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Millennial housing?

When discussing transit alternatives, light rail discussions often get co-mingled with Transit Oriented Developments (TOD) and the supposed millennial housing preference for high-density, urban living and TOD. However, recent studies suggest other evolving trends as millennials age.

“Here’s one thing we know: People get older. Another is that people’s tolerance for entry-level jobs and small urban apartments is highest when they are young adults. So while many things affect the increasing popularity of city living, including lower crime rates and a preference for walkable neighborhoods, one of the biggest factors is simply the number of people who are around 25.” SOURCEPeak Millennial? Cities Can’t Assume a Continued Boost From the Young

The study, coauthored by Deborah L. Brett of Deborah L. Brett and Associates, punctured the myth of millennials living mostly in amenity-rich apartments in the downtowns of large cities. Rather, the study found, many are living in less centrally located but more affordable neighborhoods, and sharing space with parents or roommates to save money. The study’s key findings included the following:

  • Only 13 percent of millennials live in or near downtowns; 63 percent live in other city neighborhoods or in the suburbs.
  • Fifty percent are renters, paying a median monthly rent of $925.
  • Twenty-one percent live at home, but 90 percent expect to move out within five years.
  • Fourteen percent live in households with three generations of family members.

“I’m an example of a millennial who has lived for a decade in small loft in the city because I love the neighborhood and lifestyle. But now I’m getting married, and have been looking for houses for three months. It seems you developers did not expect us to grow up and need more than 1,100 square feet [100 sq m] of living space.” — Rukiya Eaddy of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. SOURCE: The Evolving Preferences of Millennials

“the rate at which Americans are moving to the suburbs is once again outpacing the rate at which they are moving to cities. That picks up on a decades long trend that only very temporarily reversed during the recession.” SOURCE: Wall Street Journal – More Americans Are Again Moving to Suburbs Than Cities

What are others saying about millennial’s evolving housing preferences?

Maybe millennials aren’t so different after all. The share of millennials buying a home in an urban area declined to 17% in 2015 from 21% a year before. And fewer — 10%, compared with 15% a year earlier — purchased a multifamily home. SOURCE: Millennials are buying homes, and they’re buying them in the suburbs

It was only a matter of time. Literally. As millennials grow older, get married, have children, they are seeking out bigger houses and better schools. That means the suburbs. They are also getting tired of paying higher urban rents and watching those rents rise.  SOURCE: The Young And The Restless: Millennials Ditch Cities For Suburbs

As millennials get older, many will follow a familiar path: They’ll partner up, have kids, and move to the suburbs. Urban living starts to decline after ages 25-29 and drops to its lowest level at ages 65-69. SOURCE: Urban Headwinds, Suburban Tailwinds

Urban residents feel the tug of the suburbs. For every 10 suburbanites who said they wanted to live in an urban area in five years, 16 urban dwellers said they wished to live in the suburbs. Even among young adults aged 18-34— who are more likely to live in urban areas than older adults are — more wanted to move from city to suburbs than the other way around. SOURCE: Urban Headwinds, Suburban Tailwinds


“So while some 22-year-old millennials might have made a declaration that they would rather die than live in a suburb, their 35-year-old selves might feel differently, especially when they realize that suburban housing is often cheaper and suburban public schools are often better.” SOURCEPeak Millennial? Cities Can’t Assume a Continued Boost From the Young


Greater Capacity?

Many advocates claim that LRT has higher passenger capacity than lower-cost alternatives like BRT. A closer review of available research shows this to be an often repeated misconception that is unsubstantiated by recent real-world experiences. Using transit best-practices (like interlining and passing lanes at BRT stations) can substantially increase BRT infrastructure capacity as measured by people per peak hour per direction (PPHPD). In addition, using new technology like automated vehicles and double-articulated hybrid buses (eg Vossloh Kiepe and Hess) with 250 passenger capacity can further expand BRT capacity and efficiency.


