The Future of transit in Raleigh

dresden and metro area

Saw this a few weeks ago but forgot to post.

I was reading an article about how Richmond is one of only nine metro areas in the country where ridership has increased since the pandemic, and noticed that Raleigh had the lowest transit ridership rate in the country compared to pre-COVID levels, at 36%, or 368k riders.

It’s interesting that Durham’s number is at 77% of 2020’s, or 1.1 million riders. Triple the ridership in a city a little more than half the size is a pretty drastic contrast. I think it’s also interesting to compare to Richmond, which I would’ve guessed has far higher ridership because of its density and the BRT line. But Durham has the higher ridership, apparently.


We may need to dig deeper. You can see here in this report, straight from our GoRaleigh operator, that has the Nov 2023 numbers and compares them to the Nov 2019 numbers that we are down 19.7% or IOW we are at 80.3% of pre-pandemic levels. So maybe the ATPA data hasn’t caught up yet.


Thanks for sharing that! That would make much more sense, and the drastic discrepancy between Raleigh/Durham would seem to indicate some kind of inconsistency in methodology. I wonder what’s causing the difference.

I’m curious if the universities play an oversized role in ridership in college towns? I’m also curious if/how ridership of university run buses is tied into city transit data.

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So the data I shared is for GoRaleigh which doesn’t include the wolf line or GoTriangle I believe. Therefore, the numbers could be higher or lower depending on what this article wants to consider “Raleigh Transit”.

Hit me up with any transit data questions though and I’ll certainly find out at a future RTA board meeting.


Maybe I’m oversimplifying this, but isn’t Chapel Hill’s and UNC’s bus system functionally merged? If so, maybe scale enables this in a way in cities the size of Chapel Hill vs. larger cities like Raleigh and Durham?


The big question that pops up in my head at reading this Durham vs Raleigh (and Richmond) is how much does income come into play in ridership numbers. I don’t know the answer, but if the median income for one city is significantly different than the other, that may be a significant indicator of the difference in ridership. Another question (again, I don’t know the answer) is the area of each city that is covered by the bus network. In Raleigh, for example, the bus lines in North Raleigh are few and the frequency is grossly lacking, whereas in other parts of the city (NCSU/Village/DT/East Raleigh(?)) the density and frequency of bus lines is much greater.

I think there are a lot of caveats to consider when looking at ridership numbers. As I learned in college, you can make statistics show whatever you want, it is just how you manipulate the data. :stuck_out_tongue:


Its just Chapel Hill transit. There is no separate UNC bus system. UNC, Chapel Hill and Carrboro each pay to support Chapel Hill transit.


I agree with this. I mean, the media tends to judge ridership numbers as a metric for a transit system’s success. This isn’t exactly the same goal that the city has so why should we be judging them like this?

Also, why aren’t there any stories about a bus being so full that some riders have to wait for the next one? Sounds like the opposite story of the one above.

I think on-time performance is more important, probably the most important, indicator of a transit system’s value. Did you know that metric has been in decline for 12 months? They attribute that to all the bus driver turnover but now that they are basically staffed up with full service back, once the newer drivers learn their routes and get experience OTP is expected to improve. Who’s covering this aspect? :expressionless:


i think a radio host back in the late 90s or early 2000 used to point out empty busses. but after living in north raleigh for several years, and riding the bus there…i think less people there ( n raleigh) will ride the bus than those closer to the core based on how the routes were structured. a redo of bus routes may offer different figures.

This past week I ended up taking the bus for the first time in a while. I had a colleague who I invited to go biking downtown. I ended up bringing 2 of my bikes on different days and using the bus to get back home.

I ended up taking the 6 from Crabtree. I’m not sure if it was just a busy time, but almost every seat except maybe 2 were taken on the bus. There were people who were standing. I looked at the performance statistics from the last RTA meeting and found that the #6 route is still lagging behind from pre-covid statistics. I don’t want to draw too many conclusions, but if this is how the buses normally look at this time, then I’m really curious why it hasn’t been moved to a higher frequency. Between the 6 and 16, there is a 15 minute frequency if you’re trying to get downtown during peak period.

