Paying for Public Transit

Another important step in creating a regional transportation system is passing legislation to fund and implement it. Early in the 2009-2010 session of the NC General Assembly, Wake County Representative Deborah Ross and Wake County Senator Richard Stevens joined with other key legislators to introduced HB 148 / S 151, the Congestion Relief/Intermodal Transport Fund. Among other things, this bill will significantly advance efforts to establish a regional public transportation system by: Giving authority to Wake, Durham, Orange, Guilford, Forsyth, and Mecklenburg Counties to levy a ½ cent sales tax for public transportation, by referendum. Food would be exempt from the sales tax (in addition to housing, medicine, and utilities which are already exempt).

The law requires the Board of Commissioners of each county and the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to approve a transit plan before the referendum. Giving authority to the Transit Authorities to levy an increase in the annual vehicle registration fee of up to $7, for use by the transit system. Giving authority to the Research Triangle Park to assess its tenants an additional property tax that would be dedicated to building/providing transit within RTP and between RTP and the RDU Airport. Creating the State Congestion Relief and Intermodal Transportation 21st Century Fund. Grants from this fund will be awarded to cities, counties or regional transportation authorities that have a transportation plan that: is approved by local MPOs; has local planning policies; has a housing needs assessment and plan for low-income and special needs citizens; and has a sustainable source of funding. HB 148 passed the NC General Assembly on August 10, 2009 and was signed into law by Governor Beverly Purdue on August 27, 2009 at a special ceremony in the state capital building.

This is a HUGE victory, bringing us one step closer to a robust, regional mass transit system of expanded bus service and rail that will help plan for growth, improve air quality, and increase jobs. Wake Co. Representatives Rosa Gill, Ty Harrell, Darren Jackson, Grier Martin, Deborah Ross, and Jennifer Weiss, and Senators Dan Blue, Neal Hunt, John Stein, and Richard Stevens all voted in favor of the bill.