When the TransMilenio system in Bogotá, Colombia, opened in 1998, it changed the paradigm for limited BRT capacities by providing a lane for buses to pass each other at each station and multiple sub-stops at each station; and by introducing express services within the BRT infrastructure. These innovations increased the maximum achieved capacity of a BRT system to 35,000 PPHPD. Light rail, by comparison, has a maximum theoretical capacity of about 20,000 PPHPD, but these levels have rarely if ever been achieved under real-world conditions, and they require very long multicar vehicles on fully grade-separated rights-of-way (either elevated, as in Manila, the Philippines, or underground). On normal city streets, the highest-capacity LRT systems are in Europe, and they typically carry a maximum of about 9,000 PPHPD. There are conditions that favor LRT over BRT, but they are fairly narrow. Meeting these conditions would require a corridor with only one available lane in each direction, more than 16,000 but fewer than 20,000 PPHPD, and a long block length, so the train does not block intersections. These specific conditions are rare, but where they exist, light rail would have an operational advantage. Otherwise, any perceived advantages of LRT over BRT are primarily aesthetic and political rather than technical. ITDP study, More Development For Your Transit Dollar


In the US, current transit capacities are significantly lower than those of the BRT and LRT systems mentioned above. This is because domestic capacity is measured as a function of the number of vehicles currently serving the corridor (at peak hour, in peak direction), and the physical capacity of those vehicles. Yet no corridor in the US has sufficient demand to justify vehicular frequencies high enough to saturate the corridor. For example, the current capacity of Los Angeles’ Orange Line BRT is 1,965 PPHPD based on the existing fleet. However, the system’s theoretical capacity is much higher: were demand to grow and more vehicles put into service, capacity would increase. The LRT corridors in Los Angeles—the Gold Line and the Blue Line—have similar capacities based on the existing fleet: 2,090 PPHPD. This capacity, too, could grow with an increase in demand. Note, however, that in order to provide capacities that more or less meet current demand, Los Angeles provides less frequent services on its LRT lines due to the size of the LRT vehicles.

US cities generally search for the sweet spot in the demand-to-capacity ratio and try not to provide service frequencies that are so high that their vehicles run empty. Thus, since LRT vehicles are larger, in order to justify providing LRT capacities that are similar to a BRT, LRT tends to operate at lower frequencies. As mentioned above, due to the perceived capacity constraint of BRT there are currently no cases in the US where LRT should be favored over BRT. ITDP study, More Development For Your Transit Dollar

Socially Equitable?

A closer look at the proposed DOLRT routing demonstrates that the intent does not align with the reality. The DOLRT project will not serve NC Central University (our nation’s first public African-American liberal arts college) or Durham Community College (an institution that provides affordable, technical and career education).  These educational resources strengthen our local business community with the wide reach of their programs, particularly offering accessible, low-cost acquisition of life and job skills to our citizens. The disconnect between DOLRT direct service to these educational and job opportunities does our community and local businesses a grave disservice.

“Transit today is, in almost all US markets, slower than driving. People who depend on transit can reach fewer jobs than those who have automobiles available. Some people use transit by choice, for instance to save money (if they need to pay for parking), and the rest without choice. In my opinion, it is more important to spend scarce public dollars to improve options for those without choices than to improve the choices for those who already have alternatives. Perhaps ideally we could do both, in practice, one comes at the expense of other.” David Levinson, Who benefits from other people’s transit use?, 5/13/2015

Ironically DOLRT advocates claim that the proposed DOLRT alignment helps low-income population, but include UNC and Duke University students thereby artificially inflating the low-income area statistics. These typically affluent students increasingly seek off-campus housing, further compounding the dwindling supply of affordable housing within the community.

Accelerating Gentrification?

Often transit advocates support their claim that light rail is economically progressive by alluding to its correlation to the development and sustainability of affordable housing near light rail stations that serve lower-income, transit dependent communities. However, recent demographic studies suggest otherwise.

In Los Angeles, the NAACP successfully sued the Metro Transit Authority for building light rail, arguing is was so expensive that the city was forced to cut bus service in minority neighborhoods, resulting in an overall decline in transit ridership.

