Plans

An aspect that stood out in the recent review by the Carrboro BOA of the 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan Alternatives Analysis was that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) does not change much in any of the alternatives relative to the 2010 baseline.  'All in transit' does an improvement of 1 mile per capita.  For the 'highway alternative,' vehicle miles traveled increase by 2 miles relative to 2010 by 2040.Though there is a difference (multiply population by all the miles traveled or not traveled over a year), given what the science on climate change calls for this difference is insignificant.One reason the difference is minuscule is that the model relies on an assumption of static land use for all alternatives, a land use that is based on existing land use and plans today.What this signifies for me is that we need to really take seriously land use planning simultaneous to plans such as the 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.  We need to constantly remind ourselves that the transportation plans that underly and inform many other policies and  plans (i.e. OWASA water capacity) are based on assumptions that local governments ultimately have control over through land use planning and implementation.The Metropolitan Transportation Plan Alternatives Analysis is a clue for where we can effect real change.  We need to use the models that these plans are based on proactively and not reactively.  These need to be tools to inform the vision we must make real, otherwise municipal elected bodies and by extension citizens will remain 'tools' of continuing 'business as usual'.  

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Land use planning

I completely agree, Sammy. It's unfortunate that Chapel Hill 2020 came and went without a substantive discussion of these connections and what they mean for our development patterns (or lack thereof).  I heard most people saying they like buses and want a more connected town, but no-one wants anything to change in their neighborhood, nor will they tolerate taller buildings in our transportation hubs.

George C's picture

It's pretty hard to have ....

what you might call a substantive discussion when most folks are saying they want more/better transit, more/better connections, more/better services but no one wants change in their neighborhoods or increases in their taxes. Since that appears to be the case nowadays in almost all proposals that come before Council it is hard to imagine things changing unless/until Council begins making decisions that are virtually guaranteed to raise the ire of at least one or more neighborhoods or special interest groups. We know it can happen as evidenced by the Community House approval but the long, drawn-out discussions before Council probably discourage substantial participation by many but the most seriously-committed folks who have the requisite hours to sit through lengthy Council meetings, public hearings, focus groups, etc.  

Change management

"It's pretty hard to have what you might call a substantive discussion when most folks are saying they want more/better transit, more/better connections, more/better services but no one wants change in their neighborhoods or increases in their taxes."I haven't heard anyone saying they don't want improved/extended transit. I have heard the Meadowmont folks oppose one of the proposed routes, and I have heard rural Orange asking how they will benefit from a plan that doesn't extend out to them. Even Bonnie isn't opposing transit--she's opposing the plan, not the goal.Anytime there is big change, change management needs to be handled very carefully. Taking a holier than thou attitude (as some are doing in this thread) or disparaging any and all concerns is not an effective strategy for helping those who have questions/concerns understand the project better. It does nothing to convince them of the validity of the plans, or that the people proposing the plans care about anything but pushing the plans through.So in response to George's claim that substantive discussion is difficult, I have to ask, what did you expect?  Did anyone really think that they could make such as ambitious proposal and everyone was just going to go along with it? Was there no thought to how to market it; how to help assuage fears and concerns; to counter misinterpretations (without being insulting)? 

harrycjohnson's picture

Opinions are encouraged. Misleading facts are not.

Terri,I've heard almost nothing but positive response about this plan.  Folks working up in Hillsborough on this plan have also heard support for it, particularly when it comes to the train station there.  I'm also not disparaging concerns about this plan, and I encourage people who feel it could be better to contact their commissioners.  I especially understand sentiments of rural residents; if you live out in Orange Grove or Efland, then you probably will not ride the light rail system on a daily or even semi-regularly basis.  I'll also point out, though, that folks in those areas of the county will benefit from this plan in terms of expanded fixed route and demand-response bus service.  However, we live in a democracy and people should feel entitled to voice their legitimate grievances and vote their interests.However, that is not what Bonnie is doing.  Bonnie purports to be an authority figure on this plan (and referendum) by cherry-picking figures and presenting them ex cathedra as proof positive that this plan is either incompetent, nefarious, or both.  Since this is a membership forum, it's also entirely appropriate for other members to correct Bonnie when she enters this realm of untruth.  She's entirely entitled to think that rail is a bad idea, or that trains should serve Hillsborough, or that we should continue our current patterns of development.  However, we're within our rights as members of this forum and as informed citizens to voice our own opinion and to point out that Bonnie's "figures" are misleading.  I'll also repeat the fact that this referendum is largely but not completely tied to the idea of light rail.  This is a referendum on a permenant revenue stream for public transportation.  If the three public bodies of Triangle Transit, DCHCMPO, and BOCC agree, then the plan can change.  But coming out against this referendum is coming out against transit.  Bonnie makes the perfect the enemy of the good, and she attempts to evangelize people to her cause using misleading evidence.  That cannot be tolerated in an open and civil society and it should not be tolerated on this forum.I'll also say that posting on this forum about how light rail is a boondoggle might be akin to going to a meeting of the Sierra Club and saying that we need to mine the Grand Canyon because there's a lot of platinum there: it won't get you far.  If Bonnie is interested in campaigning against this referendum, she should consider joining the one organization that has endorsed voting against it: the Orange County Republican Party. Harry Johnson, MCRP
UNC Law c/o 2014
Raleigh Environmental Advisory Board
NC Sierra Club

