By Leanora Minai, Editor, Working@Duke
“Good morning!” City of Durham Mayor William Bell shouted at Durham Station last Monday. “Great things are happening in Durham, right?”
The audience cheered, and after brief remarks from officials — including Congressman David Price (D-NC) — city staff pulled a blue tarp off a waiting bus to unveil the new Bull City Connector, the fare-free service linking Duke, Durham’s historic and revitalized downtown, Ninth Street and Golden Belt.
With start-up support and ongoing funding from Duke, the Bull City Connector provides service with hybrid buses every 15 minutes Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and every 20 minutes from 6 p.m. to midnight. On Saturday and holidays, buses will arrive every 20 minutes from 7 a.m. to midnight. The service will not operate on Sunday.
Duke Vice President for Durham and Regional Affairs Phail Wynn, Jr., who worked with City Manager Tom Bonfield to secure funding for buses and to plot the route, said the new service is a benefit for Duke students and employees.
“The Bull City Connector is an important component of our economic development and downtown revitalization partnership with the City of Durham,” Wynn said. “This fare-free, Duke-to-downtown Durham transit connector will be of tremendous benefit to not only Duke students but also to the nearly 2,000 Duke University and Duke University Health System employees working in downtown Durham.”
Under an agreement with the City, Duke provided $375,000 in matching funds for a $3 million federal grant and a $375,000 state grant to buy new hybrid-diesel-electric buses for the Bull City Connector route. Duke will also contribute toward annual operating costs, while the City and Triangle Transit will manage the service.
Mayor Bell said the service helps Durham reach its goal of expanding public transit to increase community mobility, access and connectivity.
“For transit to be successful, it needs to be convenient and easy to use. One way to accomplish that is to make it fare free, which is one of the wonderful aspects of the new Bull City Connector,” Bell said. “In my opinion, successful cities of the future will be those that offer transportation choices, conserve energy resources, preserve the environment, and provide mobility options. Those actions will ultimately result in an improved quality of life for all residents and I believe the Bull City Connector brings us closer to reaching that goal here in Durham.”
The Bull City Connector features hybrid buses that hold approximately 60 passengers each. Delivery of the new hybrid buses is expected in early 2012. In the meantime, the service will use hybrid buses already in the DATA bus fleet. The hybrid buses also feature many accessible features such as wheelchair securement, an entrance ramp, and a kneeling feature. The buses also include a video surveillance system, talking bus features for the visually impaired and bike racks.
North Carolina Central University will also link to the new Bull City Connector thanks to the NCCU Connection, a new fare-free transit initiative designed specifically for NCCU and Duke students, faculty, and staff. Starting August 16, NCCU and Duke students, faculty, and staff may board the Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA) Route 5 bus (displaying the NCCU Connection emblem) anywhere between Cecil Street and Durham Station, simply by showing a valid NCCU or Duke ID card. Once on board the NCCU Connection, students, faculty, and staff may continue their travel free-of-charge on Route 5 or on the Bull City Connector.
To use an interactive route map or download a map, visit www.bullcityconnector.org or call (919) 485-RIDE for more information.