Setting a Foundation for the Future
The Triangle Region has worked diligently to create a regional transit network that includes a fixed guideway system and an expanded regional busway network. The foundation for the current efforts can be summarized by the following:
Triangle Fixed Guideway Study is completed by the Triangle Transit Authority (TTA), after securing a grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to study long-range regional public transportation for the three-county Triangle region (Durham, Orange and Wake).
The primary goal of the study was to develop consensus within the region concerning the desirability, feasibility and location of a fixed guideway transit system. This study examined regional economic growth opportunities and identified potential locations for growth, corridors that could connect these growth areas, and changes in land use that would need to take place to support transit.
Preliminary Recommendations for a Regional Transit Plan is adopted by the TTA Board of Trustees, after TTA evaluated several alternatives and received feedback from land use and transportation professionals, elected officials and the public.
Recommendations for a Regional Transit Plan were adopted by the TTA Board of Trustees and subsequently incorporated into the region’s two long-range transportation plans. This document guides regional transit planning efforts today.
TTA, in cooperation with the FTA, initiated the Preliminary Engineering (PE) phase of project development and started preparing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Regional Rail Transit System.
The DEIS was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and all applicable federal rules and regulations.
FTA issued a Record of Decision (ROD), confirming that the analyses, mitigation, public involvement, and other objectives had been met.
Following the issuance of the ROD, the FTA approved TTA's request to enter Final Design.
TTA completed the 100% level of design and continued progressing toward the receipt of federal funds. In late 2007, due to rising project costs and a change in federal New Starts cost-benefits formulas, Triangle Transit elected not to submit a New Starts application for FTA funding. As a result, work on the regional rail system was suspended in order to reexamine costs and future funding options.
To analyze the future of regional rail in the Triangle, a partnership between TTA, Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC), NC Department of Transportation's Public Transportation Division (NCDOT), and Triangle J Council of Governments (TJCOG) jointly conducted The Transit Blueprint Technical Analysis Project. This 2007 effort was a collaboration between agencies to provide the technical basis for analyzing both future transit corridors and the planned or potential transit infrastructure investment within those corridors. The results of the Blueprint have been used to set priorities for major transit investments based on land use, travel market and cost characteristics.
The Special Transit Advisory Commission (STAC), which met between May 2007 and April 2008, was a broad-based citizen group with 38 members from across the Research Triangle Region. The STAC was appointed by CAMPO and DCHC to assist in the joint development of a plan for a regional transit system and to craft recommendations for the transit component of their respective Long Range Transportation Plans (LRTPs), with a focus on major transit investments. The Commission presented their final report to the metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) at a joint meeting on May 21, 2008.
2010-2011...Alternatives Analysis and Transit Funding
In 2009 the region’s two planning organizations, CAMPO and DCHC, completed work on 2035 Long Range Transportation Plans. The plans include increased bus service and the addition of rail service. A coalition of transit, transportation and environmental groups joined to support State House Bill 148, providing for future referenda for funding transit projects using voter-approved sales taxes. Triangle and Triad counties can hold referenda on a one-half cent sales tax for transit. Other counties are permitted to go to the voters for a one-quarter cent sales tax. With passage in the NC General Assembly in summer 2009, Governor Bev Perdue signed the bill into law in August 2009.
Currently, counties in the region are working with Triangle Transit, CAMPO and DCHC to finalize individual county plans, which will include enhanced transit options. County Commissions have the authority to call for a referendum when they are satisfied with the transit plans they have decided upon and are ready to go to the voters for funding. Durham County passed a one-half cent sales tax for transit in November 2011. The adopted bill also ties state funding into future projects.
In April 2012, a Notice of Intent (NOI) was published in the Federal Register indicating that the Federal Transit Administration and Triangle Transit intend to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Durham-Orange LRT project. Scoping meetings for the D-O LRT project will take place on May 2 and 3 in Orange and Durham Counties.
Evaluation of the Wake Corridor and the Durham-Wake Corridor options continues in the background.