Monday, May 20, 2024

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Elon postpones (until next week) decision to join Burlington’s bus system

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Elon’s town council has pumped the brakes ever so slightly on a plan that would put this small college town on the itinerary of Burlington’s Link Transit bus system.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, Elon’s leaders resolved to wait another week before they formally vote on the potential expansion of this mass transit network into their community.

Although the council had previously given a tentative nod to this possibility, its members stopped short of pressing the gas on Monday due, in part, to some last-minute changes to the agreement that spells out the terms of Elon’s inclusion in the Burlington-based bus system.

Elon town council members (left to right) Stephanie Bourland, Quinn Ray, mayor Emily Sharpe, Mark Greene, and Monti Allison. Also present, but not pictured, was councilman Randy Orwig.

Under this “memorandum of understanding,” Link Transit would add six stops within Elon’s municipal limits to a bus route that already serves various locations in west Burlington and Gibsonville. This contract would require Elon to chip in about $30,000 a year to cover its share of the bus system’s operations. But once the agreement is signed, the town’s residents could ride free of charge on any of Link Transit’s bus routes, whose destinations include Alamance Regional Medical Center, several shopping centers, assorted county facilities, and the main campus of Alamance Community College in Graham.

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Elon’s town manager Richard Roedner insisted that the overall thrust of this arrangement remains in tact despite some late-coming tweaks to the proposed agreement. He noted that one revision stipulates that Link Transit would take priority over the Alamance County Transportation Authority (ACTA) in any areas where this semi-independent shuttle service overlaps with the bus system. Meanwhile, another newly-inserted provision makes it clear that Elon would bear the capital and personnel costs if it decides to expand Link Transit’s services beyond the areas mapped out in the agreement.

The council, for its part, had to take Roedner’s explanations largely on faith since its members didn’t have the latest version of the contract before them on Monday. As a result, Elon’s mayor Emily Sharpe urged the rest of the group to the postpone its vote until the council’s next regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, April 4.

“I’m not comfortable putting that to a vote,” she declared, “without seeing the verbiage.”

To complicate things further, Roedner acknowledged that the cost estimates which the council members had at their fingertips were somewhat outdated due to a recent increase in the bus system’s federal subsidies. He pointed out this federal largesse has lowered Elon’s estimated share of the bus system’s costs from nearly $34,300 to about $28,300 a year. Yet, a few inconsistencies in the accompanying arithmetic left some members of the council all the more reluctant to finalize their decision.

In the end, Elon’s elected leaders unanimously chose to put off their vote until April 4 – the same date that Burlington’s city council is scheduled to sign off on the agreement in order to jump start the proposed expansion into Elon by May 1.

Elon’s council also postponed its consideration of a budget amendment that would set aside $3,152 to cover the town’s share of the bus system’s operating expenses for the final two months of this fiscal year.

Meanwhile, councilman Randy Orwig bade Roedner to inform his counterparts in Burlington that they shouldn’t construe this delay in the council’s decision as a sign of cold feet.

“I firmly believe that we’re all in favor of this,” Orwig insisted, “and I’d like to do anything we can to help it along.”

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