The afternoon ride back was decently busy, but not as busy. So I am curious if the morning was just coincidence.

Just wanted to share my experience as it’s been a while since I’ve taken the bus since I normally bike.


So frequent service on the 6 is a part of the Wake Transit Plan and was supposed to enter service at least two or three years ago if it weren’t for the pandemic-induced driver shortage. Thankfully, some recent changes in the GoRaleigh world have them back up to full service as of last month, so the next step is catching up on new service implementation. According to the latest Raleigh Transit Authority Route Committee meeting, frequent service on the 6 should be here by summer!


FWIW I took the 6 from Brooklyn/Glenwood to Peace around a year ago and had a similar experience - it was completely packed.

I live in Brier Creek, an absolute transit nightmare; amazing it’s so much easier to get to DT Durham than to DT Raleigh. It’s sad Brier Creek has been kind of forgotten, even though it’s a very busy area with lots of apartments.

My car broke down in mid-January, so I had to Uber quite a lot at the time. I did ride the 6 and 70X a couple of times when it was convenient. Both of those routes were slammed when I rode them. I had to stand the whole way from DT to Crabtree on the 6, on the 70X I barely found a seat. I feel Raleigh is more than capable of giving 15-minute service on the entire Crabtree corridor from DT all the way to Brier Creek. Night service would be great too.

@colbyjd3, that timeline looks awesome, got me very excited! The 15-minute frequency on the 6 and expansion to the 70X can’t come soon enough!


I take the no.8 Six Forks to North Hills on Saturdays and leave my Car at home, it wasn’t as pack but a good amount of people were riding the bus, also on Friday nights when meeting up wit friends for dinner and drinks. I admit that the congestion six forks is almost as bad as the no.1 Capital/Triangle town center which I try frantically to avoid. I hope and pray that more improvements on GoRaleigh/GoTriangle buses continue as the population grows closer to 1 million :pray: :grinning:.


With buses packed like that, it makes me wonder at what point would they go more than 15 minute frequency? Or maybe it would be larger buses? I’m not talking necessarily all day. Even probably during the busiest 1-2 hours. 15 minute frequency is good for having something reliable and knowing that even if you missed one bus, the next one isn’t far away. Once you’ve reached packed capacity, then I’m sure a lot of people will tend to not take bus due to overcrowding. Seeing the bus that packed made me glad I ended up with a bike.

Brier Creek needs some bikeways and/or larger walking paths. The traffic is so bad out there that I’m sure some would opt for biking if there were some safe paths and not the small narrow 5 foot sidewalks. That lack of alternate transit infrastructure (bus and bike) and lack of access to the greenway is one of the reasons I moved from there.


usually, riding bikes in cul de sacked neighborhoods isnt much of an issue…certainly better and safer connections and links for bikes to get to grocers, ace hardware, tennis courts etc. and with e-bikes able to smooth out the endless stopsigns many short trips wouldnt be that bad via bicycle.

I know there are lots of calls for public comment but for those transit folks in the room, this is one where every single one is read and seriously considered. I encourage anyone to please take some time out of your schedules and sit down with these if you really want to see the Wake Transit Plan deliver.

I’ll just leave it at that as there is also no rush on this. The comment window is from Feb 26 to Mar 26.

In FY25, approximately $45.6 million has been allocated for operational expenditures and nearly $197 million will support a variety of capital projects. A few highlights include three new transit routes beginning service, numerous existing routes expanding to serve more people, bus stop and station improvements, and the expansion of existing safety and security measures.

Input from community members and other Wake Transit stakeholders is vital to the planning process. There are several ways for individuals and groups to submit their input about the Work Plan. Public comments are accepted through the following channels and the Draft Work Plan document can be reviewed online.