GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
By Gregory DL Morris
CHAPEL HILL – In a flurry of activity, Chapel Hill Transit (CHT) announced public meetings and workshops on the planned North-South Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route early in September. Separately, it has rolled out a new mobile application for tracking arrival times and locations. Also, the system has begun to install and test real-time next-bus signs at some stops.
Late in June, the Federal Transit Administration awarded CHT a $2.16 million grant to improve bus stops, particularly regarding accessibility, lighting, and information signs. The grant greatly boosts a long-term plan to upgrade bus stops.
The BRT focus groups will be held September 5 and 6 at the Chapel Hill Public Library. Details on times and topics are on the registration link.
September 5, 6, and 7. There will also be public workshops. They will be drop-in style, interactive, and child friendly. Interpreters will be available, and light refreshments will be served.
- Meeting 1: September 5, 6-8 PM, Chapel Hill Public Library, Meeting Room B
- Meeting 2: September 6, 12-2 PM Lumina Theater, Market Street, Southern Village
- Meeting 3: September 7, 6-8 PM Ackland Art Museum, S. Columbia Street
The next iteration of bus tracking is the mobile app: CH Transit. Riders can install the app from their mobile app store; or use the mobile-friendly website mychtransit.org if preferred.
“This service improvement comes after a period without the technology available to customers due to changes in the cellular data network, a global pandemic, supply-chain issues, and a new vendor partnership,” according to CHT.
Riders will be able to use the CH Transit app to find the nearest bus stop, find routes, and estimated arrival times of their bus. Other options will allow riders to designate favorite routes and stops, receive service alerts, or contact Chapel Hill Transit. The mobile site mychtransit.org, can provide more information, such as the capacity of buses.
The previous Next Bus and Transloc apps will soon be discontinued. “For the last several months, we have been conducting a comprehensive audit of our bus stops, which will give us an accurate count of all amenities at each stop,” Caroline Dwyer, transit planning manager for CHT told TLR.
“We don’t expect to receive notice to proceed on the stop improvements funded by the federal grant for approximately six to eight months. No work can begin before then. Minimum standards for stops are guided primarily by Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, including a stable landing surface such as a concrete pad, lighting, accessible signs and information, and sidewalk access. Other improvements, including shelters, are prioritized based on ridership, site context, and need.”
CHT, a partnership among its eponymous town, the University of North Carolina, and the town of Carrboro, has about 500 bus stops ranging widely in amenities. The system is also reviewing its routes and frequencies to adjust to growth, planning an ambitious bus rapid-transit route along Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd, and coordinating with the other bus systems to improve regional transit.
And therein lies the inherent challenge for bus stops. “One of the most significant benefits of transit is the flexibility to respond to changing conditions,” Dwyer explained. “Installing substantial improvements at every stop on our routes inherently limits this flexibility.
“Obviously, there are locations that are much less likely to experience significant changes, such as downtown and on the UNC campus,” she continued. “We are less likely to make changes to routes/service in those locations. Our challenge, and opportunity, is maintaining a system that is accessible, safe, and comfortable and flexible enough to evolve” as the needs of the communities served change and grow.
Gregory DL Morris is an independent journalist based in Chapel Hill with more than 30 years’ experience covering business, environment, energy and infrastructure. He has reported from all 50 states, eight Canadian provinces, and 17 countries on five continents.