Position on the Durham Transit Plan
Adopted by the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit Coordinating Committee
April 4, 2022
The new Durham Transit Plan will allocate approximately one billion dollars in local transit funds over the next 20 years. We support and advocate for these funds, as well as other transit funds from local, state, and federal sources, to be used to achieve two specific and vital goals; namely a substantial increase in our bus services and passenger rail service providing links to and for all Durham neighborhoods, and to RTP and Raleigh.
1. In light of decades of transit underinvestment in some parts of Durham, particularly in heritage black and brown neighborhoods, we believe racial equity requires that substantial new bus service and facilities must be provided to these historically underserved areas. We specifically call for the Transit Plan to fund improved bus service and facilities including sheltered, ADA-compliant bus stops and adjacent sidewalks for historic black neighborhoods including Bragtown, Merrick Moore, Walltown, Old Farm, and North East Durham, as well as every other underserved community of color. Economic justice requires the same for economically transit-dependent neighborhoods that are currently underserved by our bus system. Addressing these neighborhoods long underserved by transit should be a first priority for the new Transit Plan.
We believe that new bus services can and must begin to be put in place as soon as 2022 and each year thereafter. We call for the needed new bus service to underserved neighborhoods to start this year, with a priority for 15-minute service for Route 9 serving the Bragtown neighborhood with shelters at the Bragtown Library on Dearborn, Bluefields/Club Blvd public and turnkey housing, and major intersections including East Club Blvd and Dearborn.
2. Because transit funding can only address the needs for sidewalk improvements within a very short distance of a bus stop, we call for the County and City governments to provide the funding needed for sidewalks, bus stops and bike lanes that will allow these underserved communities of color and economically transit-dependent neighborhoods to have safe, ADA-compliant sheltered bus stops in their neighborhoods. Diverse neighborhood groups should be established to advise and oversee development of this infrastructure.
3. We believe that Durham needs a transit system with frequent, reliable bus service that serves the whole Durham community well with connections to fast passenger rail transit to other major job and activity centers, starting with the Research Triangle Park and Wake County. Simply put, Durham will not meet its transportation challenges in the next two decades until it has both an excellent local bus system and regional passenger rail transit.
All Durham residents should have ready access to the estimated 65% or more of the new jobs created regionally in the coming 20 years. This is a key transit equity and economic justice concern, and all Durham residents should have access to our region’s economic opportunities. Also, today an estimated 30,000 Durham residents who do have cars sit in congested traffic many workdays while trying to reach their jobs in Wake County. Those who do not have cars are burdened by the time it takes with public transit to reach these job centers. These problems will only grow worse in coming years.
Durham can help our region begin to provide the rail transit that is needed here and elsewhere to address our climate change crisis. Finally, a failure to begin now to address the need for fast, safe rail connections in our region will mean at least another generation will pass before even a start can be made.
We understand that a passenger rail project will require at least four years of planning and then two years of construction, and we call for substantial new bus services to be implemented in the early years of the Transit Plan while also providing funding for the rail planning work needed. We can do both, and we should do both.
For these reasons, we call for adequate funds in the new Transit Plan to be reserved to provide a fair Durham share of funding for rapid passenger rail service from Durham to Raleigh. As made clear below, we are calling for a regional passenger rail service that provides the more substantial service that our commitment to equity requires. We are supporting only the reservation of a portion of local transit funds for the rail project now, with full funding depending on satisfactory steps to address the following concerns:
A.Durham’s share of the funding of the overall rail project construction costs should be limited to $200 million, in line with Durham’s current adopted transit plan. For this project there must be significant financial support from the federal government, Wake County, and other major regional stakeholders like RTP and Duke University, among others.
B. The rail project must be designed to be readily accessible to a substantial portion of Durham’s affordable housing residents. Fortunately, a recent study found that 37% of our City’s legally-binding affordable housing lies within one mile of the planned rail corridor.
C. The rail project plans must confirm that all property parcels along the rail line owned by GoTriangle, or local governments will be utilized as much as possible for joint development of substantial new affordable housing units.
D. The routing of rail service must include a station near Alston Avenue with convenient access to areas in Northeast Central Durham and Southeast Central Durham, including NCCU and Durham Tech. DHA has just announced that 560 new units will be built in Fayette Place, which is within 0.6 miles of the proposed Alston Avenue station. All related bus routes should be designed to provide fast, convenient links from Durham’s rail stations to all of our communities of color and economically transit-dependent neighborhoods when the rail service begins. Additionally, the City of Durham should develop and implement a comprehensive bike and pedestrian plan that links all rail stations to significant activity and residential centers.
E. We believe the current design of the proposed rail service to Raleigh is inadequate to our current and future needs. Limiting regional passenger rail service to 9-5 commuters will fail to serve many people who work in hospital (second and third shift), public safety, retail and other professions, as well as others who desire to access major medical, retail and other locations. From its initial stage of planning, passenger rail service to the RTP and Raleigh should include infrastructure that will allow frequent all day, evening and weekend service, including a commitment to obtain the necessary state and NCRR agreements to support this service as well.
F. Finally, the planning, design, construction and operation of all new bus and rail services must be done in a way that is open, transparent and responsive to our community. This clearly means that our local high standards for DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises) and inclusive local participation must be met in all aspects of transit, including job hiring and procurement of services. For example, inclusion of black-owned businesses must be reflective of the 36% percent of Durham’s population that is black. It will also be useful for local county and city governments to establish a diverse community group to provide oversight, advice and recommendations regarding implementation of the new Durham Transit Plan, in order to ensure that the Plan meets these goals.