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Passing the Torch: Transit Highlights

August 18, 2014

Saying goodbye is one of the hardest parts of life. Since early December, I’ve been at the helm of Triangle Transit and GoTriangle’s social media. It’s even harder to believe that it’s now August. I’ve spent the last eight months learning more about public transit than I ever realized, and it’s been incredible to share my thoughts on transit in the Triangle in this blogspace with you all. Whether it’s millennial transit habits, my two favorite Tuesday links, or Q&A’s about what’s coming next for our region, I’ve loved reading all your comments and seeing rider feedback grow into positive change. Just a few months ago, I was reading tweets about the Wi-Fi on the Triangle Transit buses, and now they’re all 4G capable and faster than ever. Woah!

Like I said, with growth also comes change. Due to some family events, I recently relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota. The move is a great opportunity, but very bittersweet. I’m already craving an apple cider donut from Monuts Donuts and the parmesan truffle fries from Cowfish in North Hills. However, I know that I am leaving you all in extremely capable hands. Awesome things are in store for the Triangle area – new 7-day service, extended hours, light rail – and I can’t wait to see what happens in the future. But for now, I want to take a quick look back at some of my favorite Instagram highlights:

#CarlessMarch was hands down one of my favorite series here on the GoTriangle blog. John Tallmadge, Director of Regional Services Development at Triangle Transit, checked in with us every week as he attempted to go carless for the entire month of March. If you haven’t read this series, click here to get started.

One of my first projects as interactive marketing associate was our #GoLove social media scavenger hunt. We left clues across each of our social media platforms and partnered with local Triangle companies like Fullsteam, DPAC, and Videri Chocolate Factory to make Valentine’s Day a little sweeter for our winners. As part of the scavenger hunt, our marketing team also gave a nearby bus stop a little Post-It love.

During the 24 Project, we photographed 24 different riders on each of Triangle Transit’s 24 routes all within a 24 hour period. Shew. Talk about a mouthful.What sounded like an impossible challenge ultimately turned into a unique chance to meet Triangle Transit riders and listen to their stories about their daily commute. We displayed our photos at this year’s Artsplosure event, but you can still see them and read each participant’s story here. Again, a huge thank you to all 24 of our participants!

I always left with a smile on my face after spending time at Triangle Transit’s Bus Operations. Whether we were filming video interviews, photographing bus operators for different projects, or getting a peek at the new vanpool vehicles, it was always a treat to meet the men and women who drove our buses every day. (And Triangle Transit is currently hiring for multiple positions, so if you’re interested in joining the family, you can apply online .)

Last but not least, service changes. As I said before, one of my favorite parts of the job has been watching the Triangle Transit bus system grow and change, thanks to all of your tweets and Facebook comments. We’d been hearing the need for 7-day service and extended hours for awhile, and starting today, it’s here! I’ve also been reading about the new fare cards being installed in CAT buses, so hopefully these new developments will continue to make public transit in the RDU an easy and simple alternative to driving solo.

Well, that’s it folks. It’s time for me to hand over the baton and log off the GoTriangle blog for the last time. I’ve had a blast and definitely won’t forget my time here. Maybe I’ll return and take a ride on the future light rail, who knows? The future of transit in the RDU is up to you. Take it easy, Triangle.

All the best,

Grace

 

Transit Thursday: My First Light Rail Experience

August 14, 2014

Greetings from the Land of 10,000 lakes! Yes, that’s right – I’m blogging to you all the way from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’ll be giving more details as to why on the blogsphere this Monday, but being here has actually given me some insight into the work Triangle Transit and Our Transit Future are doing back in the RDU. How? Just a few days ago, I took a ride on the light rail for the first time.

Since I started working at Triangle Transit, I’ve learned more about the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project, yet I’ve never seen light rail in action. Like many of you, I wondered what it sounded like, what it looked like, and how it would interact with the streets in our area. I read the information on the Our Transit Future website and watched the flyover video, but still, it was difficult to envision this new transit mode. Luckily, Minneapolis installed their latest light rail line, the Green Line, a few weeks before I arrived. So just a two days ago, I walked down the street and hopped on an outgoing train to the Mall of America. Here’s how my trip went:

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When I arrived at the light rail station, my first stop was the ticket booth. The ticket booth was entirely automated and accepted debit and credit cards as well as cash for fares. I simply inserted my card, clicked the standard fare, and retrieved my ticket from the bottom of the machine. You could also use your GoTo Pass to pay for your fare (Minneapolis’ all-purpose transit fare card) or purchase or refill your GoTo pass at the ticket booth.

Since Minneapolis’ light rail line operates at high frequency during peak hours, I only waited for my train for about five minutes. It was incredible to sit back and not worry about when the train was going to arrive because the train was essentially always on its way. Miss the 10:42 train? That’s okay, there’s another one at 10:50. Pretty dang sweet.

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While I waited for my train, I checked out the other train getting ready to leave the station. That’s when I realized something I never had about light rail cars: you can wrap them just like buses. During my ride, I saw several cars like the one below wrapped in advertising featuring local universities (how would that Carolina blue look like along an entire light rail train, hmm?) and local businesses.

