The proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit (DOLRT) Project is a 17 mile light rail transit line (started in 1992) which is projected to extend from UNC Hospitals to East Durham by way of the Friday Center, the I-40 corridor, Patterson Place and South Square areas, Duke Medical Center and downtown Durham with 17 stations planned and four-two-car trains running at five-minute intervals for an estimated construction cost of $1.6B (per DEIS)
Proposed DOLRT line does NOT connect Chapel Hill or Durham to major commercial, retail, or employment destinations east of the corridor like Southpoint Mall, Research Triangle Park or the Raleigh/Durham Airport, (map)
GoTriangle forecasts an average of 23,000 weekday light rail trips (increased from original 12,000 daily boardings) by 2040. So assuming round trip travel, this would serve 11,500 passengers over 17 miles. Frequency of service reduced from the original proposal (of every 5 minutes) to every 20 minutes, and 10 minutes during peak commuting hours (Mon to Fri 6:00am – 9:30am & 3:30pm – 6:30pm). DOLRT estimated to take 44 minutes (+10 minutes at terminus) vs the original 34 minutes to travel from Chapel Hill (UNC Hospitals) to East Durham (Alston Avenue) at average 23 miles per hour.
The estimated $1.6 Billion (DEIS 2015) “assumes 50% Federal funding, 25% local and 25% state.” according to the GoTriangle. The 25% local funding is comprised of a 0.5% sales tax, $10 annual vehicle registration fee and 5% tax surcharge on car rentals.
Some of the local and state funding has been secured, however the Federal funding has not been finalized. “Federal New Starts funding is required. This funding is very competitive. No New Starts project nationwide is in a region as small as Durham‐Orange. Ridership estimates per mile appear lower and costs per rider higher than other New Starts projects. An initial investment of a smaller 9‐12 mile corridor would omit either UNC Hospitals or downtown Durham.” (Durham-Orange County Corridor Alternatives Analysis, Apr 2012, page 14)
“Ridership levels may depend on extensive development at the Leigh Village station; transit‐supportive densities at this and other locations have generated opposition. The Triangle will be advancing three projects at the same time; the AA suggests this may be the lowest performing of the three.” – Alternatives Analysis Final Report: Appendices, Durham-Orange County Corridor, Jun 8, 2012
Whereas the construction or capital costs are frequently offset and subsidized by state and federal governments, any short fall in operating costs not covered by rider fees are typically subsidized (paid for) by local taxpayers in the form of additional local taxes. A review of over 30 Light Rail projects across the nation estimates an average tax subsidy of 70%. If the national average is applied to the estimated $16 Million O&M budget would represent approximately $11 Million in additional annual taxes for Orange and Durham county residents.
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!