Corrections

Harry,If you don't agree with someone's 'facts', you can counter them without angry or aggressive language (I don't think you did but others did). I don't know if there was any chance of convincing Bonnie that she was misunderstanding elements of the plan or was not seeing the big picture, but on a public forum like this, there are plenty of readers who may have been open to learning your side. Some of those individuals turned off when Bonnie was attacked.Terri 

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Truth telling

I didn't see Harry attacking Bonnie, just confronting her very bluntly which seemed fairly justified based on the way she has been brushing off other people's corrections. He sounded frustrated, but not rude.I was thankful for his post, not turned off. But I am also getting a little tired of the back and forth. I am ready to just accept that there is no amount of facts or persuation that is going to get Bonnie on board with the transit plan. I don't see any point in contuiing to argue with her.It may not be comfortable to be criticized publicly (I should know) but we have to be able to do that (respectully) if our disucssions are really going to tell the whole story, and OP doing that is very important to me.  

OCCC board voted to support the tax

Hi all,I have been following this issue closely as I think it directly impacts the development of a thriving cultural hub in rural Orange--particularly the proposed train station in Hillsborough. I can't claim to have the in-depth statistical knowledge that many posters here have, but I can say that as an Orange County native, an environmentalist, and a supporter of regional planning, the transit tax seems like a no-brainer to me. I am also really pleased to share that the board of the Orange County Cultural Center (where I serve as the ED) voted Monday night to publicly support the transit tax. We had a lively discussion prior to the vote and there were certainly concerns expressed about whether and how much rural Orange will actually benefit from the transit tax and transit plan. But I have to say that it seemed, ultimately, like common sense for our board to support an issue that will help connect northern Orange to the rest of the Triangle and beyond. If we want to become a destination for cultural and artistic events, we need more buses, light rail, and connectivity to Amtrak. So, the OCCC joins with many other civic groups in supporting the transit tax. This is our first official advocacy issue and I am really excited to be part of it.  Elizabeth Waugh

Half A Cent for Our Transit Future

I plan to vote for this because of my confidence in the folks supporting this.  However, I wish some of your commentators would help me with a basic question I have about light rail in American communities.  Our region, and most of the U.S, is so spread out due to sprawl that it really seems that this strategy will do little to stop our reliance on the automobile.  However, we do have a developed road system which does lend itself to massive investment in bus transportation.  This would both help deal with transportation between cities and transportation within cities and surrounding urban areas.  What am I not understanding?  Thanks, Tom

Bonnie Hauser's picture

Tom - you're question is

Tom - you're question is right on.  increasing ridership relies on convenient, frequent service - bus service in our case.    BRT or LRT is only a technology change - not a transportation system.  Without a serious investment in bus transit (a lot more than is proposed in the plan), we wont see adoption rates that are required to make LRT ridership work.   Here's a piece that captures the challenges of Triangle Transit -even if Wake were involved. http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2011/11/09/in-north-carolinas-triangle-the-passage-of-a-sales-tax-increase-in-durham-is-just-the-first-step/ Bonnie Hauser

gercohen's picture

without a doubt the best transit column by MarkM

MarkM's Chapelboro column on transit today is without a doubt the best I have seen the entire election campaign of fairly analyzing all sides of the issues. I'd encourage folks to share (see below)http://chapelboro.com/High-Time-for-Some-Transition/12306974?pid=274249Chapelboro has a great pop up menu "share this" link just above and to the right of Mark's picture with FB, Twitter, and 6 other social media sites. If you do share add a few words along with the link it will create