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Sure enough, my train arrived a few minutes later. When the light rail pulled into the station, bells sounded and lights flashed, just as they would at a normal train crossing.

However, unlike a normal train crossing, the light rail line used the street just like cars. The “rails” were laid into the concrete, and cars could drive on them when the train wasn’t using them. The light rail didn’t take up any extra space; it moved in sync with ongoing traffic.

Check out the video below of a light rail train leaving the station:

 

Once I boarded the light rail car, I settled into the comfy seats for my 30 minute trip to the Mall of America. Like on the bus, a row of seats near the door folded down to accommodate the elderly or disabled. The doors opened and closed at every station, but the length they were opened varied. At bigger stations, i.e., the airport and the mall, the doors remained open for several minutes so people had plenty of enough time to get on and off. At smaller stops, the doors opened and closed briefly.

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As the light rail stopped at said stations, it was interesting to see how each station represented the area it was in. Some stations featured cool light displays, while others featured murals and unique metalwork. At this point, I started imagining what light rail stations in the Triangle could look like and got a little homesick. Here are a few of my favorites:

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After about ten stops, the light rail arrived at the Mall of America. For the first time in my life, I walked into a mall without already feeling stressed. Instead of spending precious time hunting for a parking spot, I strolled into the food court just as the Nestle chocolate booth started handing out free samples. Needless to say, I’ll be hanging up my car keys and purchasing my GoTo pass tomorrow.

Overall, my biggest takeaway from my first light rail ride was how simple it was. Buying my fare was straight-forward, the high frequency schedule was stress-free, and the route map was easy to follow. Although Triangle Transit buses participate in the Bus On Shoulder System to avoid traffic, the light rail hardly ever interacted with traffic. Instead, the light rail train and the cars alternated who could use the street. When the light rail wasn’t coming, the cars drove along the road. When the light rail was coming, the cars stopped and waited like at a railroad crossing before resuming.

The light rail also seemed to encourage growth: at almost every light rail station, new apartment buildings were being built near the tracks. Neighborhoods were springing up around the light rail line everywhere I looked, allowing Minneapolis residents to simultaneously live further out of the city and have shorter commutes. In areas like the Triangle, this scenario could allow commuters to have more flexibility in where they want to live while not sacrificing more time to their commute. Triangle commuters, I can hardly wait for light rail to come to you in the RDU.

So, do you have any questions about the light rail here in Minneapolis? Think of any awesome design ideas for a light rail station in Chapel Hill or Durham? How do you feel about light rail coming to the Triangle? Just tweet @GoTriangle or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Have a great Thursday,

Grace

Two Link Tuesday

August 12, 2014

 

Imagine your fantasy commute: you wake up to the birds chirping, have a long stretch, leisurely get ready for the day, then step outside to catch – a dragon to work? In the Game of Thrones realm, dragons, horses, and ships are the main means to get around, but what if the Seven Kingdoms had the transit options of today? One designer created the “Westeros Transit System” based on the official maps in the GOT series. Headed to Castle Black? You can catch the northbound train all the way from King’s Landing, but be prepared for what may be waiting for you at the last stop. Click here to view the complete map.

 

We’ve seen parking spaces converted into tiny parks and solar bus stops, but you probably haven’t seen a transit point quite as literal as this one. Tasked with turning an average bus stop into a place for community engagement and entertainment, Baltimore-based sculptors decided to just spell things out. Thus, BUS STOP was born. Measuring in at 14 feet high, each wooden and steel letter can accommodate four people while simultaneously providing shelter from inclement weather. The biggest plus side? That “S” sure looks like a comfy place to nap. Click here to see it in action.

#TransitThursday: Sustainable Travel Heroes Needed!

August 7, 2014

 

I talk about the bus a lot, y’all. At public events where I’m repping DATA, Triangle Transit, or GoTriangle, sure, but I’ve been known to work in a plug for public transit in some pretty odd moments, i.e. while being sedated during a medical procedure.

You know what, though? I’m not the only one who has a lot to say about my chosen smart commute. I spoke to a woman at a National Night Out event on Tuesday who loves Triangle Transit, and there are lots more people like her who stop by my table at events around the Triangle to tell me how they’ve figured out how to save money and their sanity by using the bus, biking, walking, or sharing their ride via a vanpool or carpool. Do you know someone like that? Are you somebody like that? Tell us about it– the 2014 Golden Modes nominations are open!

Each year we reward those individuals, employers and organizations that are committed to promoting sustainable transportation, improving our environment and reducing tra­ffic. Please take a few minutes to nominate an individual or company to let them know their dedication to smart commuting is appreciated – you can even nominate yourself! Just use the links below to complete our short nomination form or visit www.gotriangle.org/go-info/golden-modes. Winners will be recognized at the 2014 Golden Modes Award Ceremony in RTP on November 13th.   Read more…

Two Link Tuesday

August 5, 2014

“The MTA’s lost and found system is vast. It has to be — whether by bus, train or subway, millions of people travel on the network each day, and they leave a bunch of stuff behind.”

