RALEIGH (March 21, 2018) – When Brenton Leanhardt bought his home near Raleigh’s Crabtree Valley Mall in 2014, the transit enthusiast was thrilled to discover that a GoRaleigh bus stop was 300 feet from his front door.
When he isn’t jogging or biking the 6 miles to his job at RedHat in downtown Raleigh, Leanhardt is listening to a book or working on his laptop on a bus. He and his wife Erin also routinely take their three children, ages 10, 7 and 3, on a bus to museums and entertainment downtown.
Now, thanks to the first round of voter-approved Wake Transit investments that launched in August, the one-car Leanhardt family even can take the bus to their downtown church on Sundays.
“We feel like we can do about everything we need in life in Raleigh by bus or biking,” Leanhardt says. “We have a friend whose car just died in Rolesville, and we were actually thinking of letting them use our car for a month. Two years ago, we wouldn’t have thought of that because we wouldn’t have had a way to get to church.”
New Sunday service on GoRaleigh and GoCary routes was just one improvement that came from the Wake Transit Plan’s fiscal year 2018 budget.
In addition to enhancing bus stops and beginning important transit corridor studies, the plan increased frequency on GoRaleigh’s popular South Saunders Street route from every 30 minutes to every 15 minutes and increased midday frequencies to every 30 minutes on four of GoCary’s six routes Monday through Saturday.
GoTriangle Route 100, which begins at the GoRaleigh Station, stops several times at N.C. State University along Hillsborough Street and connects travelers to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, moved from hourly to every 30 minutes Monday through Friday.
In addition to connecting all Wake County communities, the Wake Transit Plan is part of an effort to create a strong regional transit network among Wake, Orange and Durham counties. As the counties go forward together, plans call for significant increases in bus service, light rail between Orange and Durham counties, commuter rail between Durham and Wake counties and at least five bus rapid transit corridors.
INCREASES IN RIDERSHIP
By all accounts, the Wake Transit improvements have led to more riders taking advantage of the comfort, ease and access of public transit as the three agencies serving Wake County work together on building an extensive bus network. Wake County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to help pay for the improvements found in the 10-year Wake Transit Plan in November 2016.
Between August and Dec. 31, GoRaleigh provided more than 60,000 additional trips and GoCary increased overall ridership 34 percent over the same period in 2016. Ridership on GoTriangle’s cross-county Routes 100 and 300 increased 13 percent
“These are encouraging results for the first phase of our community investment in transit, which is creating more access to opportunities and a better quality of life for the Triangle region,” said Jeff Mann, GoTriangle’s general manager. “We’re excited that our residents are seeing the tangible benefits of the transit plan that they helped develop.”
GoRaleigh increased existing Sunday service to Saturday levels and added Sunday service to three routes, leading to a 43 percent increase in Sunday trips.
GoCary added Sunday service to all six of its routes and its paratransit service and increased midday frequencies from hourly to every 30 minutes on four routes. The agency’s new Sunday service provided more than 4,800 trips from August to December.
GoTriangle’s added frequency on Route 100 brought a 30 percent increase in Saturday ridership and a 42 percent increase in midday ridership. Route 300, which runs among Durham, Cary and Raleigh, experienced a 58 percent increase in midday ridership.
The Wake Transit Plan ultimately will triple bus service, add about 20 miles of bus rapid transit service and create a 37-mile commuter rail line between Garner and Durham by 2028.
“My wife and I both studied abroad in Spain, and I was amazed at how they had buses and trains to every single small town you could imagine, and it was reliable and cheap and you didn’t have to think about it,” Leanhardt says. “You just show up and the bus will be there 5 or 10 minutes later. The buses went everywhere you want them to go. It was very natural.”
COMING UP NEXT
Now a draft work plan for the fiscal year running from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, is working its way through the approval process. Highlights include free service for riders 18 and younger, expanded service for GoTriangle’s well-used express routes and new bus routes to popular areas for GoRaleigh and GoCary, including Weston Parkway, Chapel Hill Road serving Park West Village shopping center and James Jackson Avenue.
The first item delights Brenton Leanhardt. His three children ride free now because they are under 12, but children do become teenagers. Free fare for teens will cement transit as the easy and accessible option for the Leanhardts and other families who use and need public transportation.
“We want to keep taking the bus as much as we can, so the whole 13- to 18-year-olds ride free idea is awesome,” Leanhardt says. “Transit is the best way for people who need to get to work and do things in life not to have to spend thousands of dollars a year maintaining or buying a car.”