This week in Transit: hearing Tues, votes Tues/Fri

Folks, it's almost here. Orange County Commissioners will hold mandatory public hearings on three items at 7 pm Tues 12/11 Southern Human Services Center Homestead Rd:

  • 1/2% Durham/Orange sales tax,
  • $7 annual Orange County vehicle registration fee, and
  • $3 Durham/Orange vehicle registration fee.

Commissioners have all three items on the agenda right after the hearing. The Durham Commissioners had their hearing and final vote on the sales tax two weeks ago. If approved by Orange, then the TTA Board will vote on the sales tax Friday at 1 pm, and that will be final vote. Collections would begin 4/1/13.

TTA had a final public hearing on the sales tax and $3 fee last week. If the $7 fee is approved it starts 7/1/13, only Orange Commissioner vote, that money goes to Chapel Hill Transit and Orange Public Transit both for intra-county service. The $3 Durham/Orange fee will also need approval by Durham and TTA in January, and starts August 1 for regional service to be budgeted by TTA. Durham is scheduled to vote on its $7 fee in January to be effective August 1.  


Hopefully, the hearing won't be too contentious. After all, the public has already had the opportunity to weigh in on this issue at the ballot box, and supported it by a reasonably wide margin.

Durham and Orange each adopted bus/rail investment plans with TTA and MPO approvals. Year 1 is FY 2013-2014 and likely programming for Chapel Hill/Carrboro/UNC is likely to be better evening and weekend service. For Durham it is probably shorter peak hour headways M-F. For regional service we may see in Year 1 a Hillsborough to Durham route with an extension to Mebane when park and ride is located. We may see a Carrboro-Chapel Hill-Durham TTA route. TTA may see better Saturday regional service and (finally) some Sunday regional service. Detailed implementation planning should start soon. I am not sure what the OrangeCommissioners  will do with the OPT $$, I have little knowledge of rural transit. All new service is likely to start in August. Make sure to participate as all the decisions are made. 

The three-county STAC (Special Transit Advisory Committee) developed the 1/2% sakes tax and $10 registration fee model in 2008, endorsed by a legislative committee. The $7/$3 county/regional split came from a compromise with the league of municipalities with required funding of municipal transit systems out of the county fee with a rural transit set aside, all as a condition of support in the General Assembly. The MPO approval and separate county voting was insisted in by Wake County, but Elvis has left the building (for now). Even the Burlington-Alamance MPO had to vote in a plan requiring multiple layers of consensus and local buy-in. It's a mind-numbing piece of legislative sausage, but it's almost done, except for Elvis (Wake). --------estimated full year revenue for Orange: sales tax $5.0 million, $7 county registration fee $788k, and $3 regional registration fee $338k 

The Orange County commissioner's three votes Tuesday night, 1/2% sales tax levy, $3 Durham/Orange vehiicle registration fee, and $7 Orange vehicle registration fee are the near conclusion of a 6-year long planning and legislative process.  The 3-county special transit advisory committee approved in 2008 a rail and bus based plan for service improvements, approved by the 2009 General Assembly.  The plan has those three funding elements, and required a process to develop  a financial plan (now knows as the bus-rail investment plan).  Plans were developed by the Durham and Orange County staffs along with the TTA staff. The plans were approved as required by law by TTA and the two board of commissioners, and by DCHCMPO (the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Durham and most of Orange) by the Burlington-Alamance MPO as to the part of Mebane in Orange County, and by the voters in both counties (60% in Durham in 2011 and 59% in Orange in 2012).  The plans can be found here: sales tax is time sensitive. The Durham Commissioners had their final vote two weeks ago, and the TTA board will have a special meeting Friday to approve, and if appoved by Orange Tuesday will go into effect April 1. If final votes are delayed until January then collections start July 1 which means less than a full year of funds available for year 1.  The Orange $7 vehicle registration fee will start July 1 if approved this week, but August 1 if approved in January. The $3 regional fee will not start until August 1 regardless.  For cash flow reasons, it will be very difficult to start up new service at the beginning of academic years in Chapel Hill and Durham if approvals do not come in December in Orange.Tuesday night the 7 pm meeting at the Southern Human Services Center includes final public hearings on the three revenue sources.  The service plans themselves have already been approved.Plan executive summary for Orange: summary for Orange's plan Funding streams annuallySales TaxDurham $17.3m annuallyOrange   $5.0 m annually$3 regional feeDurham $677kOrange $338k$7 county feeDurham $1.58mOrange  $788k The votes Tuesday are the final required votes in Orange on approval of the funding, and implements the plans already approved and the vote of the people. (The plans also include local funding for an AMTRAK station in Hillsborough and a locally funded bus rapid transit on MLK Blvd in Chapel Hill that has not yet been designed)The Light-Rail is only happening if state and federal money is available.  The bus improvements will begin in phases beginning August 2013.  Pages 6-7 here discuss the bus service improvements in Orange (sorry coud not paste from the .pdf) Durham, initial bus expansion is duscussed at pages 5-6 here someone can cut and paste the bus parts of those plans just above, I don't have the software

Is there a timeline for increased transit service to the airport? I'd love to be able to take TTA to and from RDU for early and late flights, and on Sunday.  