In the mean time, Los Angeles median rent prices for one-bedroom units jumped 46% along Los Angeles’ new metro line.  “Previous studies across the country have noted how new public transit stops drive up nearby rental prices – we’re talkin’ 25-67% … Los Angeles may be especially susceptible to this type of increase, given we have the highest renter and lowest homeownership rate of all metropolitan areas in the country.”

Examining changes relative to areas not near light-rail or subway projects from 2000 to 2013, neighborhoods near those forms of transit are more associated with increases in white, college-educated, higher-income households and greater increases in the cost of rents. Conversely, neighborhoods near rail development are associated with greater losses in disadvantaged populations, including individuals with less than a high school diploma and lower-income households” according to a recent study from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Accelerated gentrification has had a dramatic impact in Philadelphia’s lower-income communities:

“Roughly a fifth (21 percent) of all residents who moved to a different area ended up in a neighborhood with a lower median income than where they were previously, and this share was higher for low-income movers from gentrifying neighborhoods in particular.

Moving to a lower-income neighborhood takes an additional toll on residents, with their credit risk scores declining by an average of 15 points after three years. Gentrification also increases housing costs, thereby pricing out low-income residents.”— The Closest Look Yet at Gentrification and Displacement (Philadelphia)

Recent demographic studies of Washington DC show that rail transit projects have accelerated gentrification of communities around  stations resulting in African-American, ethnic and lower-income residents being pushed away from the very facilities that were justified on their behalf. The studies demonstrated that a concentration of higher-income families, typically white between the ages of 25-35, now live in close proximity to the transit stations; while minority and low-income families have been driven away from light rail locations by ever increasing rents and into other low-cost communities. One of the unexpected consequences of light rail, as demonstrated in the recent studies, is its regressive housing outcome, despite the project having been ‘sold’ as progressive.

Below are excerpts from the recent Transit Access and Population Change: The Demographic Profiles of Rail-Accessible Neighborhoods in the Washington, DC Area by BRIAN McKENZIE, U.S CENSUS BUREAU, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND HOUSING STATISTICS DIVISION, SEHSD WORKING PAPER NO. 2015-023 DECEMBER, 2015

Findings reveal that young adults, recent movers, white workers, highly educated workers and workers with high earnings all disproportionately live near rail stops in Washington and the five surrounding counties with at least one Metrorail stop.

… white workers are disproportionately represented in neighborhoods near rail stops. For the 2011-2013 period, 56 percent of workers living near rail stops were white, whereas 38.3 percent of workers who did not live near rail stops were white.

… a growing body of research examines displacement of low-income residents from transit-rich neighborhoods. One study examined the relationship between affordable housing and TOD, finding that barriers such as the high cost of land near rail stops present considerable challenges to developing and maintaining affordable housing within transit-rich neighborhoods. Another Washington, DC- based study found that the transportation-related savings associated with the most transit-rich neighborhoods are unlikely to offset the high cost of housing in these areas for low-income workers.

The Proportion of Black Workers Declined in Rail-Accessible Neighborhoods. The racial and ethnic makeup of the Washington, DC region has changed notably over the last decade, but shifts in the racial and ethnic composition of neighborhoods are disproportionately reflected within rail-accessible areas. Within Washington, DC, between 2006-2008 and 2011- 2013, the proportion of Black workers declined from 32.9 percent to 24.1 percent within rail- accessible blocks, whereas the proportion of all other groups either increased or did not experience a statistically significant change (Figure 5). The proportion of workers in rail- accessible neighborhoods who are Black is about half that of workers with no rail access who are Black in 2011-2013, at 24.1 percent and 47.3 percent.


An influx of relatively young workers to Washington, DC has contributed to a decline in the median age from 34.6 years in 2000 to 33.8 years in 2013.

