Chapel Hill Transit Needs $80M to Hire Staff, Replace Old Buses

“At this moment, (Chapel Hill Transit) operations are not financially sustainable in the long term so we’ve got to do something,” said Bethany Whitaker, principal at the transportation firm Nelson\Nygaard.

The town hired the firm to study the state’s second largest transit system and to help make a financial plan for the system’s future.

Chapel Hill Transit has about a hundred fixed-route vehicles. The system should replace 40 percent of its buses and hire more drivers and mechanics, Whitaker said in her presentation to the Chapel Hill Town Council on Monday. This takes money.

“About $80 million over the next ten years needs to be invested in the system both for replacing vehicles, (and) also bringing staff and operations up to speed,” said Whitaker. “But this does not account for any growth in the system.”

Funding for the transit system comes from UNC and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Chapel Hill Transit also gets federal funds – which have remained steady over the last ten years, but inflation makes the 2015 dollars worth less –  and state funds, which have decreased during this period.

Whitaker listed five strategies to make the bus system financially sustainable.

1)    Pass a tax to raise more money for area transit
2)    Reduce service
3)    Charge bus fares
4)    Leasing, debt financing to purchase vehicles
5)    Require partners (Chapel Hill, Carrboro and UNC) to increase transit funding

Council members offered differing viewpoints on whether busing is too heavily oriented toward the UNC campus and whether the fare-free system should be re-evaluated. Members asked Nelson\Nygaard to analyze each option in greater detail to help the council make a financial plan for the transit system. You can read the firm’s full report here.

Chapel Hill Town Council To Talk Transit Funding

The Chapel Hill Town Council kicks off 2015 with a meeting on Monday to discuss future funding for the Chapel Hill Transit system.

The bus system that serves Chapel Hill, Carrboro and UNC has seen big growth as ridership increased more than 100 percent in the past decade.

But at the same time, state and federal funding for operations, maintenance and new bus purchases has been dropping, leaving the funding partners in a fiscal crunch.

A consulting firm hired to help evaluate the situation estimates an additional $80 million could be needed in the next ten years to update the aging fleet of buses and keep them on the road.

The Council will receive the report tonight, but delay any decisions until later in the budget planning process.

Council members will also get an economic update from the Town Manager.

The work session starts at 6 o’clock at the Chapel Hill Public Library. You can read the full agenda here.

New Buses Top List Of Chapel Hill Transit Budget Needs

Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield told the Chapel Hill Town Council on Wednesday it’s getting harder to maintain the agency’s aging fleet of buses.

“Back in 2007, the odds of you being on a bus that would break down while you were riding it were fairly small,” said Litchfield. “The odds today are pretty good.”

Transit officials estimate at least 42 buses need to be replaced.  Thirty-seven of those are a model that hasn’t been manufactured since 2003, meaning requires more labor hours are required to maintain those vehicles and replacement parts are increasingly difficult to locate.

In the past, Chapel Hill Transit was able to draw down grant money to buy new vehicles. But federal earmarks have disappeared and state funding has dropped $1 million since 2010, leaving the transit partners scrambling to find new funding sources.

Litchfield said proceeds from the half-cent sales tax levied to support the Orange County Bus and Rail Plan will help. Chapel Hill Transit will collect $1.1 million in revenues from the tax, $180,000 of which will go to finance new three new buses.

“We have so many vehicles that need to be replaced that we have to do something, so there is some financing in there to do that,” said Litchfield.

The proposed transit budget for the next fiscal year totals $20.5 million, of which $13.5 million are local dollars. Carrboro will spend $1.4 million, Chapel Hill will spend $4.2 million, and UNC will contribute $7.7 million.

Litchfield says the partners are still working to finalize a long-term plan for sustainable transit funding which will be presented to the town in the fall.

The Council will consider Chapel Hill Transit’s funding request as part of the larger budget negotiations. A work session on next year’s budget is scheduled for Monday.

Costs Up, Partnerships Down, But “People Want To Live Here”

Affordability, taxes, housing, solid waste, economic development, and the future of Carolina North and Rogers Road: all longstanding hot-button issues in Orange County, and all requiring strong partnerships between the local municipalities as well as UNC.

Orange County leaders say the time is now to make those partnerships stronger.

“One of our major issues is to renew the strength and vitality of our partnerships with the municipalities,” says Barry Jacobs, chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners. “I think we’ve lost touch to some degree.”

At the center of the conversation is the eternal question of affordability: how to manage the cost of living while preserving a desirable community, in a space with little room to grow.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt says that’s often an issue in college towns – and it’s certainly the case in Chapel Hill.

