dombalis

Capital Area Transit (CAT) Bus System

87 posts in this topic

Let me preface this post by saying that while I believe rail to be what Raleigh needs to have in the future, I think that increasing ridership on our existing mass transit is the only way to get that ball rolling anytime soon. I've been riding the CAT bus to/from work (unless it's raining) for about 3 months now. I take the Capital Blvd bus, and it pretty much takes me from my back door straight to work. I love it. I notice, however, that most routes don't have a ridership as high as that of the Capital bus. I've never studied this topic, so I need some help. Here are what I perceive to be the problems with our bus system; I'd like for some of you guys who know more about this to let me know what some potential solutions are, and whether or not these solutions are in any way feasible for our city.

1. All the buses go to/from downtown (radial routes). I know that we have "crosstown connectors", but are they really convenient?

2. They come every 30 minutes during rush hour, and every hour during the rest of the day. This is horribly inconvenient, IMHO. Would it be feasible to have a bus every 15 minutes during rush hour, then every 30 minutes during the day. Of course this is kind of a cyclical thing: they won't double up the routes without a substantial increase in ridership, yet most people with cars would be stupid to take the bus if it means adding an hour to their trip.

3. The weekend buses are absolutely ridiculous. Sometimes the buses come 30 minutes LATE!!!

Anyway, what are some of your thoughts? I'd like to see the CAT buses become something that is apart of most people's lives, instead of a source of derision and ridicule?

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Here is a link to the PDF map of the CAT bus routes for discussion.

Raleigh CAT Bus Routes

Maybe ridership is not as high since a large number of people living in Raleigh need to commute out of the city to work. I personally would have to take TTA to work (havent tried it yet).

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Fundamentally, CAT is not designed to be a transit system for those who ride it by choice. It is designed for those with no other choice. Most of the routes (Route 1 - "Capital" being a very notable exception) zig-zag around or make large one-way loops on neighborhood streets to increase coverage area without additional routes. With Route 11 - "Avent Ferry" being the worst offender, many routes are very crooked, (high bus miles for very short distances as the crow files).

30-minute peak headways for the most heavily used routes is just pathetic. Chapel Hill runs 6-minute headways on one or two routes, and 10-minute headways on a whole bunch of them. Chapel Hill suffers from the same crooked-route syndrome as Raleigh, but the frequent buses make it usable and convenient.

Raleigh has a well thought-out but conservative 5-year plan from 2003 for improvements to the CAT bus system. They are implementing many of the recommendations in the report, though they're not following the schedule the report proposes. The report eventually calls for 15-minute headways on route 1 and 15, but who knows when that will happen. IMO They should shoot for 10 minute headways on Capital and New Bern/Wake Med, and 15 minute headways on at least 50% of their routes.

In Raleigh, past city councils have set the precedent that low property taxes are a higher priority than quality bus service, and nobody wants to be on the first council to raise taxes in however many decades, so that defines where we are now.

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Fundamentally, CAT is not designed to be a transit system for those who ride it by choice.

In Raleigh, past city councils have set the precedent that low property taxes are a higher priority than quality bus service, and nobody wants to be on the first council to raise taxes in however many decades, so that defines where we are now.

orulz is, of course, absolutely right, though you could also set this up to say:

In Raleigh, past city councils have set the precedent that low property taxes are a higher priority than

(insert your choice)

  • quality bus service,
  • regional rail,
  • forward-thinking urban planning,
  • having your kids go to schools in buildings rather than mobile homes,
  • public art,
  • planning for adequate road investments,

and nobody wants to be on the first council to raise taxes in however many decades, so that defines where we are now.

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[*]having your kids go to schools in buildings rather than mobile homes,

To be fair, don't blame the city for that one. In NC, school systems funding come from state and county sources...cities have absolutely no hand in it.