Within Washington and the surrounding areas, about four out of 10 workers living in a rail-accessible neighborhood were between ages 25 and 34 for the 2011-2013 period. Moreover, between 2006-2008 and 2011-2013, the proportion of workers in this age group increased at similar rates for Washington and the surrounding counties at about 8 percent. Neighborhoods without rail access have a more even distribution of workers across age groups, both in Washington and the surrounding area.



Coming soon to Chapel Hill and Wake County!

BRT is coming to the Chapel Hill as part of the North-South Corridor that will connect Southern Village with UNC and continue north along MLK. The study area runs from the Eubanks Road Park & Ride lot (a northern terminus) and the popular Southern Village (the southern terminus) and points in between. The NS BRT with a projected cost of $125 MILLION (8.2 miles @ $15 MILLION per mile) to start service in 2020 with annual operating cost of $3.4 MILLION.

So with BRT, Chapel Hill will get mass public transit sooner (a decade earlier than DOLRT) at fraction of the cost (11% of the cost per mile to build and 12% of the operating cost) with lower local funding requirement due to higher federal grants!  In fact, passengers could ride BRT for ‘fare-free’ and it would still be cheaper (for riders and taxpayers) than DOLRT to operate.

For the same amount of money, we could build 166 miles of BRT (vs 17 miles of DOLRT). Now that would be mass public transit!

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Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has been implemented in numerous cities across the nation. Below is a partial list under construction:

  1. Wake County, NC – BRT
  2. Chapel Hill, NC – North-South BRT
  3. Bay Area CA – East Bay BRT
  4. Bay Area CA – Santa Clara-Alum Rock BRT
  5. Bay Area CA – Van Ness Avenue BRT
  6. Boston, MA – Silver Line Gateway
  7. Chicago, IL – Central Loop BRT
  8. El Paso, TX – Brio Alameda Corridor
  9. Eugene, OR – West Eugene EmX
  10. Hartford, CT – CT fastrak
  11. Houston, TX – Uptown (Post Oak) BRT
  12. Jacksonville, FL – First Coast Flyer Downtown Phase
  13. Portland, OR – Vancouver Fourth Plain BRT
  14. Salt Lake City, UT – 5600 West BRT Phase 1
  15. Salt Lake City, UT – Provo-Orem BRT
  16. San Diego, CA – South Bay BRT

Below is a partial list of current Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) under development across the nation:

  1. Bay Area CA – Geary BRT
  2. El Paso, TX – Brio Dyer Corridor
  3. El Paso, TX – Brio Montana Corridor
  4. Jacksonville, FL – North Corridor BRT
  5. Jacksonville, FL – Southeast Corridor BRT
  6. Las Vegas, NV – Flamingo Corridor
  7. Omaha, NE – Omaha BRT
  8. Reno, NV – 4th Street/Prater Way RAPID
  9. Richmond, VA – Broad Street BRT
  10. Washington, DC – Corridor Cities Transitway Phase 1
  11. Washington DC – Corridor Cities Transitway Phase 2
  12. Albuquerque NM – Albuquerque Rapid Transit
  13. Bay Area, CA – El Camino Real BRT
  14. Chicago, IL – Ashland Avenue BRT
  15. Columbus, OH – Cleveland Avenue BRT
  16. Lansing, MI – Michigan/Grand Avenue Transit



Who can I talk to and have my voice heard?

Some voices carry more than others. Your elected representatives will listen to you. You have the vote! How can I maximize my voice? Phone calls are heard very loud and clear. Hand written letters are the next best thing. Followed by typed letters delivered by US postal. And lastly email. So while most of us use (myself included) email … your elected representatives prefer to hear from you (literally). So if you want to maximize your impact, please call today!