“University towns are very, very highly sought after,” she says. “I try every day to recruit faculty and staff and students…of course they’re concerned about price of living, (but) mostly we hear that people want to live here. So I think we are still on the positive side of this equation: this is a very high-choice place.”

But with that desirability comes a number of challenges – including, perhaps most notably, the cost of housing. Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says those costs are worth it: “I sometimes look around (my house) and think, wow, for this price I could be in a much bigger place in Durham,” he says, “but I’d rather be in Chapel Hill.”

And while higher property values still mean Chapel Hillians are paying more dollars in taxes, Kleinschmidt notes that Chapel Hill’s property tax rate is actually lower than many of our neighboring communities.

Still, the cost of housing is a strain, one that makes it difficult – if not impossible – for many people to live in Chapel Hill. And not only Chapel Hill: Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens says the affordability question is affecting his community as well.

“We’re seeing rising costs (too),” he says. “It’s a little bit less expensive to live here, so we’re finding families move out (of Chapel Hill-Carrboro) and folks wanting to be in Hillsborough – (but) as prices go up, we’re finding a lot of our families are moving to Mebane.”

The housing crunch has driven local leaders to explore creative policies for developing more affordable housing in all of Orange County’s municipalities.

But as Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle points out, housing is not the only factor driving the cost of living.

“We’ve studied extensively the interplay between transportation costs and affordable housing,” she says. “A typical income earner spends anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of their income on transportation – owning a car, taxes, insurance, and so forth.”

That, she says, gives local leaders a strong incentive to develop housing downtown – so residents don’t need vehicles to get to and from work. Kleinschmidt adds that he’s equally proud of Chapel Hill’s fare-free bus system, which also keeps the cost of living down.

Taxes too are a primary concern – and local leaders are quick to point out that they’ve managed to maintain services while avoiding tax increases, even through the long recession. (Lavelle says she expects Carrboro to maintain that streak this year too.) But Barry Jacobs says that, at the end of the day, it’s just as important to preserve the services that make Orange County a desirable place to live.

And the most important of those services, he says, is education.

“We’re proud of public education (and) we’re going to fund it to the best of our ability,” he says. “Going through the recession, and then having a state legislature that’s attacking public education, we have actually raised the per-pupil funding…and in the last 20 years we’ve built 14 schools in this county. And three of them were high schools. Those are expensive suckers…

“And that’s part of what makes this an attractive community. That’s what draws people here. It’s a double-edged sword, to use a cliché.”

But Jacobs adds that the need for education spending must be weighed against the concern for affordability – particularly the fact that many Orange County residents are seniors on fixed incomes.

And so the question returns to partnerships: town, county, and UNC officials working together to promote efficiencies, reduce costs, and improve the standard of living. Local leaders agree that’s already happening (if slowly) on the issue of Rogers Road remediation, and Chapel Hill Mayor Kleinschmidt says he’s confident it will also happen on the issue of solid waste: “I think we’re going to come together with a solution,” he says, “(and in) four, five, six years, we’re going to have a site for a transfer station that we’re all going to use.” (Kleinschmidt says there are several attractive candidates for that site in the northern part of Chapel Hill, including one off Millhouse Road.)

It’s also happening on the question of economic development, where UNC is actively partnering with the towns and county on projects ranging from the LAUNCH entrepreneurial incubator to the redevelopment of 123 West Franklin, the former University Square – though Chancellor Folt says little is happening right now when it comes to Carolina North. (“We’re really not having any active plans there right now,” she says. “It’s really not at the top of the list.”)

In the end, though, while local leaders seem to agree that municipal partnerships have been stronger, there’s also a shared commitment to strengthening them in the months and years to come.

“How we should go forward is together,” says Jacobs.

Folt, Jacobs, Kleinschmidt, Lavelle, and Stevens made those comments during the “Town and Gown” panel of WCHL’s 2014 Community Forum; they were joined on the panel by outgoing UNC student body president Christy Lambden.

Inclement Weather Announcements – Updated 8:30 a.m. 2/15

Saturday, February 15

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools – All activities cancelled

Friday, February 14

– Alamance Burlington Schools –  Closed

– Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools – Closed

– Chatham County Schools – Closed

– Duke University – Classes cancelled Friday; Severe Weather Policy in extended to 5 p.m. Friday

– Durham Public Schools – Closed

– Hillsborough Christian Academy – Closed

– Orange County Schools – Closed

– Orange Charter School – Closed

– St. Thomas More Catholic School – Closed

– UNC-Chapel Hill  – Classes cancelled; offices closed

– Wake County Schools – Closed

– Chapel Hill Art Gallery – Artist reception postponed to Feb 21



Chapel Hill Transit

Chapel Hill Transit will operate some routes beginning at 10:00 a.m. Click here to find out the current route schedule.

