I often get asked, “What is happening with the transit plan now that the Light Rail project has been halted?” Light rail was a large part – but not the only part – of our regional comprehensive transit plan. To continue to move us forward, the Board of County Commissioners has created a steering committee comprised of two county commissioners and representatives from each municipality, and has charged them with creating and updating the comprehensive transit plan for Orange County.
As the commissioner liaison to our Metropolitan Planning Organization for the past five years, I continue to broaden our vision for public transit in the county. Despite light rail not being a part, Orange County’s transit plan has allowed us to expand bus hours in Chapel Hill, add bus routes throughout the county to connect residents to jobs, and purchase new vehicles, including three new electric vans in Orange County for on-demand service – powered by a solar EV station. We have also purchased land for a park-and-ride in Hillsborough, assisted with the Amtrak station in Hillsborough, and funded $14.1 million dollars for the upcoming North-South Bus Rapid Transit in Chapel Hill.
In the rural part of Orange County, transportation looks different than it does in the towns. Running a bus on a fixed route isn’t always the right solution. In 2018, I worked with a consultant and a focus group to create the Orange Public Transit plan. Solutions presented included expanding ride-sharing, carpool, vanpool, and on-demand services, and integrating and coordinating with transit services in the towns.
I would like to do more. I want to continue exploring multi-modal regional transportation solutions that reflect how our residents will want to travel in the future. I want to promote non-automobile transportation alternatives and create connections between all transportation modes. Most importantly, I want to ensure that transportation needs are met for all populations, especially the economically disadvantaged, the elderly, and the mobility impaired. Finally, it is so important that we continue to work with our neighboring counties to develop and implement a Regional Transit Plan that keeps Orange County connected to the rest of the Triangle.
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