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August 2015

July 2015

Bull City Connector: straightening out the "knot," shutting down earlier

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.

Continue reading "Bull City Connector: straightening out the "knot," shutting down earlier" »

On Ninth Street, and Durham's never-ending search free parking

I can't help but have a certain amount of cognitive dissonance when I read the fast-multiplying news headlines these past few days about parking in the Ninth Street area.

Mind you, I'm writing these lines while midway through a two-week business trip to China, in the sprawling Shanghai-Suzhou metroplex in China's fast-modernizing eastern provinces.

In the latter -- a New York City-sized metropolis that comparatively few westerners have ever heard of -- the shiny new Metro is practically clean enough to eat off of and, at about three dimes for a one-way ride, crazy affordable. 

Sure, cars flock to megamalls like the city's new Aeon complex on its eastern side, where a Chinese hypermart and an entire floor catering to neonatal and natalist young families sits cheek-by-jowl with a Burger King and the globally-inescapable, freakishly same-tasting Starbucks. But Aeon is also steps from a bustling subway system, with quick connections to buses that run with 10-minute headway.

The edge-city where my work is based also has 15-minute headways on an excellent, easily-parsed, cheap (16 cents/ride) bus system. The terminus of that system is the high-speed rail line, where electric bullet trains depart every few minutes for downtown Shanghai and its domestic airport and to other parts of the country. A few dollars can get you across 30 miles of congested, 25 million-soul metropolitan landscape in less 18 minutes flat.

Meanwhile, in Durham, it will take transportation planners, federal and state officials, and elected representatives twice as long to even get a half-assed aboveground light rail system through the design and planning stages. To say nothing about how long it will take to fund it. Or to build it - if it's funded.

Is it any wonder, then, that in a city as self-congratulatory as we Durhamites and Chapel Hillians can be, that we're still obsessed with keeping parking free and building as much of it as we can stomach?

Continue reading "On Ninth Street, and Durham's never-ending search free parking" »

Shiflett to join Azar in bid for City Council at-large seat

In an announcement to a range of Durham listservs and residents tonight, Mike Shiflett disclosed his plan to run for one of Durham's at-large City Council seats in November's election.

Shiflett -- a longtime Northgate Park resident, PAC2 and Durham Businesses Against Crime activist/chair, and transportation/transit guru, among a long list of civic accomplishments -- is the second person we've heard to throw their hat in the at-large race ring.

INC president and former non-profit head Philip Azar has already signaled his candidacy as well.

Look for Shiflett to formally announce Tuesday at noon at downtown's Major the Bull statue.

(Disclaimer: I'm proud to consider both Mike and Phil friends, a point that's worth mentioning given the conflicts of interest a race involving acquaintances and friends will inevitably entail.)