CHT services will follow their normal routes and schedules as long as the streets are safe for travel. If you must travel, be safe, dress warmly and expect delays. Chapel Hill Transit is not running today, 2-13-14.

Where to Get Service Information:

Conditions can change quickly. Before you leave, get the latest updates on weather related delays and detours:

• Check CHT’s Inclement Weather page at
• Call 919-969-4900 and press “1” for Route and Schedule Information – expect some wait time due to high call volumes
• For EZ Rider Services call 919-969-5544
• Check local TV and radio stations
• Follow us on Facebook —— and Twitter–

Using NextBus:

CHT’s NextBus system estimates the next arrivals for buses in real time, based on each vehicle’s location and average speed. But when many vehicles are off-route or significantly delayed, it cannot make accurate arrival predictions. NextBus can, however, tell you if your line is delayed, or the location of the next vehicle.

Riding Tips:

• If there’s no traffic going by your bus stop, walk to a stop on a busy street.
• If your bus stop is in the middle of a hill, walk to the bottom or top where the operator can safely stop.
• Stand back from the curb until the bus comes to a complete stop. Buses can slide sideways in slippery conditions.
• Keep in mind, your bus may not pull all the way over to the curb to avoid getting stuck.


Grocery and Drug Stores
Stores may close at manager’s discretion. Call business before leaving home.

Harris Teeter (MLK Blvd, Meadowmont, Estes Dr) – Open limited hours, varies by location. Call location before going.

Food Lion – Weaver Dairy Rd, Governors Dr locations Open, Fordham Blvd location Closed

Kerr Drug – Open normal hours

Lowes Foods – Open

Whole Foods – Opened at 11am Thursday

Fresh Market – Opened at 11a-12p Thursday

Rite Aid – Open normal hours (all Chapel Hill locations)

Trader Joes – Closed at 5pm Thursday

Walgreens (1500 E Franklin St) – Open normal hours

Walgreens (108 E Franklin St) – Closed Thursday


Restaurant Information


Foster’s Market – Will open at 10am on Friday

Glasshalfull – Will reopen Friday at 5pm

Lantern – Will reopen Friday at 5:30pm

Spanky’s – Will reopen sometime on Friday

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe – Will reopen Friday afternoon

At U.S. Mayors Conference, Kleinschmidt Talks Transit

WASHINGTON – Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt joined Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane in Washington, DC this week for the 82nd winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“This has been a very successful conference,” he says. “We not only had an opportunity to engage with each other and discuss the achievements of cities around the country, but we’ve (also) had great access to the (Obama) administration and cabinet secretaries and their deputies, who help cities like Chapel Hill accomplish the goals we have for ourselves.”

More than 250 mayors from across the country registered for the conference. Participants got to meet with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and other administration officials.

Kleinschmidt says mayors this year were especially concerned with urging the executive branch to take action on issues where Congress is slow or unlikely to move.

“A lot of mayors are concerned that Congress isn’t moving with policy changes that urban areas across the country have been asking for for years,” he says. “And there’s a great level of enthusiasm for the President’s commitment to make things happen now–and use his pen, when he has the ability to do so, in order to make things happen.”

One of those issues is transportation—and on that issue, Kleinschmidt says the Triangle is in a uniquely strong position, because the new Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, is a former mayor of Charlotte.

“As you know, Orange and Durham Counties are submitting a transit plan that includes light rail, (and) we also hope that Wake County will come along (on that) soon,” Kleinschmidt says. “We had some good conversations with Secretary Foxx about that.”

And Kleinschmidt says Foxx also agreed to look into how Chapel Hill might resolve another recent transportation-related issue: whether or not the town is required to allow individuals with permits to carry concealed weapons on public buses.

The Conference of Mayors ended on Friday, but Kleinschmidt is staying in DC for one more day to attend a second conference—the winter meeting of the Mayors Innovation Project. Chapel Hill will play host to that conference’s summer meeting this August.

Detours For Holiday Parade; December FREE Parking; Winter Buses

CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Transit will implement detours due to street closures for the Chapel Hill Holiday Parade Saturday.

Beginning on Franklin Street at the Morehead Planetarium, the parade will travel west and end at the CarrboroTown Hall.

Some of the routes that will be affected include:

the CW route from 10:10 a.m. – 11:44 a.m.

FG route from 8:50 a.m. – 10:55 a.m.

D route from 9:05 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.

JN route from 9:45 a.m. – 11:33 a.m.

T route from – 8:15 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.

The Saturday CM will run on its regular schedule.