I think TTA is considering airport service from Durham and/or Orange (without a transfer at the regional center) similar to Route 100 which serves the airport from Raleigh and the regional transer hub Monday-Saturday. Slight problem is that the airport is not in either Durham or Orange.  The Durham/Orange district tax must be spent  "for the benefit" of the district, which could include service to the airport from Durham/Orange, or accountants could charge the last 1.5 miles of the route to the current 3-county funding (if there is money available)

The airport is called RDU because it's Raleigh-Durham.  A lot of its land is in Durham County, enough room for another runway.  The AIrport Authority has Durham County members as a result of this. One of them was State Rep Paul Luebke, who was the first to ask for a transit connection to our regional airport. The former director opposed it for years -- to keep up the stream of parking fees -- but came around in recent years. Airports can be hard to serve with transit. Growing up in NYC, for long periods of time the only motor vehicle I was in was the cab to either JFK or La Guardia, neither accessible from my part of Queens by bus, subway or train.   Ed Harrison

Thanks, Ed, for this detail. While I'm not surprised that RDU fought transit accessibility in the past, and likely supports the poor service today, the issue here isn't that airports are hard to serve with transit, it's that there are vested interests--the owners of parking lots, cab drivers--oppose transit because they benefit by having a monopoly. I've flown in and out of JFK and LGA many times, and have always used public transit to get there (JFK's AirTran is new; I don't know when bus service to LGA started).If there was increased transit service to RDU, it would be easier for Triangle to attract vacation travel, conferences, and other event-related travel because people could get from the airport to/from Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill without renting a car. While a few vested interests would suffer, the economy as a whole would likely benefit, as cartels and monopolies are rarely good for anyone except those who directly benefit. 

The long range airport plan at RDU is to relocate the rental car facility further out (the new site may actually be on airport property in Durham County) with a people mover (perhaps similar to what Newark Airport has) that would continue on to the proposed Triangle Metro Center commuter rail station which will serve a Garner to West Durham line - ending around Duke West Campus I think (which could conceivably have a light rail on it connecting the Wake and Durham/Orange light rails, but we're talking 2040+ for that). This would tie in to RTP's new master plan for transit which would have frequent circulator buses to Triangle Metro Center.  The new airport connector for Triangle Metro Center would be relatively convenient for Durham and Wake residents, but especially for RTP businesses and to the new urban residential areas planned for the RTP campus.  It would not be particularly convenient for Orange County, unless you like mode changes. Express bus service to RDU from Orange (which COULD happen as early as Fall 2014 or 2015) would be much more convenient for Orange

With a potential 110,000 new innovation jobs called for in the RTP master plan and adding the 100's of thousands of non innovative jobs created by multiplier effects (1 innovative job creates 5 non innovative jobs), I would think it would be prudent for TTA to plan for completing the light rail segement from Alston ave to Cary on the same existing right of way the commuter rail will use at the point where the RTP master plan starts bringing on the new jobs it calls for. This would create a continuous light rail system between Chapel Hill, Durham, RTP urban centers, Cary, Raleigh and N Raleigh. Also it would be relatively inexpensive to extend the commuter rail from W Durham to Hillsborough, Burlington, Greensboro and High Point. Durham, Burlington, Greensboro and High Point all  have new stations and Hillsborough will have one soon. This could be done on the same existing right of way TTA plans to build the W Durham to Garner first commuter rail piece (ie the right of way from W Durham to High Point is there TTA would not have to purchase land etc.only add another track and equipment). And with proper light rail scheduling you could include Chapel Hill and  N Raleigh with transfers in Durham and Raleigh in a daily commute.

Thx Dave L

We know the Orange Commissioners approved levying the sales tax by a 5-1 margin and the two registration fees by a 4-2 margin last night.  Now, the Sierra Club names the proposed light rail one of the 50 best transportation projects in the nation full Sierra report is at

The Triangle Transit Board will meet in a special meeting Friday at 1 pm at its office at 4600 Emperor Blvd in Durham to formally levy the 1/2% sales tax for transit -- and will name the special district the "Western Triangle Tax District". Tax collection begins April 1, 2013agenda:,_2012_-_Special_Meeting_(1).pdf

The TTA Board this afternoon levied the 1/2% sales tax for the new "Western Triangle Tax District" this afternoon, consisting of Durham and Orange Counties. Collectiob begins April 1 -- TTA will begin getting some revenue in late April, with July being the first month when retailer collections transmitted through the state reach a full month of colleftion

TTA General Manager David King told the board this afternoon that the first regional priority for implementation is a Mebane Hillsborough Durham Route. The map at page 17 here shows the basic route design with a loop at the Orange/Alamance County line, park and ride lots in Buckhorn, Efland, Hillsborough and Eno, and terminating at NCCU Campus passing through downtown Durham. I did not see any additional route design or service standards, nor have any P&R lots been acquired or leased yet.King told the board that the Chapel Hill Transit partners would be making recommendations on UNC/Chapel Hill/Carrboro service, while the City of Durham would begin in January its implementation strategy for DATA serviceIt is possible the first two phases of service increase would be August 2013 and January 2014

Just to provide some additional context to what Gerry reported, while the map in the draft plan is useful, it is quite possible that the design will change somewhat in terms of the final service concept.  There also may be a need to phase implementation of the route while we order some additional vehicles; a possible outcome would be to get the service started between Durham and Hillsborough first and then extend to Mebane as additional vehicles were delivered from the bus manufacturer. Depending on circumstances at the manufacturer it can take 12 to 18 months to order and build a new bus once revenue is available. Bottom line: we're still working on possible implementation scenarios and there will be an opportunity for residents in all parts of the county to weigh in on what this service might look like in the spring.We'll be sure to post information on those input opportunities here.

Was pleased to be able to recognize three friends and OP contributors in the audience for the TTA vote:  TTA planning intern (and holder of a law degree) Geoff Green;  Jason Baker, who put an astounding amount of effort and time into getting the Orange referendum passed; and Gerry Cohen, one-person early voting campaign machine.  As long as Gerry was there, he was asked historical questions about sales tax legislation, and gave very enlightening answers.  Ed Harrison


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