Getting Around: Transportation Options in Raleigh-Durham

April 16, 2024

Insights into Raleigh-Durham's transportation infrastructure, including public transit options, major highways, and tips for commuting.

The Raleigh-Durham area, also known as the Triangle, is a thriving region in North Carolina that encompasses the cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. As the area continues to grow and attract new residents and businesses, efficient transportation becomes increasingly important. This article will provide an overview of the transportation infrastructure in the Triangle, including public transit options, major highways, and practical tips for commuting.

The Importance of Efficient Transportation

Efficient transportation is crucial for the success and well-being of any community. It allows residents to access employment opportunities, healthcare services, educational institutions, and recreational activities. For visitors, a well-organized transportation system makes it easier to explore the area and enjoy all that Raleigh-Durham has to offer.

A Brief History of Transportation Development

The Raleigh-Durham area has a rich history of transportation development. From the early days of horse-drawn carriages and streetcars to the modern era of highways and light rail, the region has continuously adapted to meet the changing needs of its population. Today, the Triangle is home to a diverse range of transportation options that cater to the preferences and lifestyles of its residents and visitors.

Public Transit Options

GoTriangle: Regional Bus and Shuttle Services

GoTriangle is the regional public transportation system that serves the Raleigh-Durham area. It offers a variety of bus and shuttle services that connect the major cities and towns in the Triangle.

Routes and Schedules

GoTriangle operates several routes that run between Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and other nearby communities. These routes operate on weekdays and weekends, with varying frequencies depending on the time of day and the specific route. Passengers can access route maps and schedules on the GoTriangle website or through the GoTriangle app.

Park-and-Ride Locations

To make commuting more convenient, GoTriangle offers park-and-ride locations throughout the Triangle. These designated parking areas allow commuters to leave their cars and board a bus or shuttle to their destination. Park-and-ride locations are typically situated near major highways or transit hubs, making it easy for passengers to access the public transportation system.

GoRaleigh and GoDurham: Local Bus Services

In addition to the regional services provided by GoTriangle, the cities of Raleigh and Durham operate their own local bus systems.

Coverage Areas and Key Routes

GoRaleigh and GoDurham buses cover a wide range of neighborhoods and key destinations within their respective cities. These routes often connect to major employment centers, shopping districts, universities, and healthcare facilities. Passengers can find route maps and schedules on the GoRaleigh and GoDurham websites or through their mobile apps.

Fares and Payment Options

Both GoRaleigh and GoDurham offer a variety of fare options to suit the needs of different passengers. Single-ride fares, day passes, and monthly passes are available for purchase. In addition, both systems have introduced contactless payment options, such as mobile ticketing apps and reloadable smart cards, to make paying for rides more convenient and efficient.

Future Developments in Public Transit

The Raleigh-Durham area is continuously working to improve and expand its public transportation system. Two notable projects currently underway are the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project and the Wake County Transit Plan.

Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project

The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit (DOLRT) project is a proposed 17.7-mile light rail line that will connect the cities of Durham and Chapel Hill. The project aims to provide a high-capacity, efficient, and reliable transportation option for residents and visitors, reducing traffic congestion and promoting sustainable growth in the region.

Wake County Transit Plan

The Wake County Transit Plan is a comprehensive, multi-year initiative to enhance public transportation services in Wake County, which includes the city of Raleigh. The plan focuses on expanding bus routes, increasing service frequency, and implementing bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors to better serve the growing population and support economic development.

Major Highways and Road Networks

Interstate Highways

The Raleigh-Durham area is served by several major interstate highways that connect the region to other parts of North Carolina and the United States.

I-40: East-West Corridor

Interstate 40 (I-40) is the primary east-west corridor that runs through the heart of the Triangle, connecting Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. This highway is a crucial artery for commuters, freight traffic, and travelers passing through the region.

I-540 and NC-540: Outer Loops Around Raleigh

I-540 and NC-540 form a partial outer loop around the city of Raleigh. These highways provide an alternative route for commuters and help alleviate traffic congestion on I-40 and other major roads in the area.

