Let’s connect the R&D cities with regionwide BRT

A few weeks ago I suggested that we could verbally “combine” our region’s two principal cities of Raleigh and Durham into “the R&D cities” of North Carolina.

Like our region as a whole, Raleigh and Durham are prosperous, inviting, welcoming, and growing. In fact, our entire region is growing together. And now it is time to connect the communities in the Research Triangle area in a new and enhanced way.

To maximize the prosperity of our region — including the ability for residents to fully participate in all aspects of economic and civic life — we need to link the region with efficient, all-day, frequent transit service.

A regional bus rapid transit network presents us with that opportunity.

Fortunately, several elements of a regional BRT backbone are being developed as we speak.

By 2027, five bus rapid transit lines totaling nearly 30 miles of corridor, largely with dedicated transit lanes, will be open in Chapel Hill, Cary, Raleigh, and Garner. The initial lines in Chapel Hill and Raleigh will be open in less than 5 years.

In addition, Wake County is well along the way to receiving state funding to extend proposed BRT lines from Cary west to Morrisville and the Durham County border and from Garner southeast to Clayton. This will create “border-to-border” BRT service for Wake County and bring our region’s total BRT service to well above 40 miles.

This summer, the regional business community will begin exploring ways to support our partners as they consider further extending the Wake BRT service into Durham County, Research Triangle Park, and Chapel Hill, linking with the proposed Chapel Hill north-south BRT.

We will also review options to upgrade or complement GoTriangle’s regional express services that could provide cross-regional BRT connections between Raleigh and Durham using our existing freeway networks — as well as linkages between Chapel Hill, Durham, and other points in our region, as we noted in our joint statement on transit earlier this spring in concert with our chamber of commerce partners serving Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

The all-day, frequent network is the true backbone of transit in our region, and each of the above would be logical enhancements of existing and proposed transit services and serve to strengthen the connections across the Triangle area. In addition, commuter rail has the potential to complement these linkages, particularly during peak periods, and we are pleased to support its study and implementation.

Next week on the June 20-21, 2019 RTA Tour, more than 60 elected, business, university, and community leaders will explore a variety of bus rapid transit options as well as peak commuter rail in northern Virginia and Richmond. We plan to learn, take good notes, and share what we discover across all of our counties.

We stated earlier this spring that we have found ourselves with a transit opportunity for our regional community. It is time to advance and support that conversation and accelerate the implementation of scalable, regional bus rapid transit.

Joe Milazzo II, PE
RTA Executive Director

post reference: th3.2019.24

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