Tag Archives: Funding


We recommend that you call AND write:

  • Ellen Reckhow
    Commissioner, Durham County (and TTA board member)
    200 East Main Street, 2nd Floor Old Courthouse
    Durham, NC 27701
  • William Bell
    Mayor, City of Durham (and TTA chairman)
    101 City Hall Plaza
    Durham, NC 27701

State and Federal Representatives

Find your Congressional Representative by your home address

Find your state representative by your home address

Durham-Orange Proposal


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 18 stations planned and two-car trains running at five-minute intervals for an estimated construction cost of $1.6B (per DEIS) $3.4 BILLION Year of Expenditure

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. (Interactive map)

GoTriangle forecasts an average of 24,000 weekday light rail trips by 2040. So assuming round trip travel, this would serve 13,500 passengers over 17.7 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 56 minutes vs the original 34 minutes to travel from UNC Hospital (Chapel Hill) to downtown Durham and now continuing to NCCU at an average of 19 miles per hour.


The estimated $1.6 Billion (DEIS 2015) “assumes 50% Federal funding, 25% local and 25% state.”  $2.5 BILLION assumes 50% Federal funding, 43% local funding and 7% state funding, according to the GoTriangle. The local funding is comprised of a 0.5% sales tax, $10 annual vehicle registration fee and 5% tax surcharge on car rentals. GoTriangle has proposed a DOLRT financing plan that will increase the total cost to over $3.4 BILLION and stretch debt repayments for half a century into 2062.

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.Of the estimated $16 $28.7 MILLION Operating & Maintenance annual budget, 20% is expected from passenger fares (fare-box recovery) leaving the remaining 80% (or $23 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!



The promise, when Durham (2011) and Orange County (2012) residents approved the 1/2 cent sales tax / public transit referendum, was for DOLRT to cost $1.4 BILLION (in 2011) of which 25% or $350 million would come from local funding and take 34 minutes end-to-end to start service in 2025 with $14.3 million operating cost.

Today’s reality, DOLRT will cost $3.4 BILLION (YOE) or 17.7 miles @ $192 million per mile, with 40% or $1 BILLION to come from local funding, travelling at 19mph and take 56 minutes end-to-end travel with service in 2029 with $28.7 million operating cost. For reference, Charlotte BLE cost $126 million per mile. And GoTriangle has yet to break ground!

So 5 years into the project we get a slower train delivered 4 years later, requires 3X more local funding, costs 80% more to build (so far) that is financed into 2062, is 35% slower, 2X more expensive to operate, with 1/3 less platform capacity.

Meanwhile, Chapel Hill is building NS-BRT for $125 million (YOE) or 8.2 miles @ $15 million per mile, with service in 2022 and $3.4 million operating cost. http://nscstudy.org/

Chapel Hill BRT will deliver mass public transit 7 years sooner at a fraction of the cost. In fact, FREE BRT service would be cheaper for riders (and taxpayers), while providing better service, sooner than DOLRT!

For the cost of a single DOLRT mile, you could build an entire BRT system like Chapel Hill. For $2.5 BILLION, you could build 166 miles of BRT (vs 17 miles of DOLRT). Now THAT would be mass public transit!

The Transit Tax Referendum of 2011 and 2012

In 2011-2012, voters in Durham and Orange County approved a ½ cent sales tax increase to fund regional transportation needed for the growing Triangle Region. The tax was to provide partial funding for a plan developed by Triangle Transit (TTA – and now “GoTriangle”) to increase bus service, and provide light rail transit (LRT) connecting UNC and Duke.durham_ballot_turnout

Wake County’s decision changes everything

Last year, the situation changed when Wake County decided to not pursue GoTriangle’s plan and abandoned plans for LRT. Instead, Wake is exploring Bus Rapid Transit and/or Rail Rapid Transit (diesel cars running on existing rail lines) deliver county-wide transportation in a flexible, cost-effective manner.

During the same period, GoTriangle has spent approximately $40 million on LRT studies and has provided a small increase in bus service in Orange and Durham Counties. The LRT planning process has been fraught with issues ranging from route problems to degrading assumptions about speed, capacity, and value to the community. The Durham-Orange LRT does not provide service to Wake County, the largest and fastest growing segment of the Triangle.

Smart Transit Future is an alliance of community and civic groups throughout the Triangle that are asking Orange and Durham leaders to reconsider the DOLRT plan and pursue alternatives. We believe that the Durham-Orange, LRT should be put on hold, in order to work more closely with Wake County on alternatives that connect the entire Triangle. At the same time, funds in the short term can be redirected to improve bus transportation in Orange and Durham.

Durham-Orange LRT is beset with circuitous route, safety concerns, and funding gaps

In addition to Wake County’s exit from the plan, unexpected challenges are facing the Durham-Orange 17.7 mile LRT project including:

  • Routes and locations of facilities have changed and now negatively impact vulnerable seniors, schools, and residential communities;
  • The expected capacity, speed and convenience has degraded. Route travel time has degraded to 56 minutes from an original estimate of 34 minutes, and the existing bus routes used for comparison were grossly distorted (link to page showing comparison).
  • DOLRT will make it difficult for the rapidly growing Triangle Region to respond to changes due to telecommuting, decentralization of UNC and Duke facilities, and emerging automated vehicle (AV) technologies
  • DOLRT costs are escalating, and under new laws, the project will be short millions of dollars. Federal funding is even more uncertain.


The original plan overlooked other important factors, including:

  • It does not serve the exploding growth centers including Chatham Park, NC Commerce Center, and the redevelopment of RTP.
  • Durham and Orange County need more funds to modernize bus fleets and add routes, and implement BRT which is much more cost effective.
  • The DOLRT relies on at 42 unsafe at-grade crossings along the 17 mile route.

Bus Rapid Transit, Rail Rapid Transit and emerging technologies offer a more flexible and cost-effective platform for Triangle-wide transportation.

LRT is expensive, inflexible technology that will not effectively serve the growing Triangle Region. Federal, state and local dollars would be better spent on bus and bus rapid transit with dedicated guideways through dense corridors, and the reuse of existing rail lines with rail rapid transit.

With the final recommendations unveiled by GoTriangle. many communities are now actively seeking to stop this project. Upon deeper investigation, many of the GoTriangle planning assumptions are either highly questionable or so erroneous that making an informed decision on the options is impossible, We urge local, county, state and Federal decision-makers to require an independent review by external parties that have no role in the development of the PLAN and do not stand to benefit from decisions regarding the PLAN.

We the undersigned urge you to REJECT the current DO-Line plan.

Stop Durham-Orange Light Rail Train Petition