The town of Chapel Hill could significantly improve the fuel efficiency of their bus fleet and additionally reduce emissions of air pollutants, including carbon dioxide, if the town were to replace its current buses with new hybrid buses. Hybrid buses combine a diesel engine with an electric motor, similar to hybrid cars. Such buses are currently entering the bus fleet in Seattle. The Seattle transit authority expects a 40-60 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and 20-30 less fuel consumption with the use of the new hybrid buses.
For more information about Seattle’s hybrid buses:
Seattle Transit Authority
Increased Bus Ridership
Current estimates are that 75% of all trips from Carolina North will be conducted by automobile and only 15% by bus. By increasing bus ridership, one could reduce carbon dioxide emissions drastically. The two largest barriers to bus ridership are cost and service quality/frequency. Positively, Chapel Hill already employs a free bus system, so the remaining barrier is service related.
Ways to increase ridership:
- Campus Express- every 5 minutes
- Other routes every 7-10 minutes
- More shelters at bus stops to accommodate for inclement weather
- Increase parking costs
- Decrease parking spaces
- Intelligent Transportation Systems
Improved Bus Service
At present, the bus line(s) that connect the area projected of Carolina North development with campus only run with frequency of 20-30 minutes at best during peak traffic hours. Studies have shown that when buses run at this level of frequency, many less individuals chose to ride the bus because it takes longer and is inconvenient and possibly seen as unreliable for their schedule. However, by increasing the frequency of buses, especially those that run to prime locations such as the UNC campus and the UNC hospitals, it is likely that ridership will increase significantly. When buses come every 5 to 10 minutes, riders often do not need to consult their schedule or worry that the bus will make them late. Instead, if riding the bus were actually faster and more convenient than driving and parking, then ridership increase. Adding a shelter at every bus stop to accommodate for inclement weather will also increase the convenience of bus use.
Riding the bus could also be encouraged by limiting parking spaces per family/household in Carolina North or by charging a significantly greater amount for additional parking spots. Also, as the Town of Chapel Hill and the University reduce parking availability and increase parking costs, riding the bus will become more attractive and relatively more convenient and cost-effective. Additionally, for those who the bus system may not serve well, carpooling could still be encouraged by providing preferred parking spaces for registered carpool vehicles.
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
Transit Tracker is an information technology system that keeps track of real-time updated transit schedules and posts these actual times on electronic screens at transit stops. Therefore, although it does not increase technical efficiency of a transit system, it does allow users with more perfect information. For instance, if a bus is supposed to arrive at 9:45 am but is not running on schedule, Transit Tracker will simply state that the bus will arrive to that stop in 10 minutes (or in whatever amount of time is true). The premise of such information technology is that with greater information people will be more inclined to use the bus since they can be surer of each bus’s exact timing and therefore use their time most efficiently. If Chapel Hill were to adopt a multi-modal transit system, such a Transit Tracker service would be even more helpful to allow individuals information on the best way to get where they are going, possibly even taking into account minute-to-minute traffic reports to estimate travel times. It is suggested that Chapel Hill Transit should implement transit tracker systems to improve bus ridership through the provision of traffic information.
Transit Tracker system in Oregon
Government Report and Assessment of Transit Tracker in Oregon
General ITS information
Intelligent Transportation Society of America
Estimating associated carbon reductions with each action is extremely difficult because there are many details that remain undefined- namely the extent of increase in the service and its realized change in individuals’ transit use and preferences.