I-85: North-South Route Through Durham

Interstate 85 (I-85) is a major north-south highway that passes through Durham, connecting the city to other parts of North Carolina and the southeastern United States. This highway is an important route for both passenger and freight traffic.

U.S. and State Highways

In addition to the interstate highways, several U.S. and state highways serve the Raleigh-Durham area, providing connections between the major cities and surrounding communities.

U.S. 1: Connecting Raleigh and Durham

U.S. Highway 1 (U.S. 1) is a north-south route that connects Raleigh and Durham, running parallel to I-40. This highway serves as an alternative to the interstate and provides access to many local businesses and neighborhoods.

U.S. 64: East-West Route Through Raleigh

U.S. Highway 64 (U.S. 64) is an east-west route that passes through Raleigh, connecting the city to the eastern and western parts of North Carolina. This highway is an important corridor for both local and regional traffic.

U.S. 70: East-West Route Through Durham

U.S. Highway 70 (U.S. 70) is another east-west route that runs through Durham, providing connections to the eastern and western parts of the state. This highway serves as an alternative to I-85 and I-40 for local and regional traffic.

Local Roads and Street Networks

Key Thoroughfares in Raleigh and Durham

In addition to the major highways, Raleigh and Durham have a network of local roads and streets that connect neighborhoods, business districts, and other key destinations. Some of the notable thoroughfares include Capital Boulevard and Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh, and Duke Street and Roxboro Street in Durham.

Navigation Tips for Visitors

Visitors to the Raleigh-Durham area may find it helpful to use GPS navigation or mobile mapping apps to navigate the local road network. It's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the major highways and key thoroughfares before embarking on your trip, and to allow extra time for travel during peak traffic hours.

Commuting Tips and Strategies

Rush Hour Traffic Patterns and Peak Times

Like many metropolitan areas, the Raleigh-Durham region experiences heavy traffic during morning and evening rush hours.

Morning and Evening Commutes

Morning rush hour typically occurs between 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM, while evening rush hour usually starts around 4:00 PM and lasts until 6:30 PM. During these times, major highways and local roads can become congested, leading to longer travel times.

Strategies for Avoiding Congestion

To minimize the impact of rush hour traffic, commuters can consider several strategies:

  • Adjusting work hours to avoid peak travel times
  • Using public transportation or carpooling to reduce the number of vehicles on the road
  • Taking alternative routes or using real-time traffic information to navigate around congested areas
  • Combining errands or appointments to reduce the number of trips made during peak hours

Carpooling and Vanpooling Options

Carpooling and vanpooling are popular options for commuters in the Raleigh-Durham area who want to save money, reduce their environmental impact, and avoid the stress of driving in heavy traffic.

Share the Ride NC Program

Share the Ride NC is a statewide program that helps connect commuters with potential carpool and vanpool partners. The program offers an online matching service, as well as resources and incentives for those who choose to share their ride.

Benefits of Carpooling for Commuters and the Environment

Carpooling offers numerous benefits for both commuters and the environment:

  • Reduced fuel costs and vehicle wear and tear
  • Lower parking expenses and fewer parking hassles
  • Decreased traffic congestion and improved air quality
  • Opportunities for socializing and networking with fellow commuters

Bicycling and Walking

The Raleigh-Durham area has a growing network of greenways, bike lanes, and pedestrian-friendly streets that make it easier for residents to choose active transportation options.

Greenway Systems in Raleigh and Durham

Both Raleigh and Durham have extensive greenway systems that provide safe, off-road paths for bicyclists and pedestrians. These greenways connect neighborhoods, parks, and other key destinations, offering a scenic and healthy alternative to driving.

Bike-Friendly Routes and Trails

In addition to the greenways, the Triangle area has numerous bike-friendly routes and trails that cater to cyclists of all skill levels. These include on-road bike lanes, shared-use paths, and mountain biking trails in local parks and nature preserves.

Pedestrian Safety and Walkability in Urban Centers

The cities of Raleigh and Durham have made significant investments in improving pedestrian safety and walkability in their urban centers. This includes installing crosswalks, pedestrian signals, and sidewalks, as well as implementing traffic calming measures to reduce vehicle speeds and create a more welcoming environment for pedestrians.

