No reason to celebrate – Chapel Hill Transit needs a lot more help

Patrick McDonough’s tweet announces the purchase of buses for Chapel Hill Transit.  But it’s too soon to celebrate because the transit plan just approved by the Orange County Commissioners falls way short of supplying the needs of an aging fleet of buses.

May 14   New buses joining fleet using funds from Orange County transit plan

In the GoTriangle budget there is a single one time line item for $2.8M for “bus replacement” for Chapel Hill Transit. This buys at best 6 buses. Currently CH Transit has 40 remaining obsolete buses that are past the Federal Transportation Administration replacement age of 12 years. Looking ahead, Chapel Hill Transit will be forced to self fund three dozen buses with taxpayer assistance beyond the 1/2¢ transit sales tax! This year Chapel Hill Transit could not afford to buy new buses but instead leased them because of inadequate funds.

But Chapel Hill Transit needs a lot more support than just new buses to operate and maintain bus service, pay drivers and improve infrastructure. Our local tax base is paying more and more each year of the costs of running our bus system due to federal transit reductions.

The April 27th County Commission vote for agreements that fund an expensive $3.3 Billion light rail project bleeds funds that could go to provide more practical and affordable bus service now. Thus local taxpayers will pay the difference just to stay in the same place!  See previous article.

The bottom line is that Chapel Hill Transit is playing catch up on bus replacement and service operations. The recent Orange County Transit Plan and related agreements did not provide expansion of the fleet to allow improved bus service for Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough or elsewhere in Orange County. All taxpayers will feel the pinch in this year’s budgets.

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