By Morgan Crutchfield
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
With gas prices nearly reaching $4, many people are searching for an alternative way of getting around. Northeast Central Durham residents and workers have the perfect alternate, a bus that charges no fare. The BullCity Connector is a fare-free bus that runs between the Golden Belt, the city’s downtown bus station and Duke University Medical Center.
After a long day of work, the five new yellow and red buses provide solace and cool air. The mesh, tinted windows give passengers a sense of privacy and security. Their services began on Aug. 16, 2010 with funding provided by federal and state grants and matching funds provided by Duke University.
The idea for the BCC originated with the DATA staff. However, it was enhanced by further discussions with Duke officials when considering opportunities to provide better connections between the Duke campus/hospital area and downtown area, said Mark Ahrendsen, Director of the Department of Transportation, in an email communication.
Target areas served by the BCC are the downtown, Duke University Medical Center and Duke Central and East Campus areas, the 9th Street business area, local government offices along Main Street near Roxboro Road and Dillard Street and the Golden Belt complex.
The BCC also serves the Durham bus station connecting with all other DATA and TTA routes serving Durham.
Durham Tech student and Florida native, Daniel Jenkins takes advantage of the new fare-free bus that connects with the DATA buses.
“I ride the bus about every two days, to and from school. I also ride it to make grocery runs to Whole Foods on Broad St.”
Before the BCC, Jenkins rode the DATA bus spending about $10 a week. Now he uses the $10 he saves by riding the BCC and puts it towards more groceries.
Opio Abdullah, 65 and a BCC driver, has been driving buses since 1967. A true professional, Abdullah focuses keenly on his work and doesn’t chat a lot. He does mention though, that most of the passengers that board his bus are residents of Northeast Central Durham.
“I thought I would get more Duke affiliated passengers since it’s sponsored in part by Duke,” said Abdullah.
Ridership has continued to grow since its opening day. Over 2,200 passengers currently board the BCC on an average weekday.
One Duke University Medical Center employee who decided to take advantage of the cheap ride is Peter Verraule of Durham. The Duke University Medical Center IT wiz heard about the bus from a coworker and has been riding ever since.
“This bus is a lifesaver,” said Verraule. “I save so much money because I don’t have to pay for parking or gas every day I go to work.”
The shuttle changed its schedule in 2011 to accommodate riders. It used to start at 7 a.m. on weekdays and run until midnight, but now it begins daily runs leaving the Golden Belt at 6:22 so that workers who use the service could get to work by 7 a.m.
The buses traverse Main Street for much of their runs, making stops at each of the 10 districts. The districts include Duke University Medical Center, Ninth Street, Downtown Durham, American Tobacco District, Brightleaf Square, City Center District, Central Park District, Golden Belt District, Government Services District, and the Warehouse District making stops at each every 15 minutes.