Regional transit plan goes to Triangle leaders

Posted May 21, 2008
Updated May 22, 2008

— A citizen advisory group making recommendations for a multibillion-dollar regional transit system for the Triangle presented its final report to area leaders and transportation officials Wednesday.

But it comes with mixed reactions from community members, some of whom question whether the plan is right for the area at this time.

The Special Transit Advisory Commission has spent a year developing the proposed combination of buses, rail systems and "circulators" that, it says, is needed to help meet the area's growing transportation needs and to help the region compete for new industry and better jobs.

Among its key recommendations:

  • An enhanced bus network throughout the Triangle that includes express service to and from Raleigh-Durham International Airport and rush-hour-only bus service to outlying communities.
  • Rail service stretching 56 miles from Chapel Hill to north Raleigh, utilizing diesel rail cars and Light Rail Transit.
  • "Circulators" – initially buses and possibly later, streetcars or trolleys – operating in downtown areas and combined with a system of park-and-ride lots.

Fifty percent of funding for the system would come from local governments and 25 percent each from the state and federal governments. The local portion would come from a proposed half-cent sales-tax increase and a $10 increase in vehicle registration fees.

"Eventually, the pain will be too great, and you'll have to do it," said Joe Milazzo, executive director of the Regional Transportation Alliance, a proponent of the plan and the sales-tax increase.

"What this plan is trying to do is give us a compass heading in a way to get ahead of the problem," he added. "Right now, it makes all the sense in the world to try to connect this region together."

Others, however, oppose the plan, saying, for example, that light rail transit is too costly to justify the projected ridership.

"We don't live in that world where resources grow on trees," said Max Borders, a policy analyst with the Civitas Institute of North Carolina, which opposes the plan. "We have to prioritize, and the priority now really ought to be roads and buses."

Some Wake County commissioners who opposed a previous $800 million commuter-rail system, backed by the Triangle Transit Authority, said they are open to learning more about this proposal and how it would benefit the area.

The TTA scrapped its plan for the previous regional rail after the federal government, in 2005, rejected funding for it.

STAC said its proposal is better because it covers a broader area than the TTA's plan did and also has sufficient local funding.

"There has to be a local component," STAC co-chairman George Cianciolo said. "The federal and state authorities want to see that the local people are committed and believe in it and aren't just looking for a free ride."

It is now up to local metropolitan planning organizations, made up of local government representatives and transportation authorities, to integrate the proposal into their long-term transportation plans.

They must go before the Legislature to get a referendum for any sales-tax increase to get on the ballot, most likely in 2010.

If that happens, the regional transit system could be in place by 2035, when the region's estimated population would be about 2.5 million people.

STAC's final report was not publicly available Wednesday but was expected to be posted on the committee's Web site Thursday.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • CapeFearRiver10 May 22, 2008

    Americans are so spoil... I love it & I hate it!

  • turnpike420 May 22, 2008

    bendal - you are quite firm in your stance... so much so one has to wonder why you are not open to other ideas. Please follow the contact link on the No Tolls on 540 website and I'd be glad to dialogue with you and try to understand why you feel "toll road or no road" is the only stance to have.

  • ohmygosh May 22, 2008

    By 2035 all of the RTP employers will be in China. There will be no need.

    Those who want to copy Europe ought to consider why so many people left "wonderful" Europe for the US. Part of it was wide open spaces. But I guess some like living like rats in a too small cage.

    Don't forget their value added tax either. Would you be willing to pay an extra 20% (compounded by each step the item takes getting to market) on everything?

  • john60 May 22, 2008

    Of course STAC considers roads to be part of transit; what do you think their expanded bus lines are going to run on, dirt paths?

    And all you "no toll on NC 540" people, you've got two choices; build the road sooner with tolls and decide if you'll drive on it or use I-40, or build it a decade or so later with gas tax funding. Raising license fees isn't going to get enough money, and the state gas tax would have to go up more than a "tiny bit" as your website claims, to pay for the estimated $800 million pricetag. It may not be "fair" that the lower, less used and less needed portion will need a toll, but it's reality.

  • turnpike420 May 22, 2008 wants you all to realize, if STAC gets their higher taxes and higher annual vehicle fees to raise money for rail and bus, you will ALSO have to pay tolls to drive parts of 540. While No Tolls on 540 supports STAC's idea for rail in the Triangle's future, we do NOT support it without a completed toll free I-540 loop.

    Why not have STAC's plan include helping us build the I-540 loop toll free? Well, STAC doesn't consider roads part of a transit system, yet roads are. Also, local transportation issues are not in communication with NC transportation decisions in the Legislature.

    Result?? If the NC Legislature approves toll roads AND STAC's plan is approved by the local CAMPO and DCHMPO, we are doomed to be screwed with a DOUBLE WHAMMY. Triangle residents will be stuck with HIGHER TAXES, HIGHER VEHICLE FEES AND TOLLS ... all at the same time.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning May 22, 2008

    colliedave, if you want to look at roads as making money that way, then sure they do; but then so does mass transit.

    I would like to see simple analysis of how much it cost per person mile traveled for different methods of transport. Maybe provide some standard speed of travel required. You should be able to complete a 10 mile commute in less than a half hour, but on the current bus system that is unlikely unless work and home are along the same bus route.

  • john60 May 22, 2008

    "Go back to the enviromentalist extremist choice of transportation: horse and buggy. Except for all the horse manure, it doesn't pollute. But with the high cost of horse food due to the ethanol scam, that isn't practical either."

    Uhhh, right, not practical. Horses produce more waste daily than a family of four. They also eat about 20-30 pounds of food daily. Where's that going to go in your suburban house?

    No, with the way gas prices are rising, no need to widen roads any more; what we've got will hold a LOT of mopeds and bicycles...

  • Tripwire May 22, 2008

    Yes Think about how it would be if every family now had three or four horses in their driveway instead of cars. Wow what an environment impact that would have whoo!
    Of course everyone in the County could sell all their homes(to who?) and move into Raleigh proper so they can take advantage of mass transit. But then Raleigh would soon turn into a crime ridden cesspool like NY and most of the other large cities. Instead of people moving close to their work why doesn't work move closer to where people live. Why does a company feel the need to be downtown? Any time that you put large masses of people into a small tight area you will have trouble.
    Light rail will only work if it's goal is to move people from the area where they live ie Garner, Fuquay, Apex, Holly Springs, to where they work for instance Raleigh and RTP. It has to be reliable, convienient and pleasant.

  • whatelseisnew May 22, 2008

    Please do not drag the global warming scam into this. The main problem with this proposal is that it will serve to few people to garner widespread support. That is the main and fatal flaw. So for you global warming alarmists; this plan will just contribute more pollution. It will get very few people out of their cars. You will end up with a money-sucking transit system along with clogged highways. Here is why I would not use it. It would require me to drive to the nearest place to get on a bus. Then I would have to switch to the rail; then back to another bus to get to my work destination. So now I will still have my car expense, an additional cost to ride the transit system + the add on taxes to fully pay for the cost of the transit sstem, and a much longer commute time. If they had a better plan, I would be more inclined to support it.

  • colliedave May 21, 2008

    We just have to find a way to move all the people around.

    Go back to the enviromentalist extremist choice of transportation: horse and buggy. Except for all the horse manure, it doesn't pollute. But with the high cost of horse food due to the ethanol scam, that isn't practical either.