Dedicated red bus lane in Washington, D.C.

We are very pleased to see regional transit advance in our market. As our executive director Joe Milazzo noted during last month’s annual meeting, we are “three for three” in this region in terms of successful local option referenda at the county level (Durham 2011, Orange 2012, and Wake 2016) on the first try.

Few, if any, other regions in the nation can say that.

Wake County is now moving forward with its enhanced transit plan. It involves expanded and more frequent bus, bus rapid transit (BRT), and commuter rail components – all of which will be available within 10 years.

Going forward, we will engage in Wake County and regionwide on a few potential elements to improve the experience and perception of transit, including the possibility of electric buses and the inclusion of dedicated lanes at congested locations to streamline travel.

Here are some possible elements of enhanced transit that the RTA business coalition will encourage careful consideration of as transit progresses in Wake County and across our region.

RED bus lanes
We should look for opportunities to provide a dedicated pathway for transit where possible to keep buses moving through congested locations. Many dedicated bus lanes are painted red—like in NYC, DC and San Francisco—and still allow for some vehicle access. We could call these dedicated bus lanes “RED” lanes, since Right turns, Emergency response, and Driveway access would also be allowed. Wake County is making a massive increase in its frequent transit network (from 17 to 83 miles), including the creation of 20 miles of BRT, and Chapel Hill is implementing eight miles of BRT on its “North-South Corridor.” Providing dedicated RED lanes whenever possible will help ensure frequent service and on-time performance.

Electric and other cleaner bus technology
A quieter, more comfortable, low/no-emissions ride and station experience should be a part of our enhanced transit future. Currently there are studies underway by GoRaleigh to examine both electricity and compressed natural gas as potential power options compared to diesel. Let’s look at these opportunities, particularly as our neighbors in Greensboro work towards converting their entire transit system to electric buses and the all-electric bus market continues to expand. 

Frequent service network and scaled BRT expansion
Jarrett Walker, one of the consultants for the Wake County Transit Plan, has noted repeatedly that “frequency is freedom,” and having transit service arrive every 15 minutes or less on a host of existing and proposed routes will provide a new level of freedom and accessibility for thousands of residents. Even better, the five approved BRT lines in Orange and Wake counties will provide a more enhanced version of frequent service with station amenities and protection against traffic delays (via RED lanes, signal priority, near-level boarding, and the like). However, let’s not make the pursuit of a perfect route the enemy of steady progress towards the freedom of our entire network.

We will only get one chance to introduce a new, enhanced regional transit experience, and it is critical that we get it right. Through the RTA, the regional business community is committed to accelerating that reality and supporting its success.

Let’s get moving,

Eric Braun, Golden Corral, RTA transit chair
Valerie Jordan, Cisco Systems, RTA transit vice chair