Traveling throughout the Bull City isn't just free, but it's becoming faster and easier.
Durham's fare-free Bull City Connector fleet of buses recently added five new, hybrid diesel-electric buses that offer new features for riders. The buses include perimeter seating, which allows passengers to enter and leave the bus more comfortably, automated passenger counters and a traffic signal priority system. The traffic signal system will help Connector buses stay on schedule by extending green lights, when appropriate, to allow a bus to pass through city-maintained intersections.
Riders can also track the buses live online through computers and mobile devices.
In addition to new services, the new Connector buses will save about 27 percent on daily fuel usage compared to traditional diesel buses, said Mark Ahrendsen, director of the city's transportation department. The new buses went into service the first week of April and replaced hybrid buses from the Durham Area Transit Authority that have been in use since August 2010.
Like the buses they've replaced, the new vehicles still feature a wheelchair-secured area, entrance ramp and kneeling feature, video surveillance system, talking bus features for the visually impaired, and bike racks.
The Connector makes more than 40 stops between the Golden Belt and West Campus, including 12 on or around West, Central and East campuses.
"The Bull City Connector easily connects the University and Health System to some off-campus offices like American Tobacco Campus, and tons of restaurants and retail," said Brian Williams, Duke's transportation demand management coordinator. "When you can ride for free on a bus you can track on real-time, why would you want to pay to drive yourself?"
The cost for the five hybrid buses was about $3 million, which includes an 80 percent contribution from the Federal Transit Administration and a 20 percent non-federal share from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Duke.