Research Triangle Park, NC (Dec. 27, 2018) – Two or three times a year, Pierre Tong happily leaves his car at home and takes GoTriangle Route 100 to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, so he finds it perplexing that the No. 1 misconception he hears about transit in the Triangle is that there is none to the airport.
“Well, there actually is,” Tong says, and adding even more service to RDU was one of the first improvements made in the first full fiscal year of the Wake Transit Plan that voters approved in late 2016.
“Whenever you have more frequency, that’s less time you have to wait for a bus when your plane comes back and gives you more options to get there,” says Tong, a civil engineer who lives in Raleigh. “That way you’re not getting there too early or too late. There are lots of benefits to having increased frequency.”
Increased frequency and more coverage have been two main focuses of the many improvements that GoTriangle and other area transit agencies have made over the past 18 months. GoTriangle, as the Triangle’s regional transit agency, runs routes between municipalities and gets funds from Orange, Durham and Wake counties. Voters in all three counties have approved half-cent sales taxes devoted to transit improvements, and each county has an approved transit plan that works with the others to create a unified, regional transit network.
In addition to adding half-hour service to Route 100 in August 2017, GoTriangle added half-hour and Sunday service on Route 300 from Raleigh to Cary and continued the Fuquay-Varina express service to GoRaleigh station.
At the same time, GoTriangle Routes 700 to Durham and 800 to Chapel Hill moved from hourly to 30-minute service Monday through Saturday until 7 p.m., making it even more convenient for residents to get out of their cars and enjoy the benefits of buses.
“With all three counties investing in transit improvements that work together, GoTriangle is looking forward to rolling out the next phases of bus improvements that give our riders even more choices and accessibility,” says GoTriangle CEO and President Jeff Mann. “With the Triangle growing by more than 80 people a day, increasing transit options is one of the most important things we as a region can do.”
Already in fiscal year 2019, which began July 1, GoTriangle has added even more service hours to Route 100 to RDU, increased the daily trips on its popular express route between Raleigh and Durham from 24 to 34 and added operating hours at the Regional Transit Information Center, where many riders transfer to other routes or buy passes.
Engaging the community
An important part of implementing any new service is giving the public a chance to weigh in beforehand. Over the past 18 months, GoTriangle has engaged well more than 3,000 people at more than 100 meetings, presentations or events and assessed more than 3,200 survey responses and more than 2,400 comments.
Wanting GoTriangle to explore alternative-fuel buses has been a high priority for many community members, and GoTriangle leaders were thrilled in August when they won a $943,000 grant through the federal government’s Low- or No-Emission Grant program to help the agency buy its first electric buses. GoTriangle will put the money toward buying two 40-foot electric Proterra buses and hopes to have the buses on the road in about 18 months.
Planning rail projects
Building toward the future, GoTriangle has continued to work this year with the Federal Transit Administration to keep Orange and Durham counties’ light-rail project moving through the federal engineering process. In addition, GoTriangle has proceeded with the early planning of the 37-mile commuter rail line that will provide comfortable passenger service between Garner through Raleigh to Durham by 2028.
Securing a grant for bus facility
That commuter line will stop at the new downtown Raleigh Union Station. This month, GoTriangle won a $20 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help build a unique bus transfer facility that will connect to the rail station.
The Raleigh Union Station bus project, better known as RUS Bus, will provide direct connections to existing and future GoTriangle and GoRaleigh bus routes and to the existing Amtrak service. The space also will incorporate a mixed-use, high-rise building above the terminal that could include office and retail space, a hotel and residential units with an affordable housing component.
Being a good neighbor is an important part of GoTriangle’s mission. The agency is an engaged member of the community, offering buses and operators each year to shuttle attendees to events such as the Komen Race for the Cure and the Valor Games, a competition in adapted sports for service members or veterans living with disabilities.
This year, for the second time, GoTriangle and partners also were able to orchestrate a drive to collect goods for North Carolinians devastated by a hurricane. In the wake of Hurricane Florence in September, an 11-hour fill-the-bus event at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh brought in enough water, food, paper products and other goods to fill five buses, three vans, a box truck and part of a tractor-trailer.
The next week, GoTriangle and GoDurham bus operators and volunteers delivered the precious cargo to United Way offices in Lumberton and Newport.
“It was a humbling experience to be a part of this effort, to see the outpouring of generosity from our community and to be able to help our neighbors in Eastern North Carolina after this devastating storm,” says GoTriangle Communications Director Mike Charbonneau. “The tremendous response truly highlights the power of partnership and the positive impact we can make when we work together as one community.”
Cultivating new riders
Increasing ridership and awareness are goals of any transit agency, and the exciting new Youth GoPass has certainly done both. More than 3,400 Triangle teenagers ages 18 and under now possess a GoPass, which allows them to ride any Triangle agency’s bus free. Since the program launched in August, those teens have used their passes to take nearly 125,000 transit trips.
The new program invests in the youngest members of our community to help cultivate lifelong transit riders and gives them more access to jobs, entertainment and schools across the entire Triangle.
Connecting to RDU
To tout the fact that transit does indeed go to the airport, in October GoTriangle disguised two buses that travel Route 100 as airplanes. Every day, GoTriangle’s Route 100 runs between the downtown GoRaleigh Station and the Regional Transit Center in Durham, stopping directly in front of both RDU terminals and several times near NC State University.
On Dec. 22, Pierre Tong again took advantage of the ease and affordability of taking a Route 100 bus right up to an RDU terminal to get his holidays off to a more relaxing start.
“If you live along the route and it’s convenient to you, it’s kind of no-brainer,” says Tong, who was headed to Boston to see his parents. “You don’t have to worry about driving or finding parking. It takes you right to the terminal so it’s really easy and convenient. It takes time, I guess, for people to get used to the idea of transit, but they have to understand there are better options than driving your car.”