The current design of the Bull City Connector's route resembles a string with a knot in the middle of it -- that is, the roundabout connection around Five Points, Chapel Hill St., and the like in order to reach Durham Station, the city transit hub.
It's not uncommon to watch visitors (and even residents) scratch their heads around Five Points, trying to figure out which stop they need to take in order to get on the bus.
While the route's path through the station helped keep DATA transfer riders in the mix, it likely also lengthened the route's time and impacted on-time performance.
Come August 15, though, the Connector is slated to become a more direct route, running more closely along the Main Street spine through downtown, and extending further west into the sciences district on Duke's West Campus.
Still, the changes have one other effect: curtailing 9pm to midnight service on Fridays/Saturdays, as closing time drops to 9pm across the entire route.
Two areas are affected by the change.
First, the BCC will no longer turn south on Erwin Rd. at Ninth St. to pull past Duke's Central Campus. Instead, the bus will stay on Main St. until Anderson St., when the connector will turn south instead to meet Erwin Rd.
This change brings the bus past some newer points of density -- the Crescent Berkshire apartments (gotta love those quick REIT buyouts), Hilton Garden Inn, and other developments at the old Erwin Mills site.
Next, the bus will bypass the current Duke South (Clinics) stop on Trent Dr., staying on Erwin Rd. instead. New westbound stops at Duke's PG2 parking deck across from Duke North and in front of the VA Hospital will be added instead. (Eastbound, the bus will have a pick-up at Duke North.)
Then, the bus will turn down Research Dr. to the traffic circle at Circuit -- providing a closer-to-campus link for the thousands of faculty, staff and grad students working in that zone.
On the map below, the new path is shown in red; the soon-obsolete routing is in blue.
Near downtown, the changes are much more straightforward: no more of the arced paths down Chapel Hill St., Morris St., Jackson St., Willard St., and the downtown loop.
Instead, the new Connector path will simply let Main St. be Main St. Again, a map to visualize the changes, with deleted segments in blue:
One plus of the changes: the headways (that is, frequency of pick-ups) gets reduced.
GoTriangle is advertising 17 minute headways on the routes, closer to the 15 minute timeframe many have talked about as a longer term goal.
Still, there's an ironic but unavoidable impact to the Connector from this change: the route will lose two of its highest-volume locations for passenger boardings. Durham Station and Trent Dr. are leading boarding sites for passengers on the current route.
The suggestion seems to be that the improvements to route headways, predictability, and to the usefulness of some of the stops -- who in their right mind would cross Erwin Rd. at Central Campus to be pinned between the fence and the road on a narrow sidewalk to wait for the Connector? -- will be worth it.
And, of course, the new route preserves connectivity to the Duke medical center, while significantly improving it for the deeper segments of West Campus and adding a stop at the VA Medical Center.
Users of Durham Station, the argument goes, have just a couple minutes' walk to pick up the bus; and presumably, they're more savvy transit users than the first-time visitor is.
Still, it will be interesting to see if there are any grumbles over the change.
Federal congestion mitigation funding that initially helped fund the BCC included the Durham Station interconnect as a facet of the service, we recall. Our hunch is that as the old grant has expired, so too has the stipulation, and we won't see any mention of it in new CMAQ grant proposals.
One other change: the Connector's hours get curtailed again, for we think the second time in the service's history. Service will still start at 6:30am weekdays, about 10 minutes later than at present.
But, Saturday service will now start only at 10am, versus 7:20am before.
And, the service runs only until 9pm, six days a week. No more midnight service on Fridays/Saturdays. (Our hunch: students out having fun downtown are calling Uber or using taxis to get home instead of taking the bus.)