Airport and Long-Distance Travel

Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)

Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) is the primary airport serving the Triangle region, offering a wide range of domestic and international flights.

Location and Accessibility

RDU is located approximately 10 miles northwest of Raleigh and 10 miles southeast of Durham, making it easily accessible from both cities. The airport is served by several major highways, including I-40, I-540, and NC-147.

Airlines and Destinations Served

RDU is served by numerous airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines, among others. The airport offers nonstop flights to over 50 destinations across the United States, as well as international flights to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Ground Transportation Options

Passengers traveling to and from RDU have a variety of ground transportation options, including:

  • Taxi and ride-hailing services (e.g., Uber, Lyft)
  • Airport shuttle services
  • Public transportation (GoTriangle buses)
  • Rental cars
  • Personal vehicles (with on-site parking options)

Amtrak Train Service

Amtrak, the national passenger rail service, operates several routes that serve the Raleigh-Durham area, providing an alternative to air and road travel for long-distance trips.

Raleigh and Durham Train Stations

Amtrak trains stop at two stations in the Triangle: Raleigh Union Station in downtown Raleigh and the Durham Amtrak Station near downtown Durham. Both stations offer easy access to local public transportation and taxi/ride-hailing services.

Routes and Connections to Other Cities

Amtrak's Carolinian, Piedmont, and Silver Service/Palmetto routes serve the Raleigh-Durham area, offering connections to cities such as Charlotte, Washington, D.C., New York, and Miami. These routes provide a comfortable and scenic alternative to driving or flying, with amenities such as Wi-Fi, dining options, and sleeping accommodations on some trains.

Inter-City Bus Services

For those looking for an affordable long-distance travel option, inter-city bus services such as Greyhound and Megabus offer routes connecting the Raleigh-Durham area to other cities in the region.

Greyhound and Megabus

Greyhound and Megabus are two of the most popular inter-city bus services operating in the Triangle. These companies offer a variety of routes connecting Raleigh and Durham to cities throughout the Southeast and beyond.

Bus Terminals and Schedules

Greyhound and Megabus buses depart from several locations in the Raleigh-Durham area, including the Raleigh Union Station and the Durham Station. Passengers can find schedules and purchase tickets online through the companies' websites or mobile apps.

Conclusion and Future Outlook

The Raleigh-Durham area has a diverse and growing transportation system that offers residents and visitors a range of options for getting around the region. From public transit and major highways to bicycling and walking, the Triangle is committed to providing efficient and sustainable transportation choices.

As the area continues to grow and evolve, ongoing initiatives and projects, such as the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project and the Wake County Transit Plan, will play a crucial role in shaping the future of transportation in the region. By investing in these projects and prioritizing sustainable and efficient transportation, the Raleigh-Durham area can ensure that its transportation system keeps pace with the needs of its growing population and supports the region's economic vitality and quality of life.

Tim Clarke's Perspective

As a long-time resident and real estate professional in the Raleigh-Durham area, I've witnessed firsthand the growth and evolution of our transportation infrastructure. While the region has made significant strides in improving mobility, there's still work to be done to ensure that our transportation system keeps pace with the needs of our growing population.

For those considering a move to Raleigh-Durham, it's essential to factor in transportation when choosing a neighborhood or home. Consider your daily commute, proximity to public transit, and access to major highways. If you're unsure about the best location for your needs, don't hesitate to reach out to a local real estate agent who can provide guidance and insights based on your specific situation.

Whether you're a long-time resident or a newcomer to the area, taking advantage of the various transportation options available can help you save time, money, and stress. Experiment with different modes of travel, such as carpooling or taking the bus, to find what works best for you. And remember, as our region continues to grow and evolve, so too will our transportation system, offering new and improved ways to navigate the Triangle area.

Tim M. Clarke

About the author

17 years as a Realtor in the Research Triangle, Tim seeks to transform the Raleigh-Durham real estate scene through a progressive, people-centered approach prioritizing trust & transparency.

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