Downtown Circulator Bus Starts Tomorrow

February, 12, 2009, by David

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Image Courtesy of the City of Raleigh

Tomorrow the new hybrid diesel-electric Downtown Circulator Buses will start running. A very exciting development in our cities transit.  More on the Circulator tomorrow right here on New Raleigh.

What is the purpose of the Circulator?

The Downtown Circulator was proposed as a resource for commuters in the central business district (CBD). The purpose of the circulator is to provide connectivity to the CBD’s major parking decks and entertainment districts.

How often will the circulator run?

The circulator will run every 10-12 minutes. The route will be served by 2 buses that will allow for headways to remain at 10-12 minutes.

What type of buses will run on the Circulator route?

This route will be served by 3, 40’ hybrid electric, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) style buses; one bus will serve as a spare. The City of Raleigh chose to use 40’ buses because they can easily be placed into regular CAT bus service if necessary.

Why a BRT style hybrid?

The City of Raleigh chose a BRT style hybrid because it is environmentally friendly, will run quietly in the CBD and it provides a distinctive look to the service.

How much will it cost to ride the Circulator?

This will be a free service!

What are the hours of the Circulator?

Mon-Wed Hours: 7:00 AM - 11:00 PM  
Thu-Sat Hours:  7:00 AM - 2:15 AM
Sun Hours:  1:00 PM - 8:00 PM

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Politics, Other posts by David.


TransitCATBusesDowntown Circulator


  • kg
    02/12 06:21 PM

    i’m sorry but did i miss ‘what route will the circulator bus run?’ or is that in tomorrow’s installment?

  • Drew B
    02/12 08:17 PM

    that was mentioned in an article a while ago, but here it is again circulator map

  • Arian Hands
    02/12 11:44 PM

    That’s great—hybrid and free!  And I think its routed to connect to the parking garages—great work!

    1. I don’t see a BIKE RACK in the photo.

    2. It is a perversion of the term to call this “BRT”.  This is good, but it is NOT BRT.  Please don’t insult our intelligence.

    3. Is it a BIO-diesel hybrid?  Grease disposal is a big problem in Raleigh, causing sanitary sewer overflows.  This bus centers on a high restaurant density area and should burn waste veg oil.

    4. Will there be supporting WAY FINDING improvements for riders? Especially important for out of town guests.

  • jim
    02/12 11:53 PM

    Arian did you not read closely the purpose of this bus?  Please don’t insult our intelligence.  I mean it’s a downtown circulator.  Seems to me those on a bike won’t use this service as it’s for short distances downtown.

    And for those of us who never heard of BRT it seems hard for us to figure out that we are being insulted—I think that means most of us.

    Point being let’s praise the initiative without having to nitpick the hell out of it.  Will be great for those of us who live and play downtown.

  • Betsy
    02/13 12:14 AM

    This is great!  I will definitely use it.  I imagine it will be very popular.

    But more importantly, I wonder how long it will take for the Friday and Saturday night buses to get an interesting nickname.  ;)

  • RaleighRob
    02/13 09:18 AM

    I’m glad to see this…yay!

    Jim- well, on the bike rack issue, true if someone is just staying in downtown they wouldn’t need it, but say someone who either lives or works downtown wanted to use it to connect to another CAT line to get someplace else, they would probably benefit from that rack. 

    Drew- Is that the latest map?  Seems odd there’s such a huge gap of no stops along Dawson.

  • Not in Downtown
    02/13 09:34 AM

    I would be more excited if the other CAT routes ran as late as the Circulator. It would be nice to leave the car at home and have a low cost solution to get downtown for dinner and a few drinks. Right now my only option is to Spend $30-40 on a 10 mile round trip in a cab if I don’t want to drive or plan on having more than two drinks.

  • kg
    02/13 11:22 AM

    thanks drew.  great news for someone who lives on jones and works on fayetteville.

  • Arian Hands
    02/13 12:51 PM

    Jim, please note that I also praised the initiative, specifically on three counts: hybrid, free & connecting to parking garages.  I will not however shy away from commenting on opportunities for improvement. Nits, I’m not picking.

    While cyclists would probably generally out perform the circulator, there are numerous reasons one might take a bike on-board, including mechanical problem, fatigue, over-imbibing in food or drink, darkness, weather, meeting up with a bikeless friend, etc..  Moreover, we should not regress to a system where some vehicles have racks and others do not.

    THIS is real BRT.  A simple circulator without exclusive ROW might support BRT, but calling it BRT is like calling the dam at Lake Johnson, a “hydroelectric system”.  Please watch the video.

    Let me be clear: I support this step forward, but I want to see it done as well as possible.  By calling for bike racks, post-consumer biodiesel and way-finding improvements, I DO support the initiative.  These are improvements, not opposition.

  • Steve Osborne
    02/13 02:18 PM

    This bus service is very exciting to me, not so much for its use of alternative energy as for what it represents for the future, a future we already started to develop when we rapidly adopted shuttle services for Long Term Parking Lots at airports. This bus is a good example of multi-modal solutions and their unexpected possibilities. Imagine for example express buses going along I-40 between Durham and Cary and picking/dropping us off in parking lots/bus stations where shuttles would take us to various stops on Perimeter Park Dr, Alexander Dr, Airport Blvd, Davis Dr, Hwy 54, etc. Imagine also the location of both your express bus and your local shuttle being continuously transmitted to your cell phone. Sounds like a lot of extra time to relax or get on email because buses would of course, also have wireless connectivity ;-)

  • BG
    02/13 03:07 PM

    Anyone know who did the graphics?

