If you live or work in downtown Raleigh, you are familiar with and may be reliant on the R-LINE, the free, hybrid-electric, circulator bus service. When we're promoting downtown as a destination for leisure and meeting/convention visitors, we often include mention of the R-LINE, which makes getting around easy and free.

You might have heard that there are changes coming to the R-LINE in 2020. We asked Morgan Simmons, senior transit planner with the City of Raleigh, to provide an update for hospitality industry partners.


In 2019, the City of Raleigh implemented close to $13 million dollars in new GoRaleigh bus services. This investment included new service in northwest and southeast Raleigh in Jan. 2019 and the addition of three new routes in Oct. 2019, serving Garner, Knightdale and Rolesville. These three municipalities previously had either limited transit services or none. Funding is provided through a ½-cent sales tax passed by Wake County voters in 2016.  

In addition, transit staff has also been studying the downtown R-LINE service. Over the last 12 months, staff assessed improvement opportunities for the downtown circulator, Raleigh’s free bus service to connect employees, residents and visitors to locations of interest in the central business district. Initiated in 2010, the circulator has experienced years of declining ridership, a growing and changing downtown landscape and more competitive demand-response alternatives (such as Uber, Lyft, scooters etc.). 

As a result, the Raleigh Transit Authority (RTA) and the city’s Department of Transportation-Transit staff initiated a re-visioning process to assess the R-LINE route. This process included an eight-month assessment with a public stakeholder group, which included representatives from various organizations and agencies inside and outside of downtown. Recommendations from these stakeholders were later brought to the RTA,  which yielded a final recommendation—a new bidirectional route. 

The proposed route would continue to serve current, high-ridership generators within the downtown area but, unlike the current circular route, the new route would provide bidirectional service within the Glenwood South district and the Salisbury, Fayetteville and Wilmington St. areas.

While the current route serves Glenwood Ave., the R-LINE is often stuck in traffic, delaying service. The decision was made to move one block east and use West St. to offer a more competitive trip time. This also allows the new route to serve the proposed Publix grocery store at Smoky Hollow. The new route is anticipated to improve reliability, decrease wait time and improve overall ridership experience while maintaining its free fare. 

From Nov. 11 to Dec. 12, 2019, staff collected public comments, hosted public meetings, made presentations at local organizations and posted an online survey to collect comments. At the end of that period, 340 comments were collected, with 44.7% of respondents in favor of the proposed route, 33.8% in favor of the current route, 21.5% neutral to either route option. A public hearing was held on Dec. 12, 2019, with one member of the public speaking in favor of the proposed route. 

Next Steps: On Feb. 13, 2020, the RTA will vote on the proposed route. If approved, staff will begin the route implementation process, which includes, but is not limited to, identifying new stop locations, schedule development and initiating public education. The proposed route could be implemented as early as Summer 2020. 

For more information, visit goraleigh.org or interact with RTA staff on social media (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook).

Photo by Brian Strickland