At its Jan. 23 regular meeting, the Elon Town Council voted to continue looking into the option to extend the blue line of Burlington’s fare-free Link Transit bus system, adding six stops in the town of Elon.
The Link Transport proposal would mark the first time in 62 years that Elon has been linked with train service using public transport since the Elon College station, served by the Southern Railway, closed in 1961.The Elon College depot once stood on the corner of Lebanon and Williamson Avenues.
Currently, the blue line stretches from Gibsonville to downtown Burlington but bypasses Elon entirely. According to Mary Katherine Harward, planner for the town, Elon would pay around $34,000 for the service extension for one year. Harward said the next steps to bring Link to the town is for her team to finalize the amount of stops that will fit inside the budget.
The six stops are tentatively at South Williamson Avenue and Westgate Drive, South Williamson Avenue and Ball Park Avenue, South Williamson Avenue near Town Hall, West Haggard Avenue and Manning Avenue, University Drive and Manning Avenue, and Westbrook Avenue and University Drive.
“We're just looking forward to hopefully bringing links to service our community,” Harward said. “I think it'll be great.”
This comes as the North Carolina Department of Transportation recorded the highest ridership in the Piedmont's 32-year history in 2022 serving 522,000 passengers, according to a release published in January.
“We're tremendously excited by the ridership that we've seen on both the Piedmont and the Carolinian,” Deputy Director of the NCDOT Rail Division Matthew Simmons said in October. “We are seeing just really good demand. When we look at that, we think that means we're providing a good service to the citizens of the state.”
The Piedmont service, which runs between Charlotte and Raleigh, is jointly operated by NCDOT and Amtrak.
The proposal would also connect Elon with the Holly Hill Mall & Business Center, downtown Burlington and the city’s Amtrak station, which is served by Amtrak’s Piedmont and Carolinian train routes.
Link has been operating in Burlington and Gibsonville since June 2016, but Elon did not join due to concerns of low ridership, according to Link interim transit manager John Andoh. Other towns in Alamance County, including Graham and Mebane, also opted not to join the service.
Considering the town’s previous concerns about ridership, Harward said when the planning committee first considered bringing the service to Elon, it sent a survey to community members in 2022 to gauge interest.
“We had about 120 responses from all different types of people — people who had cars, who didn't, who would be willing to take the bus,” Harward said. “We had a lot of really good opinions and feedback.”
Moving forward, Andoh said Burlington’s City Council and Elon’s Town Council both need to vote for an “interlocal agreement of service.”