Today is #TransitThursday. Today, my usual commute from Carrboro to Durham on the GoTriangle 405 bus comes a day after the discontinuation of the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project. I have thoughts.
Even without the DOLRT Project, the challenge of the Durham-Orange transportation corridor that it was designed to address remains. It is one of the most intensively traveled commuter corridors in North Carolina; it will only become more challenging.
As Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said yesterday, before we look ahead, we must acknowledge the enormity of this setback for the people of Durham and Orange Counties. Planning to address the Durham-Orange corridor took many years. Planning another meaningful transit solution in the corridor will take many years more.
The DOLRT Project faced challenges from the start. Reactionaries in the North Carolina General Assembly set absurd funding limits and arbitrary deadlines to undermine years of planning that had broad community support. We persisted. The path ahead for the DOLRT Project narrowed considerably after Duke University withdrew from planning discussions, a devastating decision that showed little care for the people of Durham, as my colleague Commissioner Jennifer Weaver has said.
Thanks to the many community members who invested time and energy in a vision and a plan to transform the public transit network of the western Triangle. Thanks to the professional staff of GoTriangle and the staffs of local and regional governments and planning organizations who brought amazing technical expertise, planning chops, and passion to implementing our communities’ priorities. Thanks to the committed, visionary leaders of Durham and Orange Counties who stood up for our communities, backed up by Governor Roy Cooper, Secretary of Transportation Jim Trogdon, Congressman G. K. Butterfield, and Congressman David Price, among others.
We’re up to the new challenge. It will take renewed commitment to the community’s vision, expressed over and over again, of a truly regional transit network. And it will require a General Assembly that is responsive to democratically determined local needs.
Want to be part of the action? Watch for new opportunities to participate in amending the Orange and Durham transit plans. Completing the important local projects in those plans, and finding new approaches to regional cooperation, is where you’ll be needed.
Damon Seils is alderman and mayor pro tempore of the Town of Carrboro and chair of the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization Board.