  • Michele D
    02/13 04:33 PM

    This is great news!  Especially for weekend jaunts downtown!

  • Ellen
    02/13 04:59 PM

    For clarification, each bus does have one bike rack.

  • Adrian Hands
    02/13 05:12 PM

    thanks! great! one rack == front bumper mount, holds two bikes? i’d check myself, but i’m currently visiting calif. great to hear.

    way-finding improvements ay be also in the works?

  • Jonathan
    02/13 05:56 PM

    I read somewhere (can’t recall where, may have been an older N&O article) that by the summer they are going to have electronic signs at each stop displaying when the next bus will arrive.

  • Ellen
    02/13 06:47 PM

    The racks hold two bikes and are located at the front of the bus.

    In terms of way-finding, the foundation is underway and should be implemented in the next few months; however, this is not specific to the R-LINEā€”it is for dowtnown in general.

    For the R-LINE, there is signage at each stop.

    If you are interested in an interactive map with all of the stops and nearby amenities, visit

  • Betsy
    02/13 11:58 PM

    Well!  For a Friday the 13th, this is certainly an auspicious day for Raleigh.  I just got off the R bus, and I must say that everyone who’s ANYONE is riding it tonight. 

    My experience with it was great.  I had about a six-minute wait at the stop where I got on (South Glenwood), which was just enough time for me to phone up the Raleigh PD about the black SUV parked in the bus zone.

  • arthurb3
    02/14 03:47 PM

    It was great! It was a nice tour as we took the entire route to sight see then got off at The Borough!

  • corey3rd
    02/14 04:07 PM

    I wish they’d just put conveyor belts on the downtown sidewalks like they do at real airports. Let’s bring the Jetsons to Raleigh.

  • lilpistolstarta
    02/15 09:57 AM

    It was great riding last night….I really hope this leads to a light rail or tram system in the future.

  • Jenn
    02/16 01:34 AM

    Nice to see it around this weekend!

    Unfortunate there are no stops near Founder’s Row and Palladium Plaza.  I would probably use it if it were a little closer to where I live…  Not big on standing on a dark corner waiting on a bus and having bums ask me for change.  Or having to walk too far late at night.

    Hopefully they will consider resident safety and change up some of the stops to be closer to the condos near City Market.  It’s a start, but still not sure how the city forgot about some of the original downtown condos…

  • RaleighRob
    02/16 09:23 AM

    Jenn-  Actually, there is a stop near Founders Row & Palladium…only a block away at the Progress Energy tower on Wilmington at Davie.  That’s not far, really.  (Plus at night there’s the extended route which takes a stop on East Martin Street in front of City Market…that’s also only a block from those condos.) 

    With all the condos going up in downtown, I don’t see how they could possibly have a stop right at all of them.  It’s impossible. Having some one or two blocks away isn’t that bad…afterall, most people live in downtown for the very reason that it’s more pedestrian-based.  (I myself have to walk almost 4 blocks from my downtown apartment to the nearest R Line stop…but I’m totally cool with that—it’s still better than none.)

  • Adrian Hands
    02/16 11:57 AM

    ...and Raleigh Pedicabs can complete the journey.

  • RaleighRob
    02/16 01:59 PM

    ^So True!  :-)

  • Jenn
    02/17 12:52 AM

    Thanks gentlemen,  I am familiar with the current stops.  Not sure how many people in Raleigh are aware of our crime rates, but they have been increasing. For single residents, it would be nice to have a stop that was closer by or somewhere that was more secure.  With the new addition of Palladium Plaza there are a lot of residents around Davie, Blount and Person Streets.  Convenience and local residential usage on a regular basis will increase the likelihood of success of the R-Line…Not a bunch of weekend yahoos riding it every 6 weeks when they come in from Knightdale. 

    And the stop on East Martin, across from the Salvation Army, does not entice me to ride it after a night on the town…Why did they choose Martin?  And not Davie, like they did on the other side of Fayetteville Street?  Makes more sense to me to spread it out and bring it down Davie for the evening route.

  • PTB
    02/17 10:34 PM

    I agree with Jenn. No commercial on Martin and Davie seems more logical.  They block Martin for summer concerts and other City Market events.  Glad to see it in motion.  I hope they modify the route too!

  • Suzanne
    02/20 02:43 PM

    This is awesome! I’ve ridden it a few times and it’s clean and fairly efficient. I wish they would extend the late-night hours until 3 a.m., but otherwise, yay Raleigh!

  • peanut
    02/21 12:17 PM

    Interesting that the N&0 mentioned that many stops did not have proper shelters and were poorly lit.  I wonder if the city plans to change this (the route or spend money on Shelters) or wait for something to happen before they address it.

  • miamiblue
    02/21 01:09 PM

    peanut, from what I’ve seen, MOST of the bus stops in the entire CAT system do not have shelters and are poorly lit. Most don’t even have a bench! It is not something that is unique to the R-Line.

  • ddjango
    03/10 03:31 PM


    Hear! Hear!

    The money would have been better spent turning the existing cat system into a real public transportation company.

    It’s a ten minute walk from G’wood South to Fayetteville Street. I know that’s rough for some of you big spenders, having to wait that ten minutes for the circulator.

    On the cat lines, miss your bus by 5 seconds and you’ve got a one hour wait for the next one on freezing (winter) or blistering (summer) stop with no shelter.

    So frankly, I don’t have any empathy for you folks who want the circulator to get better, unless you agitate for improvements to the whole system (and I don’t mean light/hi-speed rail, either).

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