Transportation: Challenges and a New Vision for Wake County
Transportation is about mobility, but so much more. Efficient transportation is critical to economic development, creating access to jobs and leisure, and ensuring freedom for people without cars or who cannot drive. If transportation options are well coordinated with smart land use planning, development can be guided to spur economic development and create vibrant, walkable neighborhoods. North Carolina’s 20th century development patterns created an auto dependent culture with little access to public transit, sidewalks or bike trails. Future growth and changing values challenge this transportation model. Wake County is one of the fastest growing metro regions in the US, and North Carolina will add more than two million new residents by 2035. Most of our major roads in Wake County will be at or beyond capacity soon. We need more options.
Triangle residents drive more miles per day than the average American and travel times are due to more than double by 2035 (from 2005 levels, CAMPO). Air quality and public health suffer as cars stay on the roads longer distances, and communities lack alternative choices like biking, walking and using transit. Road design and high speed traffic have created conditions unsafe for pedestrians, and deaths are increasing. Moreover, the lack of efficient transit in Wake County means we are at a disadvantage when competing with other metro regions, because most of them have significantly better transit systems of bus and rail. Unfortunately, state transportation funding policy puts funding for transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects at a huge disadvantage, with the vast majority of transportation dollars going to fund highways.
Regional leaders and planners have acknowledged the need for a comprehensive transportation plan that plans for Wake’s future and includes transit. See the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization for more information. What’s more, demographic changes of more Millennials, immigrants, and seniors moving to Wake means an increasing desire for more transportation choices that allow people to move around without cars. North Carolina has adopted a “Complete Streets” policy for future road projects, which aims for road designs that promote access for multiple transportation modes, including bike-ped and transit as well as cars; however, many towns have not implemented this people-centered road design approach yet.
“North Carolina is heading toward a transportation cliff with declining sustainability, growing population, aging roads and bridges and well-documented transportation needs.”
– NC Chamber of Commerce
“My name is Fredy Diaz and I’m a student at Wake Tech. I have class every weekday, and to get to campus I walk and take two buses from my home in Cary to the college in Fuquay-Varina. I have to get up 3 hours early so I am not late to my class. Also, I can’t take classes that end after 5pm because the buses that go to Cary from Moore Square stop running. The challenge I have with taking the bus is that it takes me two hours each way to travel to school in the morning and home at night, which would normally take just 30 minutes driving. I don’t own a car so I must use the bus.”