Town off to Slow Start on Connectivity and Mobility Project

Post by Joan Guilkey                         Take the Survey

About three weeks ago, Staff announced a Town-wide project to improve our ability to walk, bike and ride a bus to travel all over Chapel Hill. The Town’s objectives are to reduce vehicle traffic by enhancing safety for pedestrians. Stewart Inc., a consultant with offices in Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh, has been retained to conduct the project under the leadership of David Bonk, the town’s Transportation Planning Manager.

zebra_crossing_630pxAs a first step in the study, one or two members of each Town advisory board was asked to provide input about where each person currently travels and by what method. These participants were named to a project Steering Committee, but it remains unclear what exactly will be expected of this Committee. Each person completed a survey and the information was mapped. About a week later, all Chapel Hill residents were encouraged to do the same at two sessions in the public library.

Several who attended these public meetings left feeling very frustrated because the consultants did not adequately explain the process they will use. Surely, town staff does not believe that a few small and poorly-publicized sessions where citizens write on maps and complete a survey are sufficient to provide the information needed to get the necessary input do this project well.

The maps the consultant provided were disjointed, and hard to use and did little to clarify our transportation and connectivity needs.  For example, participants eager to be helpful spent wasted time putting dots on maps located far apart from each other.  It would have been helpful to show all bus routes on the maps, and maybe even proposed rail stops.

While we are fully supportive of the need for this mobility study, we are concerned about the validity of the results of the first phase of the study if good input is not received.  There does not seem to be a systematic plan to reach out to hundreds, if not thousands, of walkers, bikers, and bus riders needed if Stewart is to obtain enough detailed information to determine Town connectivity priorities.

Stewart says they will utilize the town’s Greenways Master Plan and the Bicycle Plan, bus routes and projected light rail, but they were unaware of the Bus Rapid Transit Study now underway.  Our own staff is far more knowledgeable about the pedestrian and connectivity needs, but Stewart was hired we are told because their workload is too heavy to get to the job done in a timely manner.

For this reason, it is critically important that citizens provide lots of trip information so there can be no doubts as to the most used and most needed pedestrian routes.  We encourage everyone to take the survey.  This data collection effort will continue throughout the summer.

In addition to taking the survey, you could consider writing the consultant representative Randi Gates, at or David Bonk,, the project director stating where you wish to travel safely by bike, bus or walking.

Be sure to say where your trips typically begin, each route you take now, and where each trip ends. The most used and desired routes and destinations will take top priority when the analysis of data starts. List each route you currently take and indicate where you see problem spots. Also list routes you would take if you could do so safely. Ask your friends to do the same. Thank you for helping make our needs known.

If you have questions, call or email David Bonk at 919-969-5064,

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