Public Transit Plans for the Triangle
Following local approval of a Triangle regional vision for expanded and improved bus and rail service and completion of an “alternatives analysis” review of transit routes, Wake, Durham and Orange Counties each developed county plans. Wake County worked with Triangle Transit and local Wake municipalities to develop a proposal for expanding and improving public transit in Wake that also connects regionally to Durham and Orange Counties. This proposal was presented to the Wake Board of Commissioners in November 2011, but has not been acted upon because of the refusal of the Board leadership to allow a formal review of the plan. In 2014, the County along with Triangle Transit, CAMPO, and Raleigh and Cary’s bus systems are expected to take a fresh look at the plan and update it. Hopefully the proposal will eventually be approved by the County Commission, then placed on the ballot for voter approval. Earliest likely date for a referendum would be October 2015.
Durham and Orange County leaders and voters have already taken decisive action to advance bus and rail transit in their counties. In 2011, Durham voters approved a half-cent sales tax ballot, followed by Orange County approval in 2012. Meanwhile, Wake has taken no action, and is perhaps being left behind.
What’s in the Wake Draft Transit Plan?
The Wake County Transit Plan proposed in 2011 would be implemented over two phases. Phase I could be paid for entirely with a local ½ sales tax and increased vehicle registration fee. Phase II would require federal and state funding as well:
Phase I: Core Transit Plan (paid for with a half cent sales tax, vehicle registration fee and existing taxes)
Expand and Improve Bus Service
- Doubling of bus service to 322,000 hours annually
- Implemented first 2-5 years
- Expand bus routes and increase frequency of buses to 15 minutes during peak hours
- Add bus shelters and benches
- Connect all Wake municipalities to Raleigh, job centers, universities, airport
- Costs approximately $138.3 million – to be paid for with local ½ sales tax and vehicle registration fee
Commuter Rail Service
- Provides rush-hour rail between Durham-RTP-Cary-Raleigh-Garner-Greenfield Pkwy.
- Trains to run every 30 min. during peak hours and every 60 min. off-peak
- 12 stations, with 9 stations in Wake County, some with park and ride lots
- Implemented by 2019 or 2020
- Costs approximately $330 million – to be paid for with local ½ sales tax and vehicle registration fee
Phase II: Enhanced Transit Plan (paid for with new additional funding, including federal funds – should they be approved by the Federal Transit Administration)
Light Rail Service
- Electric trains on new track
- Runs 13.9 miles from downtown Cary, through downtown Raleigh, and up to Millbrook Rd.; eventually expanding to NW Cary/Morrisville and up to Triangle Town Center
- Trains every 10 min. during peak and 20 min. off-peak
- 16 stations, with some over-lapping with commuter rail stations
- Coordinates with local bus service
- Links neighborhoods to provide intra-city travel and new transit-oriented development
- Implemented by 2022
- Costs $1.1 billion for construction, $14 million for operation
- Requires federal and state funding as well as local revenue.
Paying for the Plan
In order for these advances to go into effect, multiple revenue sources must be acquired. The Core Plan can be funded locally, but the Enhanced Plan depends on additional new funding, such as state and federal funding. Public Private Partnerships might be another option. The local funds will be drawn from two sources. The first is a half-cent sales tax referendum that county officials must agree to put on the ballot, and voters must to vote for the referendum to be enacted. This half-cent sales tax would generate at least $69 million (for 2015) and is projected to grow by 4% annually. In addition, the plan will be supplemented by a $10 increase in vehicle registration fees.
Next Steps for the Plan
Wake County staff and Triangle Transit will continue to work with the municipalities in order to agree upon established parameters for a plan. The County Commissioners must hold a public hearing on a plan proposal, vote to approve a plan, and then vote to put a half-cent sales tax referendum on the ballot for citizens to vote on. In order for these elected officials to put the referendum on the ballot, they need to know that the public supports the plan. Let your local Wake County Commissioners, mayors and city councilors know that transit is important to Wake County!