New Pittsboro-Chapel Hill bus saves commuters big bucks

August 31, 2009

Chapel Hill commuters who live in the Pittsboro area just got the equivalent of a hefty raise, if they take advantage of the new weekday express bus between the Chatham County seat and Chapel Hill. Bus commuters will significantly decrease their monthly transportation costs (putting more money in their pockets) while also reducing their carbon footprint and maybe even their waistlines if they decide to walk or bike to the bus stop, as I’m doing.

It’s free to UNC employees (and very reasonable for all), can be picked up at the County Courthouse in downtown Pittsboro, at the free park-and-ride lot in front of Lowe’s building supply at US 15-50l at US 64 Bypass just north of town, and at Fearrington Village.

UNC employees can get a free yearly pass at the UNC Public Safety Office on Manning Drive. Non-UNC employees can get a monthly pass for $65 in Pittsboro at Piggly Wiggly or Town Hall, and in Chapel Hill at Town Hall. Daily fare is $3 each way, exact change.

It’s a smooth ride that takes 40 minutes to get to the UNC hospital area and about 45 minutes all the way to the Student Union. The best part is leaving the stress to “our driver” when we get to the bumper-to-bumper traffic at the county line, while we sit back and read, talk, text, or listen to NPR on our headphones.

I calculated my direct out-of-pocket savings at about $1500/year (gas and parking alone). If you throw in lower auto insurance rates for commutes under 10 miles, and savings on wear-and-tear on the car (tires, oil changes, etc.), it’s about $5,000 a year total savings. (Even if I had to pay the bus fare, I’d still save about $4,000 a year.) And that’s for a gas-efficient sub compact. If you have a guzzler, you’ll save lots more. And when gas prices go up again, you’ll save even more by riding the bus.

Here’s a link to a calculator to help you figure your car commuting costs and how much you can save by leaving the car at home:
http://www.commuterpage.com/Userweb/CostCommuting/CostCommuting.htm

And here’s a link to the Pittsboro Express schedule.
http://www.townofchapelhill.org/index.aspx?page=1220

This is a pilot project supported by an extraordinary public-private coalition including federal, state, Chatham county and Pittsboro governments, Chapel Hill Transit, UNC, and the Lowes shopping center.

— Dee Reid

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UNC researchers decode HIV genome

August 6, 2009

The structure of an entire HIV genome has been decoded for the first time thanks to a UNC research team led by chemist Kevin Weeks in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. The results have widespread implications for understanding the strategies that viruses, like the one that causes AIDS, use to infect humans. The study, reported in a cover story in the Aug. 6, 2009 issue of the journal Nature, also opens the door for further research which could accelerate the development of antiviral drugs. Read the rest of the story.