The blame here falls squarely in the Wake County Commissioners' lap, really---but for the same reason as you stated: Rather not raise taxes...nor institute impact fees. :rolleyes:

Anyway, back on topic, yeah Raleigh City leaders could learn from the Chapel Hill transit on how to make a better system. But then again, I'm sorta leaning towards that proposal raised a few years ago that Raleigh, Durham, Cary and Chapel Hill should all merge their transit systems with the TTA bus system in an effort at efficiency and increase regional thinking.

Edited by RaleighRob

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and nobody wants to be on the first council to raise taxes in however many decades, so that defines where we are now.

My property taxes went up 16% since last year.

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I have thought about what to do to get more riders. Now it may be crazy but here it goes.

On a big drinking evening like St Patrick's day when there is a big party down at Moore Square, run all the buses to 2:00am and have several radio sponsors and the N&O and the Independent and have a "Learn you bus number" campaign so people will learn their bus number, ride it there an back and get them to the website.

A couple of years ago, I was at the St Patricks drunk fest and saw those CAT buses leave and thought "that would be great to be able to throw back a couple more cold ones and hop the CAT bus to my nearest stop around 1:00am"

Also, anything that drives people to the website and one time trips like The Fair park and ride and one I do every year during the Christmas Holidays, I take the bus to Crabtree.

Edited by Subway Scoundrel

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haha. Seriously, one way that Raleigh/Wake County/State Govt. is encouraging more people to use public transit is to allow them to ride for free. If you work for one of those agencies, all you have to do is show your ID and you ride free. Wonder how many of those folks actually ride?

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The bus that i could ride is every hour. Doesn't fit into the schedule. A lot easier to drive myself. I'm sure everyone shares this feeling.

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First of all, thanks to orulz for the link. Ufortunately, it looks like we are lagging quite a bit behind some of our goals, like orulz said. I found it astonishing that 40% of all CAT ridership occurs on 5 routes: 1. WakeMed, 2. Falls of the Neuse, 3. Rex, 4. South Saunders, 5. Capital. I have learned a few things from this report (so far.)

1. I would think that increasing the frequency of service on those lines would be a no-brainer. 15 minutes rush hour, 30 minutes during the day, to start.

2. Sunday service would be a huge boon to the system, if done effectively. According to the report, when people have to find other modes of transportation some of the time, they often stop using the bus altogether, and start using the altervative full-time. we need a reliable system 7 days a week. AND THEY NEED TO GIVE THE PEOPLE WHO RIDE THESE BUSED ON TIME SATURDAY SERVICE!!!!!!!

3. Alot of large areas are either not served, or underserved, according to their survey: Brentwood, Atlantic Ave, Mini City, Wakefield, Biltmore Hills, Leesville Rd., Creedmoor Rd.

4. We need benches and shelters at more stops, which, as someone who gets picked up at the intersection of Wake Forest and Courtland, I know all to well :(

5. The biggest overall problem is that people expect it to take too long. The "golden ratio" seems to be 2:1. If it takes someone more than twice as long to take the bus as it takes to drive, they'll drive. Again, straightening some of the routes would help.

6. Another problem is that there's little to no route information posted at ANY of the stops.

7. A more attractive, user-friendly website would be a huge help. Get a few billboards to advertise the route planner. Actually have pictures of the stops, not a dead link where it says "Stop Info and Picture."

Anyway, which of these issues do you guys think need to be addressed first? Would they HAVE to be funded via a property tax increase? How about the millions we spent on preparing the sites along the rail route that we probably won't get for years anyway? Then, when we show that we have a populace that will embrace mass transit, we're going to be more likely to get federal funding for those projects in the future anyway.

Edited by dombalis

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When I was a student at NC State, I regularly rode the CAT buses to and from campus in addition to the Wolfline depending on whichever was more convenient at the moment. I also used both bus lines for transportation to other parts of Raleigh because I did not own a working car most of the time. I now miss the CAT buses and if I could find a similar system where I live now, I would gladly ride the bus to work in the morning instead of driving.