As many residents have encountered a bewildering flood of new abbreviations and terminology, we have create this short list of commonly used abbreviations to help decipher these unfamiliar terms:

  • AA – Alternatives Analysis
  • AREMA – American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association
  • BMT – Busway / Mixed Traffic
  • BOCC – Board of County Commissioners
  • BRT – Bus Rapid Transit
  • CAMPO – Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • CHT – Chapel Hill Transit
  • CRT – Commuter Rail Transit
  • CSX – CSX Transportation
  • CWI – Collision With Individual
  • DATA – Durham Area Transit Authority
  • DCHC MPO – Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • DEIS – Draft Environmental Impact Statement
  • DOT – Department of Transportation
  • EIS – Environmental Impact Study
  • EPA – US Environmental Protection Agency
  • FAR – Flood Area Ratio
  • FE – Final Engineering
  • FEIS – Final Environmental Impact Statement
  • FTA – Federal Transportation Administration
  • FTE – Full Time Equivalent
  • GAO – Government Accountability Office
  • HBU – Home Based Universities
  • HBW – Home Based Work
  • HOV – High Occupancy Vehicle
  • HRT – Heavy Rail Transit
  • ITS – Intelligent Transportation System
  • LPA – Locally Preferred Alternative
  • LRT – Light Rail Transit
  • LRTP – Long Range Transportation Plan
  • MIS – Major Investment Study
  • MPO – Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • MUTCD – Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
  • NCDOT – North Carolina Department of Transportation
  • NCRR – North Carolina Railroad
  • NEPA – National Environmental Policy Act
  • NHB – Non-Home Based
  • NTD – National Transit Database
  • NWI – National Wetlands Inventory
  • O&M – Operating & Maintenance
  • OCS – Overhead Catenary System
  • PAX – Passenger Hours Traveled
  • PE – Preliminary Engineering
  • PFO – Palustrine Forested
  • PPHPD – peak hour per direction
  • RTP – Research Triangle Park
  • SOV – Single Occupancy Vehicle
  • STAC – Special Transit Advisory Commission
  • TA – Transitional Analysis
  • TAC – Transportation Advisory Committee
  • TAC – Technical Advisory Committee
  • TAZ – Traffic Analysis Zones
  • TCC – Technical Coordinating Committee
  • TDM – Transportation Demand Management
  • TIGER – Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery
  • TOD – Transit Oriented Development
  • TRTP – Triangle Regional Transit Program
  • TSM – Transportation System Management Alternative
  • USACE – US Army Corp of Engineers
  • USGS – US Geological Survey
  • UT – Unnamed Tributary
  • UZA – Urbanized Areas
  • V/C – Volume Capacity Ratio
  • VHT – Vehicle Hours Traveled
  • VMT – Vehicle Miles Traveled


We recommend that you call AND write:

  • Representative Larry D. Hall
    Democratic Leader: Democrat – District 29: Durham
    NC House of Representatives
    300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 506
    Raleigh, NC 27603-5925
  • Representative Paul Luebke
    Democrat – District 30: Durham
    NC House of Representatives
    300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 513
    Raleigh, NC 27603-5925
  • Representative Graig R. Meyer
    Democrat – District 50: Durham, Orange
    NC House of Representatives
    16 W. Jones Street, Room 1111
    Raleigh, NC 27601-1096
  • Representative Verla Insko
    Democrat – District 56: Orange
    NC House of Representatives
    300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 502
    Raleigh, NC 27603-5925

  • Governor Pat McCrory
    Office of the Governor
    20301 Mail Service Center
    Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
    Phone: 919.814.2000
    Fax: 919.733.2120
  • Anthony Tata
    NC DOT, Secretary of Transportation
    1 So. Wilmington Street
    Raleigh, NC 27601
  • Edward Curran
    NC DOT, Chairman, Government Related Finance
    1368 Ballantyne Corporate Place, Suite 300
    Charlotte, NC 28277
  • Andrew Perkins, Jr.
    NC DOT, Mass Transit
    1601 East Market Street
    Greensboro, NC 27411
  • Cheryl McQuerry
    NC DOT, Division 7 (includes Orange County)
    PO Box 14996
    Greensboro, NC 27415
  • Jeff Sheehan
    NC DOT, Division 5 (includes Durham County)
    Duke Realty
    3005 Carrington Mill Road, Suite 100
    Morrisville, NC 27560