Regional transit great for some, no help for others

Posted October 2, 2008

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— Catching up on a good book or with an old friend, or even on some much-needed sleep – passengers say these are just some of the personal benefits of mass transit.

"Then, when you get to the office, you're refreshed, ready to go without having to fight the frustration of the drive in every morning," says Scott Poole, who uses the bus every day to get from his Wake Forest home to downtown Raleigh.

In fact, most riders who regularly take the route say they save a significant amount in gasoline costs.

"I can put $25 in my gas tank, and it can last two weeks," says passenger Sharell Macklin. "A lot of people can't say that."

High gas prices and congested roads are pushing thousands of people like Poole and Macklin from behind the driver's wheel and into the passenger seats of buses and shuttles.

For example, the Triangle Transit, formerly the Triangle Transit Authority, says ridership from April through August was up 29 percent from the same period last year.

And in June, monthly ridership hit an all-time high with more than 97,700 people taking either form of mass transportation – a 30.2 increase compared with figures from the same time a year ago.

But taking the bus isn't for everybody. Some say it is inconvenient and too time-consuming.

Every morning, Warren Rocque drives for about 25 minutes from his home in North Raleigh to Research Triangle Park.

According to Triangle Transit's online "Trip Planner," if he were to ride the bus, he'd be on for 81 stops – or more than two hours – before he gets to his stop. He'd then have to walk more than a mile to get to his office.

"That's unacceptable," Rocque says.

Triangle Transit general manager David King admits bus service is not for everyone, but says the long-term plan is to add more routes and offer more express buses.

"Everybody's situation is different," he said. "With the best bus service we could possibly provide, we probably wouldn't be able to carry 12 or 15 percent of the total commuters in the region."

Triangle leaders are considering a multibillion-dollar plan that would include rail systems and "circulators" to help meet the area's growing transportation needs.

The Special Transit Advisory Group, a 38-member citizen advisory group, spent a year developing the plan, which could be in place as early as 2035, when an estimated 1 million people are expected to have moved into the area.

In addition to an enhanced bus network throughout the Triangle, the plan includes rail service from Chapel Hill to north Raleigh utilizing diesel rail cars and Light Rail Transit that would provide transportation alternatives in some of the most congested corridors of the Triangle.

To fund the plan, Wake, Durham and Orange county voters would likely see a tax referendum for a half-cent sales-tax increase and a $10 increase in vehicle registration fees.

Fifty percent of funding for the system would come from local governments, and 25 percent each from the state and federal governments.


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  • FromClayton Oct 3, 2008

    It takes me between 20-45 minutes (depends on traffic) to drive to work. If the train system could get me here in 30 minutes, picked me up close to my house in Clayton and dropped me off close to my work at NCSU, and cost $2 or no more than $4 a day I would take it every day... maybe some saturdays for shopping too.

    I feel this is the only thing holding us back from being a major city or tourist town. Spend the money! we will get it back 3 fold.

  • kcfoxie Oct 3, 2008

    I put $60 in my car every 2 weeks, or 600 miles ... whichever comes first.

    It takes me about 35 mins to drive to work at 55mph down I-540 in morning traffic, add 10 mins if I have to actually slowdown for the leesville crawl.

    I want to get to work in LESS than a half hour (by work I mean, RTP's train stop) with a rail system. I shouldn't need to wait longer than 10 minutes for a bus to then take me to my final destination.

    Portland, Oregon should be our model. NOT DC!

    And, given I spend $120 a month on average in fuel.... the pricing would need to be right.

    No, not a hybrid that I drive... just a diesel vw.

  • Iworkforaliving Oct 3, 2008

    "early as 2035" glad I'm retiring around age 62
    whomever is in charge of planning needs to get his fece s together!

  • atc2 Oct 3, 2008

    A "Real" Light Rail system is the ONLY answer and I will ride a system once implemented. I would rather walk than take a bus in the Triangle (routes are not convenient and bus stops are awful, bus stops should not stop traffic).

  • Anne71 Oct 3, 2008

    I used to take the bus when I leived in PA. I had to walk a couple of blocks catch one bus downtown and the transefer to another to get to my job. Time used probably 1 1/2 hours. If I drove between about 1/2 hour. With one car and for a while no car it worked. I would take the bus more frequently to my job here, but to get to the bus I walk to the corner on New Hope Rd (10 min from my home) take one bus, walk about a mile, cross Capital Blvd early in the morning (an adventure in survial) then catch the bus to work. Or I have a family member drive me to Capital Blvd, about 2 mile savings there. The bus that picks me up on the 1st leg only goes one way over New Hope towards the WalMart on New Bern. It does not come back in the opposite direction. With one car and 2 people working in opposite directions the bus would be easier to take if the routes were a bit easier.

  • FoolOnTheHill Oct 2, 2008

    We have to remember that the battery area of NYC is only about 4 sq miles. That is the center of NYC's subway system. How many stops are in that area? Lots! Downtown Raleigh Wakefield is way bigger that the battery area. Downtown Raleigh area is about what, 3 sq miles? We just don't have the density nor the central population centers. Maybe we could come up with new light-rail lines that run from the real commuter routes, but the current plans brought forth use existing rail lines and that is not going to solve the problem.

  • Rolling Along Oct 2, 2008

    whatelseisnew...when are cars going to start paying for the full cost of funding roadways...not to mention the excessive cost to society caused by the over 6 million crashes to the tune of over $230 billion and the 42,000+ people killed?

  • d1_standing Oct 2, 2008

    The unfortunate reality is that the triangle lacks a "stand alone" city. It would be tooooo costly and not practical to include Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill in plans for a light rail. This area is far too surburban. When will Raleigh learn that light rails belong in urban core areas.

  • jr1brown Oct 2, 2008

    The people on the Triangle Transit, formerly the Triangle Transit Authority are not really doing anything but trying to keep their jobs for as long as they can. Their plan was shot down not too long ago but they keep coming back. There were family-owned businesses that were forced to relocate because of a 'planned' rail line. They are just leaches hanging on to get paid.

  • Mr.Tambourine Man Oct 2, 2008

    Remember when the first phase of the light rail system was supposed to be in place by 2012-2013? Ha!