There are several reasons I prefered the CAT buses to driving:

1. It provided the oppurtunity to ease into my day. Instead of leaving the house and driving, I could spend 15 minutes to an hour reading the paper, listening to music, or napping while on my way to work/class.

2. It also gave me a chance to mentally unwind after work/class by relaxing on the way home instead of dealing with frustrating traffic.

3. I enjoyed soaking in my surroundings staring outside my window as opposed to concentrating on the road. I became familiar with areas of Raleigh that I otherwise would probably never driven through.

4. There was less temptation to hit the snooze button too many times when I had to be at the bus stop by a certain time.

5. Parking was never an issue.

A few negatives of CAT include:

1. Inconsistency (I'm sure this is the case with every busline). At times the bus would come at least 10 minutes early and others it would arrive about 20 minutes late. If the bus was not at the stop at the time you expected, there was know if you had missed it or if it was late. Not good if you had places to be.

2. Not enough shelters when it rained.

3. Route and Schedule info was too hard to find. Without the internet, it was next to impossible to know if buses were running on certain holidays. The first few times you ride are very confusing even if you have the route pamplets. The night routes were completely random.

Off-topic but I enjoyed riding the TTA when I worked in RTP also. The only reason I could see not riding it regularly would be the routes ended too early. I think the last one to leave RTP left around 5:45 which prevents anyone from staying at work a little later if they need to.

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I have thought about what to do to get more riders. Now it may be crazy but here it goes.

On a big drinking evening like St Patrick's day when there is a big party down at Moore Square, run all the buses to 2:00am and have several radio sponsors and the N&O and the Independent and have a "Learn you bus number" campaign so people will learn their bus number, ride it there an back and get them to the website.

A couple of years ago, I was at the St Patricks drunk fest and saw those CAT buses leave and thought "that would be great to be able to throw back a couple more cold ones and hop the CAT bus to my nearest stop around 1:00am"

Also, anything that drives people to the website and one time trips like The Fair park and ride and one I do every year during the Christmas Holidays, I take the bus to Crabtree.

Chapel Hill used their buses to shuttle people from University Mall to Franklin St. (until 1:30am) for the Halloween event. Not quite on the level you refer to but a step in the right direction.

Park-and-Ride lots in the massive shopping center lots linked with Express Routes would help also.

BTW, I agree about merging the systems. I would be for a regional (Wake, Durham, Orange, Johnston, Granville, etc.) half-cent sales tax for buses and transit. How much would it cost to offer free service for everone? Would this reduce funds required to add lanes? I would rather add more buses on existing roads and tie it all in to a Regional Rail backbone. There may be money left to improve some roads also.

The other half-cent...I would put towards schools but that is getting sidetracked in this discussion.

Edited by bullcity76

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i know nc state is playing around with the idea of putting signs at each bus stop, telling people how long until a bus will arrive. couldnt find any plans on it, but i know this because its a project on the senior design course. one group worked on this project while i took the class.

i think if they clean up the bus stops, use a little technology to advertise bus information, and just get creative, it'll show people that they are serious about it; people will support it. repeating whats been mentioned, cleaner stops with shelters and CLEAR route information is necessary. re-do the TTA bus website, make an e-mail list serv, monthly mailings of schedules to anyone who wants it of their route, even something as simple as making the schedules magnetic so i can put it on my fridge, simple things like this work. use technology!! check out nc state's website where you can see where each bus is in real-time. you can even set it up so you can see it on cell phone!!!! lets get some of this going all over the triangle, no doubt in my mind people will support a system like this.

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i know nc state is playing around with the idea of putting signs at each bus stop, telling people how long until a bus will arrive. couldnt find any plans on it, but i know this because its a project on the senior design course. one group worked on this project while i took the class.

i think if they clean up the bus stops, use a little technology to advertise bus information, and just get creative, it'll show people that they are serious about it; people will support it. repeating whats been mentioned, cleaner stops with shelters and CLEAR route information is necessary. re-do the TTA bus website, make an e-mail list serv, monthly mailings of schedules to anyone who wants it of their route, even something as simple as making the schedules magnetic so i can put it on my fridge, simple things like this work. use technology!! check out nc state's website where you can see where each bus is in real-time. you can even set it up so you can see it on cell phone!!!! lets get some of this going all over the triangle, no doubt in my mind people will support a system like this.

