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Look for a new bus schedule Sunday: Capital Area Transit has overhauled many of its routes as the city’s transportation service adjusts to increasing demand without any extra funding.
Starting next week, CAT will drop its higher-numbered routes that run exclusively during early morning, evening and weekend hours. Many of those buses ran largely empty, so the agency will shift its resources to extend hours on its main daytime routes. CAT will also double the buses on its most popular route, the No. 1 bus up Capital Boulevard.
The agency solicited feedback on the changes during a series of open houses last spring, and some proposed service cuts have since been dropped.
The new schedule
Here are some highlights of the overhauled Capital Area Transit schedule that starts Sunday. Details and timetables are available on the buses and at raleighnc.gov.
The following night- and weekend-only routes will be canceled, replaced by extended hours on similar daytime routes: 26C Early East, 27 Southeast, 28 Southwest, 29 North Night, 30 Northeast, 32 Sanderford Road, 33 Glenwood-Creedmoor, 34 WakeMed Poole Road, 35 Poole Road, 36 Garner Station, 37 North Hills, 38 Blue Ridge and 39 Cameron Village.
The following routes will add or extend evening service: 3 Glascock, 10 Longview, 16 Oberlin, 21 Caraleigh and 22 State Street.
The following routes will add or extend evening and weekend service, including Sundays: 2 Falls of Neuse, 4 Rex Hospital, 5 Biltmore Hills, 7 South Saunders, 15 WakeMed, 18 Worthdale and 55X Poole Road Express.
The 70X Brier Creek route will drop evening services, making its last departure at 7:10 p.m.
The 1 Capital route will run twice as often during peak periods, with departures every 15 minutes.
“We’re just at a point where we have to start allocating our resources where they’re needed most,” transit administrator David Eatman said. “Our evening ridership is very low compared to the demands put on our system during our normal operational hours.”
But Eatman said riders who travel to and from work at unusual hours needn’t worry – most bus stops will still have service past 7 p.m. A few people might lose out on rides though; the changes cut several areas of North Raleigh and Southwest Raleigh off after rush hour ends.
For example, riders who take the 29 North Night bus can generally get where they’re going on the 2 Falls of Neuse bus’ newly extended hours. But No. 2 doesn’t go up Six Forks Road like the 29 bus.
Still, “there’s not a large single area within the city that’s losing service,” Eatman said.
Dropping the off-hour-only routes should clear up some confusion, he added. Riders won’t have to remember to look for a different bus depending on the time of day.
“It really does simplify the system,” Eatman said. The route changes will also streamline CAT’s numbering system with other Triangle transit agencies. Connecting routes – those that don’t start or end downtown – will have an “L” after the number instead of a “C.” Express buses with fewer stops will be designated with an “X.” Bus stop signs will be replaced with a new Triangle-wide design.
Eatman said the evening bus system had become confusing because the routes were designed to serve the city’s “demand response zones.” Those were areas where riders once requested evening rides from their homes to a nearby bus line. That service was dropped years ago, but the routes never changed.
In addition to adding evening service on major routes, CAT buses will come twice as often to stops on Route 1 Capital Boulevard. Buses will arrive every 15 minutes during morning and afternoon rush hours.
That’s welcome news to Judith Linder, who often takes the route. She’s not a fan of the current 30-minute waits, but she says next week’s changes don’t go far enough. A transplant from New York City, she doesn’t think the CAT service measures up.
“All the routes need to be every 15 minutes,” she said as she waited on the bus last week after a shopping trip to Target. “This is the worst bus system I’ve ever seen.”
The changes also add more departure times to No. 55X Poole Road Express, which connects downtown to a park-and-ride lot on Poole Road. It will run until 11:38 a.m. Because the lot is next to the city’s transit operations center, buses headed out of service make the trip anyway.
“For us, it’s a free service,” Eatman said. And while it serves a park-and-ride lot, many riders are walking to the stop from areas of Southeast Raleigh without a bus line. “We’ve had requests from the community off Poole Road because they really like that route.”
Eatman said his agency eventually wants to expand service to the Rock Quarry and Barwell roads area, as well as along South Saunders Street and New Bern Avenue. But that will take additional funding, he added.
While most changes going into effect Sunday will affect evening, early morning and weekend riders, Eatman encourages everyone to check the new schedules for minor tweaks. Timetables are available now on buses and at raleighnc.gov.
“Nearly every route is impacted in some way,” he said.