Chapel Hill, NC’s Everywhere to Everywhere Greenways

  • Author: Laurel Schwartz
  • Date: March 12, 2024

While this college town is home to America’s first public university, the percent of people living below the poverty line is almost 50% higher than the national average. To build equity and improve quality of life, the town is launching an ambitious plan, funded in part by a $1 million Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant.

In 1988, Chapel Hill partnered with neighbors to create an Urban Growth Boundary, with the goal of preventing suburban sprawl. While land has successfully been protected, inexpensive housing continues to be pushed to the region’s peripheries. Today, Chapel Hill boasts recreational greenways and its public transit system has had a fare-free fixed route bus system for a generation. But these systems networks are fractured by roads that prioritize private vehicles.

As the town’s housing demand outpaces supply, lower-income residents, often students and members of historically disadvantaged populations, have been forced to live farther from the existing public transit infrastructure. Chapel Hill’s Everywhere to Everywhere Greenways (E2E) strives to create 25 miles of connected transportation greenways, which will put 60% of Chapel Hill’s residents within ¼ mile of the active transportation network.

Environmental Impact

Like many American communities, Chapel Hill has prioritized decreasing its pedestrian injuries and fatalities. In 2021, the town implemented a Vision Zero plan, with the goal of having no traffic deaths by 2031. The majority of the town’s pedestrian crashes on roads on or parallel to proposed E2E corridors.

“We know mistakes are going to happen,” Chapel Hill Complete Streets Specialist Ian Baltutis told The Local Reporter, a Chapel Hill non-profit newspaper, “but we can reduce the likelihood they result in injury or death.”

By 2025, Chapel Hill wants 35% of all trips to be done by walking, biking, or public transit. It’s estimated that the E2E Greenways will reduce vehicle miles traveled by 48,229 miles each day, eliminating 22,000 daily individual trips. The project is anticipated to eliminate 5,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.


E2E’s RAISE Grant covers a comprehensive feasibility study, which is designed to present the community with options for how to fund shovel-ready projects. Because North Carolina doesn’t allocate state transit funding for standalone bicycle and pedestrian projects, planners have previously had difficulty justifying federally funded feasibility studies.

Chapel Hill is matching their RAISE Grant with $300,000, funded with proceeds from a 2015 municipal bond. In 2020, the town invested $500,000 in a “Complete Community Framework”, a strategy developed by private planning and design firms, with community input. The E2E plan was a central product of this work. The feasibility study will explore different future funding sources, including potential bond measures.

Importance of Partnerships

While UNC is the largest employer in the region, much of the area’s community spans Chapel Hill and Carrboro, west of Chapel Hill. Partnerships between these stakeholders has been critical for effective transit and mobility development. “I think without that partnership, it would’ve been really hard to go down not only the road of being fare-free, but also to go down the road of providing the services that we provide today,” Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield told news site

In addition to working with governments and UNC, the team is collaborating with the business community, including the local chamber of commerce and downtown partnership.

As the E2E project progresses, the team is committed to seeking diverse voices. “While there is general community consensus about the benefits of and desire to have greenways in Chapel Hill, the loudest and most frequent voices present in the outreach that has given us that consensus generally come from a certain type of resident,” the team wrote in their RAISE application.

To ensure that historically underrepresented populations continue to be involved throughout the planning process, the team will continue partnering with the interfaith councils, neighborhood associations, and refugee support organizations.


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