I think that having the schedules at the bus stops are a great idea; kind of similar to the maps of downtown Raleigh that they put on Fayetteville Street. The Five-year plan's research has really indicated what we already know, including what you said above. People often do not feel safe at their stop (although i think this aspect is vastly over-emphasized by non-riders; it really isn't that bad), and they sure as heck don't want to stand in the rain without shelter. I think that it's ridiculous that the intersection of Hillsborough and Glenwood is a transfer stop between Oberlin, Crabtree, and Falls, but all that's there is a sign, with no bench. I do find it encouraging that 41% of the people surveyed would support a tax increase to improve the system, and 14% are neutral. I think that this would be needed in order to make any significant difference. The main issues with non-riders are the unserviced areas of Raleigh (there are alot, especially the further out you go), the lack of shelters, and on-time performance (which really isn't that bad at all during the week.) If at least some of these concerns could be met, that would be a big deal. Then, in my mind, the last step would be to maintain more frequent service. Is there a group out there that's lobbying about some sort of transit reform? I think that if we can increase ridership on what we already have, we can have a MUCH better chance of securing federal funding for rail.

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I think that if we can increase ridership on what we already have, we can have a MUCH better chance of securing federal funding for rail.

i agree with you 100%. an area that supports mass transit will get more transit options if they support it, IMO. an area that relies on their cars to get around, will get more highways and roads. however, i am not putting the blame on the non-riders. the idea that....

the intersection of Hillsborough and Glenwood is a transfer stop between Oberlin, Crabtree, and Falls, but all that's there is a sign, with no bench.

...is kind of ridiculous. shouldnt there be a short bus lane off to the side and a couple signs? i'm sure this isnt the only example we can think of out there. maybe a major overhaul is needed.

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from reading more and more of this plan, it appears that orulz is right about the purpose of the CAT bus system. It's meant to serve those who have no other choice. Another statistic is that 85% of all CAT routes are "unsatisfactory." I guess when your customers have no other option, you can get buy on this. Now, granted, it is still convenient in some instances. However, it just appears that the city's agenda is much too conservative. They recommend that only stops that get 25 or more passengers per day get a shelter, and that only those who get 10 passengers per day get a bench. Now certainly the city cannot afford to put a stop and shelter at every stop. Using this criteria, though, that intersection at Glenwood and Hillsborough would get a bench, but no shelter. It may seem like splitting hairs, but I don't believe so. It appears that the city is reacting to the immediate needs, which is good. However, this time in our history, one of massive growth, is not a time to be reacting. I just wish the city could be a little more pro-active regarding this issue.

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from reading more and more of this plan, it appears that orulz is right about the purpose of the CAT bus system. It's meant to serve those who have no other choice. Another statistic is that 85% of all CAT routes are "unsatisfactory." I guess when your customers have no other option, you can get buy on this. Now, granted, it is still convenient in some instances. However, it just appears that the city's agenda is much too conservative. They recommend that only stops that get 25 or more passengers per day get a shelter, and that only those who get 10 passengers per day get a bench. Now certainly the city cannot afford to put a stop and shelter at every stop. Using this criteria, though, that intersection at Glenwood and Hillsborough would get a bench, but no shelter. It may seem like splitting hairs, but I don't believe so. It appears that the city is reacting to the immediate needs, which is good. However, this time in our history, one of massive growth, is not a time to be reacting. I just wish the city could be a little more pro-active regarding this issue.

