Light Rail

Light Rail

The Triangle adds more than 80 residents a day, making it one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. Growth brings prosperity and new employment opportunities, but it also adds congestion to our roadways. A new light-rail line between downtown Durham and Chapel Hill will offer a congestion-free way to travel and help manage future growth by creating vibrant, walkable communities and connecting residents to jobs, education and health care.

The 17.7-mile light-rail line will provide over 26,000 trips per day to residents and commuters in Durham and Chapel Hill. The rail project will connect three major universities, three major medical facilities and three of the top 10 employers in the state: Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC Health Care.


Community investment

In 2011 and 2012, voters in Durham and Orange counties approved a half-cent sales tax to invest in enhanced transit service in both counties.

Durham and Orange counties’ transit plans

  • Provide more and better bus service.
  • Improve stops and shelters.
  • Build light-rail project.
  • Build commuter-rail project. *Included in Durham and Wake county plans

Light-rail project investment

  • Federal funding approximately $1.25 billion
  • State funding up to $190 million
  • Remainder from local and other sources including transit-dedicated half-cent sales tax revenue and property donations

Access to jobs through light rail

  • Three of North Carolina’s 10 largest employers -- Duke Medical Center, UNC Hospitals and UNC – are located on light-rail line.
  • Other major employers nearby include Blue Cross and county and city government offices.
  • Downtown Durham employment center also is on the line.
  • Projected to create more than 30,000 jobs by 2057

University connections

  • North Carolina Central University
  • Duke University
  • UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Bus connections to Durham Tech

Service to major hospitals and medical facilities

  • UNC Hospitals
  • Durham VA Medical Center
  • Duke University Medical Center

Workforce development pipeline

The light-rail project will support almost 20,000 jobs in Durham and Orange counties and several thousand additional jobs in other counties throughout the state.

In partnership with GoTriangle, Durham’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development is leading the planning to create a pipeline for light-rail and station-area jobs, working together with Durham Public Schools, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Orange County Schools and Durham Technical Community College.

Economic impact

  • $600 million in new yearly GDP for the state and $175 million in new state and local tax revenue projected each year.
  • Development around light-rail stations could generate $1.4 billion to $1.9 billion in additional new property tax revenue by 2057.
  • The light-rail project will also support thousands of existing jobs across the state: suppliers, designers and manufacturers of rail transportation technology.
  • Currently, 27 major North Carolina businesses are members of the American Public Transportation Association. These are major suppliers, designers and manufacturers of rail transportation technology across the state that could bid to provide materials for Durham and Orange counties’ light-rail transit project.
  • The corporations include IMPulse in Mount Olive, Heico in Hickory, Saft America in Valdese, Huesker in Shelby, Tec Tran in Burlington, Cummins Inc. in North Whitakers, Interlogix Global Security in Lincolnton, ABB in Huntersville and Cary, Dialight in Roxboro, Wilmore Electronics Company Inc. in Hillsborough, Wysong in Greensboro and AKG Thermal Systems Inc. in Mebane.
  • According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, more than 600 material vendors in North Carolina are involved in the transit manufacturing supply chain.

Support for affordable housing

  • 70 percent of existing permanent affordable housing in Durham is within a mile of a proposed light-rail station.
  • Durham County commissioners voted to include 277 affordable housing units when developing two county-owned lots near a planned light-rail stop.
  • Durham has drafted an Affordable Housing Density Bonus targeting light-rail stations that could be approved and enacted in 2019.
  • Durham has spent more than two years developing station-area land use plans to maximize affordable housing opportunities.
  • Plans are being developed to promote additional affordable housing near stations and stops.
  • More than 50 percent of Durham residents are considered cost-burdened because they spend more than 40 percent of their incomes on housing and transportation costs (light-rail fare will be similar to bus fare).

Environmental sustainability and health

Light rail will reduce carbon emissions and promote walking and walkable neighborhoods around each station to support better health for people and healthier air quality. Light rail is consistent with climate change resolutions and goals adopted by Durham city and county and Duke University. Light rail supports the goals to address social determinants of health stated in the Duke University Health System Healthy Durham 20/20 plan and the 2017 Durham County Community Health Assessment.