Last Year, the Bull City Connector Eliminated Two Stops. Was That a Mistake? | Triangulator | Indy Week
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Last Year, the Bull City Connector Eliminated Two Stops. Was That a Mistake? 

The Bull City Connector on Main Street

Photo by Alex Boerner

The Bull City Connector on Main Street

Earlier this year, Durham’s Human Relations Commission recommended that GoDurham restore two stops on the Bull City Connector, including one at Durham Station, which was the connector’s most-frequented station and was often used by low-income minority riders. Despite that, GoDurham, Duke University, and the city—which together manage the connector—decided to eliminate those stops in August 2015 to speed up the line.

Due to budget limitations, the $1.1 million- a-year service only runs around downtown and near Duke Hospital, some of the most densely populated parts of the city. That should translate into high ridership, John Tallmadge, GoTriangle’s director of regional services development (GoTriangle operates GoDurham), told the city council last week. But ridership has been lackluster. In 2015 the connector saw a total 2,727 boardings and departures per day. In 2016 that dropped to about 1,900.

Because GoDurham eliminated those stops, Tallmadge said, that decline was expected.

The council could revert back to the old system, Tallmadge continued, but that might put funding from Duke University at risk. Because Duke contributes a large chunk of the connector’s operating funds—about $350,000 a year—there’s special consideration for the institution’s needs. (Duke’s stated goal in eliminating the stops was to streamline service on Main Street.)

While council member Charlie Reece says he understands the desire to make the service more efficient, he wants to see the Bull City Connector serve all of Durham.

“My frustration here is in order to reduce headway, which is obviously a goal, the decision was made to eliminate the very busiest parts, the parts of this system that have the most ridership,” he said. “And it just so happens that it’s the part of the systems that have the most riderships of folks who are poor and use the system in a very robust way. And I understand the goals, as I mentioned, but I had to laugh when I read the bottom-line bullet point that ridership continues to be lower than wanted. Well, that’ll happen when you drop a stop where seven hundred people used to board every day.”
  • Ridership is way, way down

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