Talk of a Midtown Raleigh Bus Circulator, The M-Line, Begins

R-Line Bus in downtown Raleigh

We’re in a lull when it comes to transit news in downtown Raleigh. It feels like the plans are made but the funding of a half-cent sales tax increase to go towards transit improvements is stuck at the county level.

While politicians on the County Commission continue to debate the possible tax increase, one of the most successful transit stories in Raleigh recently has been the R-Line. This fare-less service that circles downtown has been increasing its ridership every year since it was launched in 2009.

So it’s only natural that others around Raleigh want to get in on the great service.

I recently heard of the Midtown Raleigh Alliance’s (MRA) idea of pitching a service called the M-Line, a bus circulator between midtown Raleigh and downtown Raleigh. There’s not much behind this idea really, just talk and a blog post. [UPDATE: Broken link]

Either way, let’s speculate and see if this idea is at all feasible.

According to the MRA, midtown Raleigh is the “area within a 2-mile radius surrounding North Hills.” The about page on their website claims the area has a “Distinctive skyline and 24/7 walkable urban center.”

Whether that’s actually true or not, the most likely place for the M-Line to arrive and depart would be from a spot in North Hills, the most urban area in midtown.

A park and ride situation could work but with parking so plentiful in downtown, once people are in their cars then it’s likely they will just go straight to downtown rather than transfer to a bus.

Using Google Maps, the quickest way from North Hills, the Renaissance Hotel to be more specific, to downtown, the state Capitol, is along Lassiter Mill Road, St. Mary’s Street, and Glenwood Avenue. Google also estimates the trip to take 13 minutes.

The trip could take longer if the route is changed to make more stops around midtown. So to keep the numbers easy, let’s say the trip takes 15 minutes. With one bus running the route, a round-trip takes 30 minutes with an average wait time of 15 minutes.

Compared to CAT

If there is a truly interest in an M-Line, this again shows citizen support for transit and perhaps readiness for this area to increase transit effectiveness.

Capital Area Transit’s Route 8 – Northclift is the closest route that goes from downtown to midtown. It’s similar to the route suggested by Google Maps. Route 8 starts at the Moore Square bus station and goes through downtown, north on St. Mary’s and Lassiter Mill Road to North Hills.

The current operating schedule of Route 8 is:

  • 5:55 AM to 8:52 PM | Monday – Friday
  • 7:00 AM to 8:12 PM | Saturday

The route has frequencies of 30 minutes during rush hour and an hour outside and on Saturday. That makes wait times of being 15 minutes on average during rush hour and 30 minutes outside.

With a similar route already being offered by CAT, supporters of an M-Line have quite a bit of work to do in order to justify it.

Just like my post back in July 2011 about the petition to expand the R-Line to Cameron Village, this is an example where adding another bus circulator would provide redundant service to the current CAT system.

If anything, M-Line supporters should be interested in taking what money that could be put towards this new line and into making Route 8 much more effective through greater frequency and expanded operating schedules.

Similar Posts:


Comments are disabled here. That's because we're all hanging out on the DTRaleigh Community, an online forum for passionate fans of the Oak City.


  1. About time! CAT service north of 440 is dreadful, relative to the percentage of Raleigh residents who live north of 440. North Hills, like Crabtree, might be barely north of 440 but it’s a step in the correct direction.

  2. Ouch…. I haven’t looked at the schedules in a while, but service to North Hills is actually worse than it used to be. There was a route 37 that no longer exists, which ran slightly later and offered Sunday service. It also stopped at North Hills and Moore Square and will be missed (by me at least).

  3. North Hills (Kane) has political clout with the city, but if they want their own circulator they should pay for it and not tag onto the R-Line.

  4. That would be a great way for me to get home from DT for free when I’ve been drinking. I’m all for it…

  5. “While politicians on the County Commission continue to debate the possible tax increase…”

    Leo, I don’t think the sales tax has ever been allowed to be debated at the county board level, which is a sign of terrible governance, whether you agree or disagree with a transit tax or not.

    I’m glad you point out the CAT issue. The city already pays for bus service there, but there are a host of reasons why it’s not perceived as a good option. Rather than confusing the R-Line’s role by trying to expand the concept everywhere, folks should focus on improving existing CAT service.

    Maybe try and get Kane, a Republican, to convince his fellow GOP-members on the county board to at least debate the merits of the transit tax.

  6. It’s really not that hard to use the bus system that’s already in place, folks. Why should we have a free ride between affluent areas? You have to pay to ride in the poorer sides of town.

  7. Waste of money. Most people who move north of Wade/Capital Blvd don’t care about going downtown more than 15X a year.

    jasdelaney, why would John Kane support something that would turn his project into a park & ride? He wants to keep the money there, and downtownists aren’t interested in things in NH.

    If a second circulator is what you want, have one that generally loops from HT in Cameron Village down around the Capital. C-Line would interlock the R-line. There are getting ready to be hundreds more unmarried people under 30 in the CV area, and they are thoroughly interested in going downtown.

  8. Dana, downtownists aren’t interested in North Hills? I suppose they should go to the Target, Movie Theater, REI, etc on Fayetteville St?

    How about this for a solution: improve the bus shelters along the existing CAT route. Retain the existing schedule and fares. And consider adding 1 bus each hour from 9 pm to 2 am on Fridays & Saturdays.

  9. +1 for the need for a relook at the Cameron Village one once those new apartments are built. Will help a little with the traffic issue brought up previously.

    As far as North Hills is concerned, The #8 Northclift bus goes right there. A good test would be to make that bus run until 2:15am to see if it’s worthwhile.

  10. Dana, do you have any evidence for the notion that “downtownists aren’t interested in things in NH?” I used to live in DTR and went to NH fairly often to REI, Target, movies, and knew others who did the same. I tended to go there b/c it was close & offered something resembling a walkable experience, something not found many other places in the city. With NH and CV beginning their maturation process as mini walkable urban nodes of activity, it’s natural for people to want to connect those areas (& to DTR) with transit so that people don’t ALWAYS need cars.

    Also this idea that NH is better off financially with *less* access from other activity centers in the city defies logic & basic economics. We know Kane understands this, as he initiated a study ( to look at a personal rapid transit system to connect NH to Duke Hospital and the envisioned LRT station over there. Now, I think PRT is a ridiculous idea outside of very specific applications (airports, etc.), but the study shows he understands that increasing non-auto access to NH is important to its future.

    With the market share for urban real estate increasing this issue is not going away. I just don’t think expanding the R-Line concept is the right tool for the job.

  11. It’s nice to have this conversation. I’m not sure it’s feasible at this moment but there definitely is a maturation of North Hills. With some strategic focus along key corridors (ie. Five Points to North Hills) a circulator would make more sense.

  12. Personally, I think it’s much too early to being considering North Hills to be a significant enough region of the city that requires special public transit consideration. I’m not convinced that North Hills isn’t going to be just a flash in the pan until the next suburban behemoth development is created.

  13. I agree with devil’s advocate; this would create a big problem for those who live on the south and east sides of towns. Plus the # 8 already runs that route. Obviously, this is just talk right now but if it ever did come to some reality and funding was in place why not just reinvest it into the # 8 to have buses run more frequent (15 minutes apart) and later (until 2 am every 20-30 minutes apart). Even if it is just a deviated route where buses alternate running from downtown to North Hills only and downtown to Northclift.

Comments are closed.