Chapel Hill has always been regarded as one of the best places to live for its quality of life, revered education system and friendly southern charm. To maintain the quality of life for residents, the Town of Chapel Hill is working to become a more sustainable and resilient community through its transit strategy and future plans.
The Chapel Hill Town Council has issued a commitment to uphold the Paris Agreement and has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 26-28 percent by 2025. Plans are already underway to evolve and develop the local transit system to meet this ambitious goal and benefit residents in myriad ways.
Green Municipal Fleet
Chapel Hill has purchased fuel-efficient vehicles that use low-carbon fuels like biodiesel, E85 and electricity. These vehicles serve as a clean alternative to conventional fossil-fuel powered vehicles. As a result of the shift to more fuel-efficient vehicles, the Town’s fleet now operates at 15 percent lower annual emissions than it did in 2005. This shift has garnered the Town recognition, earning a Champion Level NC Smart Fleet designation by the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition in 2016.
To encourage residents to use electric vehicles, the Town has installed charging stations throughout Chapel Hill. These stations are available to the public and currently free of charge:
- Homestead Aquatic Center – 300 Aquatic Drive, 2 available
- 140 West Franklin – Public parking level of the underground garage – entrance is at 201 West Rosemary Street, 4 available (Note: Parking in the garage is $1/hour)
- Orange County Skills Development Center – 503 West Franklin Street, 4 available, plus one Level 3 DC fast charge station (CHAdeMO and SAE COMBO, $12/hour and $1 minimum)
- Robert and Pearl Seymour Senior Center – 2551 Homestead Road, 2 available
- Park & Ride facility next to the Orange County Campus of Durham Technical Community College – 525 College Park Road, Hillsborough, 6 available
The director of Chapel Hill Transit, Brian Litchfield, recently announced that 16 electric cars have been purchased so far, and these vehicles will replace their gasoline counterparts that have reached the end of their useful life. Between July and August, three new electric buses will be put into service, with plans to order seven more that will arrive in late 2022 or early 2023.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is also doing its part to complement the Town’s efforts. As part of its 15-year Climate Action Plan, the university aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Since the plan’s publication in 2009, more than 75 percent of the short-term strategies have been put into motion to make the campus greener.
Fare Free Transit
Public transportation greatly benefits the environment because it reduces the number of people driving single occupancy vehicles. With more residents riding on public transit, more fuel is conserved, air pollution decreases and the region’s carbon footprint is reduced. To incentivize ridership, Chapel Hill offers one of the largest fare-free bus systems in the United States, providing more than 6.5 million rides each year.
Chapel Hill Mobility and Connectivity Plan
Fuel-efficient vehicles are important to the Town’s sustainability vision, but having an infrastructure that supports many modes of transportation is a critical piece of the puzzle. Chapel Hill’s Mobility Plan envisions a transportation network for bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders that safely links neighborhoods, parks, employment centers, transit stops and other destinations.
Glen Lennox is contributing to this plan with its Copenhagenize bicycle network strategy. The aim is to build a community that reverses the American car-centric culture in favor of a more sustainable, people- and bike-friendly environment through planning that encourages and integrates bicycles and foot traffic in the design.
The goal of Chapel Hill’s Mobility Plan is for 35 percent of all commuters to bike, walk and ride transit to work by 2025. With the Town’s focus, the university’s commitment and contributions from private entities like Grubb Properties, Chapel Hill is on track to set the gold standard for green living.
For more information on the Town’s sustainability initiatives, visit www.sustainchapelhill.org.