Proactive is definitely the key. The bass ackwordsness of their approach is that as a rider I would tend to migrate towards the stops with benches and shelters. I doubt there is any data to support where benches and shelter end up, at least not regularly updated and verified data....the stop by my office by Perkins on Capital Blvd has NO bench or shelter on the north bound side, yet a full fledged shelter on the south bound side. There really is no excuse for the state of the bus system here....is it poorly funded? Is management that bad? These are correctable items. Quite honestly, (sorry if this breaks forum rules) there seems to be a remnant of 1950's style racism going on with such a crappy system being allowed to exist in such a booming city as ours....

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As far as I know, there are only *two* stops that have a bench east of downtown/west of Tarboro -- one somewhere in the New Bern/Edenton corridor, and one in front of the Wake County mental health offices on Hargett. I live near the latter, and would guess it has at least 20 passengers a day, if not more.

Several patients walk from Moore Square and then catch the bus back and get a transfer, so this might cut the number of passengers in half. The bus goes outbound/east along Martin (or Davie?), and inbound/west along Hargett because Hargett used to be one way. Martin and Hargett are now two way, but the bus routes were not changed to reflect this. The closest shelter is Moore Square, and then either the MLK Kroger or the Food Lion on Raleigh Blvd.

The bus shelters near the Century Post Office were taken out and not replaced. Was there not enough ridership to justify them, or did they attract the "wrong people" too close to Fayetville Street?

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As far as I know, there are only *two* stops that have a bench east of downtown/west of Tarboro -- one somewhere in the New Bern/Edenton corridor, and one in front of the Wake County mental health offices on Hargett. I live near the latter, and would guess it has at least 20 passengers a day, if not more.

Several patients walk from Moore Square and then catch the bus back and get a transfer, so this might cut the number of passengers in half. The bus goes outbound/east along Martin (or Davie?), and inbound/west along Hargett because Hargett used to be one way. Martin and Hargett are now two way, but the bus routes were not changed to reflect this. The closest shelter is Moore Square, and then either the MLK Kroger or the Food Lion on Raleigh Blvd.

The bus shelters near the Century Post Office were taken out and not replaced. Was there not enough ridership to justify them, or did they attract the "wrong people" too close to Fayetville Street?

Is the first one you mentioned at the Tarboro/Edenton intersection? I just drove past it a few minutes ago. Yeah I noticed the Fayetteville Street shelter is gone...I always thought is was redundant being so close to Moore Square but think it is more likely Fayetteville Street's image was the consideration when it was removed.

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Yep. There might be another bench on Edenton east of Swain, one on New Bern near East street, and maybe one near the DMV building, but I have not specifically looked for the benches. There are few more along New Bern east of Poole Road, at the major intersections.

A bus goes by St. Augs, but I don't remember if they have a shelter, a bench, or nothing.

I know a lot of routes stopped at the post office, as it predated the Moore Sqare station. But there doesn't seem to be a reason to keep that stop going forward.

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The bus shelters near the Century Post Office were taken out and not replaced. Was there not enough ridership to justify them, or did they attract the "wrong people" too close to Fayetteville Street?

I always wondered about this too. Being only two blocks from the Moore Square station, it's kind of redundant to have the stop right there. Maybe there were other reasons to support the decision, but I can't say it was a bad one.

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I always wondered about this too. Being only two blocks from the Moore Square station, it's kind of redundant to have the stop right there. Maybe there were other reasons to support the decision, but I can't say it was a bad one.

like ncwebguy said, I got the feeling this was the pre-Moore Square Station downtown transfer point....I too am fine with its removal with MSS so close by.

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like ncwebguy said, I got the feeling this was the pre-Moore Square Station downtown transfer point....I too am fine with its removal with MSS so close by.

Where's the Century Post Office? The only PO I can think of is the one on Fayetteville Street and Martin, and they don't stop at that corner anymore

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The buses look filthy on the exterior, so my assumption is that it is gross on the inside, too. I don't think the ad-wrapped buses look good at all, in fact they are so jumbled up looking, that it makes them look graffiti-ized and dirty, again.

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