It happens to all of us. Either we fall asleep waiting for the bus and forget our bag in our mad dash to catch the 5 o’clock or simply leave our wallet in the seat next to us. But the things left behind on public transit aren’t always as common as a purse or keys (see the partial dentures above). The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, or the MTA, has a long list of, shall we say, more interesting items. This year alone, the MTA Lost & Found has had  23 saxophones, 96 X-Rays, 2 air conditioners, and 1,813 pairs of undergarments. Yeesh. Click here to see a full list of the most common (and not so common) items left behind.

“According to the Local, 3,400 colors have been entered so far, and the most popular are yellow, brown, purple, turquoise, and pink.

When Triangle Transit announced the new Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project, the light rail line sparked many questions from local residents: where will it go? How much will it be to ride? How much noise will it make? When will it be finished? A surprising number of people found another question just as pressing: what color will the line be?  While the answer is a ways off, it’s still an important one. Studies have shown that public transit color schemes make an impact on commuters. So how are rail or bus line colors chosen? The Swedish city of Stockholm decided to turn the decision over to its people. Until August 11th, anyone with a valid email address can visit the official website to submit their favorite color and their reasoning behind it. The winner will receive a free one-year transit pass. Think your favorite color would be right at home in Stockholm?  Click here to get started.

Transit Thursday: Transit Tools

July 31, 2014

We’re only 18 days away from Triangle Transit’s official fall service changes! Our route maps are being updated, new timetables are being created, and we’re *this* close to being ready for our big debut. So how can you get ready for the upcoming service changes? We’ve found a couple ways to keep the transition smooth and make sure you can still take it easy during your ride:

1) Check out the new route schedules and maps

The Triangle Transit official service changes page lists each service change by route. You can check out the maps and timetables that have already been updated or read more about the brand-new Orange-Durham Express route. By familiarizing yourself with the upcoming changes, you’ll already be one step ahead.

2) Sign up for MyRide alerts

Head over to the Triangle Transit website and click the tab “MyRide.” Once you’re there, you can either log in to an existing account or create a new MyRide account. As a MyRide user, you can sign up for route- and stop-specific alerts, meaning you’ll be the first to know about any detours or delays related to your route or stop. You’ll also be able to sign up for GoTriangle newsletters, including the cycling newsletter and new service changes newsletter.

3) Catch up on the latest transit trip planner tech

As a regular bus rider, I can usually judge whether it’s a “I have a few extra minutes to pack my lunch” morning or a “I better bolt to the bus stop right now” morning. How? The TransLoc app. While there are several ways to get real-time bus route info, this handy transit app is by far my favorite. TransLoc allows you to choose a local transit service (DATA, Triangle Transit, NCSU Wolfine, etc.), then type in your stop number to see exactly what time the next bus will arrive at your stop. Plus, instead of worrying whether hitting “snooze” will make you miss the bus, you can tell TransLoc to alert you when the bus is 15 minutes away, 10 minutes away, or just 5 minutes away. You can even watch the bus move along its route on the map. If it’s late, you can see that it’s stuck in traffic downtown or running on a detour and will be on its way soon (like in the picture below). Pretty sweet, right? Just visit the App Store or GooglePlay for a free download.

By following these simple tips, you should be prepped and ready to go when August 18th rolls around. Think of anything we may have missed or have some transit tips of your own? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook so we can share them with the rest of our followers.

Have a great Thursday,

Grace

 

 

Two Link Tuesday

July 29, 2014

“The denser the urban environment (particularly for rail), the more bike sharing provides new connections that substitute for existing ones. The less dense the environment, the more bike sharing establishes new connections to the existing public transit system.”

Several weeks ago, Raleigh completed a feasibility study that found the city able to support a bike share program. Why is this such exciting news? Another recent research study shows that bike sharing has started to serve as a growing mode of public transportation. Bike sharing can establish new connections to the existing public transit system or become users’ predominant means of transportation. In Washington, D.C., bike sharers reduced their car use and their use of the D.C. Metro, especially if they had shorter commutes near the city center. The result? Less crowded highways and less crowded rail cars. On the other hand, in bike share cities like Minneapolis where riders took longer light rail trips, rail use increased. Researchers found that in those cases, riders used bike sharing for the first and last portions of their trip – to and from the light rail. Whether it’s used in place of other forms of public transit or as a supplemental mode, it looks like bike sharing is here to stay.

“Trains in the outer suburbs are every 20 minutes or so at peak hours. If you’re just travelling along the central corridor (say from Hauptbahnhof to Marienplatz), there’s a train every 2 minutes. Two. Freaking. Minutes.”

Ever tried public transit abroad? Ridden the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn? How about the London Underground? Some cities caution you to stay behind the yellow line while others suggest you “mind the gap.” But how do these international transit systems compare to one another? In Frankfurt, you can pay for one ticket to your final destination and then take as long as you’d like getting there. Or maybe you’d prefer Seoul, where your transit card pays rail, bus and taxi fare, but also doubles as a debit card in local convenience stores. Purchasing those plane tickets yet? Click here to see the ten cities one author claims have the best public transit systems in the world. 

 

 

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