Chapel Hill Transit will make every attempt to maintain schedules, but is advising customers to expect delays and allow for extra travel time.  Customers should plan to travel


Chapel Hill Transit will begin operating on a winter break schedule beginning this Saturday until January 4.

During this time, the weekday NU route will end at 8:29 p.m. The Safe Rides along with the weekend U/NU routes will not operate.


Sunday parking is always free, but for the month of December you can also enjoy free parking downtown on Saturdays in Chapel Hill.

The lots included are Wallace Parking Deck, the 140 West lot, the Rosemary/Columbia lot, the West Franklin lot, the Rosemary lot, and all municipal lots along with metered parking.

After 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, the Wallace Deck, 140 West lot, and Rosemary/Columbia lot will begin charging their normal rates.

For more information click here.

Farmers’ Market Fall Hours; OWASA GM; Late Night

LEAD IN:  The fun won’t end at the Farmer’s Market in the fall, but the hours will change.

The Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market is still open on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. until noon, but the Tuesday hours are shifting. You can visit the market from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesdays.

And don’t miss out on the Halloween Harvest Festival on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until noon. Come to show off your Halloween costume, to grub on local vendors’ freshly-made dishes, or to play games. Farmers will even tell you the secrets of their favorite recipes.

For more information about the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market, click here.


The Orange Water and Sewer Authority has a new General Manager of Operations.

Todd Taylor is a professional engineer, and he just got the job. He is responsible for the drinking water and wastewater treatment plants, water pipe systems, laboratories, and maintenance.

Taylor has 14 years of experience in the engineering and utility fields.


Late Night with Roy is a tradition that attracts hundreds of UNC basketball fans every year. And Chapel Hill Transit has a plan to supplement the crowd.

Shuttles will run every 10 to 15 minutes from the FridayCenter to the Dean Dome Friday night. The increased shuttle operations run from 5:30 p.m. until 45 after the event is over.

Roundtrip rides are $5. A one-way trip will cost you $3.

For more information about the shuttle schedule, click here.

Shredding, Constructing, Detouring

The Orange County Solid Waste Management Department is holding another Shred-A-Thon Saturday in Hillsborough.

If you’re an Orange County resident or business, you can bring up to five “banker”-sized boxes of paper to be shredded, confidentially and at no cost.

Saturday’s Shred-A-Thon will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hampton Pointe Shopping Center on Route 86, at the 24-hour recycling drop-off site behind Home Depot.


Expect construction Saturday morning on North Churton Street in Hillsborough, as a PSNC Energy contractor will be working to install a gas line.

The construction will be taking place just south of Route 70. Town government is reminding drivers to be cautious if driving through that area.


Chapel Hill Transit will be providing additional bus service on the afternoon of Thursday, October 17, for people leaving UNC campus early in advance of the Tar Heel football game that night.

Allow extra travel time that day, as traffic congestion will be causing some delays.

Additional service will be provided on the CCX, CPX, JFX, PX and 420 Hillsborough Express routes, starting around 3:00 p.m. Thursday. Between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m., the F and J routes will be detoured along Rosemary Street to accommodate “Tar Heel Downtown.” Visit for additional information.

Festifall & Transportation; OC Holiday Program

CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill’s Festifall, an annual celebration of the arts, will once again transform Franklin Street on Sunday, October 6.

The event lasts from noon to 6 p.m. and includes numerous art activities along with free music.  The event features a diverse market of artists with artwork from a variety of medias–fiber, glass, jewelry, painting, photography, pottery, and more.

There will also be live entertainment on three stages. Festifall’s Home Grown Stage and West End Stage will showcase area musicians, including Hindugrass, Tokyo Rosenthal, and Tea Cup Gin.  The Dance Evolution Stage will feature a variety of diverse dance groups ranging from clogging to tap–plus an appearance by UNC’s Dance Marathon and a performance by DSI Comedy Theater.

Whether to check out the local art scene or to enjoy a fun and active environment, be sure to visit Festifall on Sunday October 6.  For more information click here.


Chapel Hill Transit will provide service to Festifall on October 6 from 11:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.  The NU route will be rerouted to West Rosemary, the entrance to Festifall.

People can board the bus along the NU route or the park and ride lot at 725 MLK Blvd.

Regular NU customers should plan for an extra 5 minutes for their Sunday afternoon trip.   For more information click here.


Orange County Cooperative Extension hosts its annual holiday program entitled “The Spirit of Elegant Holidays 2013: Home and Health Throughout the Year.”

This year’s program will emphasize food, crafts, and decorating ideas for the holiday season.

The event will take place on October 24 at 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. at the Hillsborough United Methodist Church.

Registration is $5 until October 10; afterwards it will go up to $8.  For more information on registering click here.