Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Town of Elon will join Link Transit bus system


Elon’s town council has tentatively agreed to let Burlington’s Link Transit bus system extend one of its routes into the smaller community’s borders.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, the council reached a consensus to add six new stops within Elon’s municipal limits to Link Transit’s “blue” route, which presently covers a large swath of west Burlington and Gibsonville. The council also expressed its willingness to contribute $34,292 from the town’s savings to offset the bus system’s cost to service these stops in the next fiscal year.

The council gave this plan its provisional blessing after Mary Kathryn Harward, the town’s assistant planning director, briefed its members on the particulars of the bus system’s proposed expansion. Harward also presented an itinerary for the blue route’s prospective new stops, which she said that she and her fellow staff members had laid out based on a trajectory recommended by Link Transit’s interim manager John Andoh.

Elon assistant planning director Mary Kathryn Harward,

“He gave us a map of the suggested route,” she explained to the council on Monday, “and we picked out potential stops…We tried to identify areas of our community that needed [this access to transit].”

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According to Harward’s itinerary, three of the blue line’s new stops would be located within a stone’s throw of South Williamson Avenue – with the first cropping up along South Williamson’s juncture with Eastgate and Westgate drives.

The town’s assistant planning director also proposed a stop at the intersection with Ball Park Avenue, and she acknowledged that she tried to squeeze in a third near the corner of Williamson and Trollinger avenues, which happens to be home to Elon’s town hall.

Harward added that she and her colleagues ultimately decided to move this stop over a block to the intersection of Trollinger and Holt avenues in order to avoid the pandemonium that erupts where Williamson enters the heart of Elon’s downtown.

Harward recommended a fourth stop at the intersection of Manning and Haggard avenues as well as two others along University Drive. Due to problems with roadside topology, the assistant planning director presented three options for one of these stops near Manning Avenue’s intersection with University Drive.

She also recommended a stop near University’s juncture with Westbrook Avenue, which would serve as the bus system’s path of return to the city limits of Burlington.

This proposed foray into Elon would mark the most significant expansion of Link Transit’s service area since the Burlington-based bus system first hit the road in the spring of 2016.

Although Burlington’s leaders had initially hoped to see this bus system span the breadth of Alamance County, they wound up limiting its scope to Burlington and Gibsonville after the city councils in Mebane and Graham refused to ante up to help pay for the service.

Meanwhile, a financial contribution from Alamance County’s commissioners has allowed the system to make a detour into Graham’s city limits in order to serve the county’s headquarters and the main campus of Alamance Community College.

Like their counterparts in Mebane and Graham, Elon’s municipal leaders had turned down Burlington’s initial invitation to join Link Transit’s service area. Among the town’s rationales at the time was Link’s overlap with Elon University’s BioBus, which offers free transit service to locations in both Elon and Burlington that are frequented by the university’s students.

Unlike the university’s BioBus, Link Transit had charged passengers a $1 fare when it began making the rounds six and a half years ago. Burlington’s city council recently voted to discontinue this fare due to its relatively meager impact on the bus system’s budget, which relies on federal subsidies for roughly half of its operating expenses.

Much of the system’s remaining costs are covered by recurring local government contributions – which, in Burlington’s case, comes from a special tax that the city has placed on motor vehicle registrations.

Despite its provisional decision to join Link Transit, Elon’s town council has not opted to make a long-term financial commitment to bankroll the bus system’s operations. At this point, the council has merely offered up a single year’s contribution – which, according to councilman Monti Allison, will enable Elon to pull out in the event that the bus system falls flat with the town’s residents.

“At least we’ll know if this is a service that the town’s residents will use,” Allison told the rest of the council on Monday. “We’ll try it for a year, and if the ridership is low, we’ll have our answer.”

Read the newspaper’s editorial opinion on the town council’s action:

Read other recent stories related to Elon:

Town council agrees to hire part-time worker to oversee weekly farmers’ market:

Elon University celebrates rebuilding after devastating 1923 fire:

Elon fire truck ends up in a ditch on way to repair:

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