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More riders strain Triangle bus system

Posted June 20, 2008

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— Soaring gas prices have more commuters hopping on buses, but the increased ridership has strained the regional public-transit system.

The Triangle Transit Authority has seen a 14.5 percent increase in bus riders since May 2007, and riders have complained of crowding and more frequent break-downs.

"You have people standing on the buses, crammed in like sardines," said Tom Jensen, who has commuted by bus from Chapel Hill to Raleigh for nearly two years. "It is 100 degrees, and the air conditioning isn't working."

A day pass for TTA routes costs about $4 – close to the average price of a gallon of gasoline in late June. Jensen said he saves about $1,500 a year in gas money by riding the bus.

David King, TTA's general manager, agreed with Jensen's assessment of the hardships riders have experienced with the increased numbers.

"That is not the way we want to treat them," King said.

Kind said ridership has been up by as much as 20 percent some months, and TTA has struggled to keep up with the unexpected wave of riders.

"That puts stresses on your equipment and your entire organization that we did not anticipate," King said.

TTA recently received 23 new buses to bring its fleet to a total of nearly 70 and placed an order for another dozen buses from a manufacturer in California. Those buses will arrive in about a year.

However, King said those increase might not be enough, and he has considered contracting private companies to help move everyone around.

"It's the first time capacity issues have forced us there," King said.

A proposed plan from the Special Transit Advisory Commission recommended a half-cent sales tax increase to overhaul regional public transit, including enhanced bus service among the major cities.

However it's made possible, Jensen had one recommendation for transportation planners:

"Make public transit in the Triangle a much more viable option for a lot more people."


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  • GinkgoPhyta Jun 20, 2008

    "As to standing and no air conditioning. Quit whining. I did that for years riding a school bus."

    whatelseisnew, standing for a 40 minute+ bus ride is rather uncomfortable. It is even worse when the bus is stuck in traffic. Standing for 5 minutes on a NC State bus (which I do often) is something quite different than standing for 40 minutes. Luckily for me, I wasn't standing the couple of times several people were standing when the bus was stuck in major traffic delays on 40.

    There is a way to avoid standing on the 500 TTA bus...take the 6am and the 6:20pm buses. They are usually pretty empty.

  • smitty Jun 20, 2008

    $4 each way? Still cheaper for me to drive to work.

  • whatelseisnew Jun 20, 2008

    As to standing and no air conditioning. Quit whining. I did that for years riding a school bus.

  • whatelseisnew Jun 20, 2008

    This is so typical. We can't we actually be innovative? Let the fares pay for the buses. All of the costs, operating, maintaining, and so forth. In fact, the fares need to also include the cost of wear and tear on the roads. It is long past time that everyone pay their fair share. Vehicle drivers have been savaged for long enough, and so have the taxpayers. Now if they have overcrowding on certain routes, they should consider removing routes that still have low ridership and put those buses on the busy routes. We can not afford to keep having Government take money out of our pockets. They want to toll roads that the driving public has already paid for, and then add a tax to get an already subsidized system even more of a subsidy. It is time to quit robbing one citizen to benefit another.

  • GinkgoPhyta Jun 20, 2008

    "How is it, that a TTA bus that is basically empty, is now strained by a less than 15% increase in ridership?"

    It is very misleading...15 percent overall. However, I can tell you that the TTA Express buses from Chapel Hill to Raleigh (and viceversa) are a lot higher than 15 percent [these buses only run in and around rush hour]. I would say (from my observations) that there has to be over a 50 percent increase on some of these buses.

    The other regular buses during the day that I have taken have not been nearly as bad as the TTA express bus I take (6am-8:30am and 4pm-6pm). I would imagine that if you look at the buses at rush hour (when everyone is going to or from work) that this is where a huge increase is occuring. However, the other times are only slightly higher or the same from what I have seen. Trust me, I had to stand twice...never been a problem before except with all the kids going to Franklin St. on Halloween.

  • colliedave Jun 20, 2008

    With all the millions given for the choo-choo train and poured down the drain, how many buses could have been purchased with this money?

    Instead of a light rail system, we need a network of buses to create an intergrated transit system. I live near Trawick/Capital Blvd and most of my trips are to the North Hills area. I looked at the web site for the CAT system and it seems there is no way of getting where I need to go without going downtown.

  • postracker Jun 20, 2008

    How is it, that a TTA bus that is basically empty, is now strained by a less than 15% increase in ridership?