Investment for mass transit needed now, group says

Posted December 9, 2008
Updated December 10, 2008

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— The Regional Transportation Alliance, at its annual meeting Tuesday, supported a vision for mass transit in the Triangle that would include commuter rail and more buses.

The organization, which focuses on ways to relieve traffic congestion in an effort to promote strong business in the area, also believes there should be an investment in road projects to help ease congestion and the problems that go along with it.

The group is focusing its efforts on finishing the new stretch of N.C. Highway 540 from Morrisville to Holly Springs and widening a section of Interstate 40 between Raleigh and Cary.

It also wants improved air service at Raleigh-Durham International Airport and more flights to more destinations.

With projections of an additional 1 million people moving to the Triangle in the next 20 years, advocates say congestion in the area is expected to get much worse and could become like to that of major cities like Atlanta.

"Those investments certainly have a cost, but there's also a cost of doing nothing," said RTA's executive director, Joe Milazzo. "If we choose to do nothing at all, we know what's going to happen: more congestion, lack of options – it's going to make us less competitive, overall."

Wake County Commissioner Joe Bryan, however, says he would like to see a more defined plan and an improving economy. The state Department of Transportation estimates a $1 billion budget shortfall over the next three years because of the slowing economy.

"There's a lot of work to be done, versus just cheerleading at this point in time," Bryan said. "Is the timing right for an additional investment, an additional tax, an additional fee? I doubt that's the case, personally."

A regional transit plan, which could be in place by 2035, is under consideration by local leaders and includes an enhanced bus network throughout the Triangle. Part of that is express service to and from Raleigh-Durham International Airport and rush-hour-only bus service to outlying communities.

Another recommendation is "circulators" – initially buses and possibly later on streetcars or trolleys – in downtown areas with a system of park-and-ride lots.

Rail service from Chapel Hill to north Raleigh utilizing diesel rail cars and Light Rail Transit would provide transportation alternatives in some of the most congested corridors of the Triangle.

Fifty percent of funding for a regional 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.

"You've got to anticipate it," Milazzo said. "We see the population coming. Those investments need to occur."


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  • 5Rs Dec 10, 2008

    We better get behind mass transit. Once the Dimocrats take over entirely in the Fed as well as state, we won't have enough money left to drive anywhere.

  • Tidbit Dec 10, 2008

    Pat McCrory should have been govenor

  • Tidbit Dec 10, 2008

    Here's the deal - how does a light rail work for Raleigh? You going to have the rail go all the way to johnston county? out past holly springs and also out through durham? Because the majority of our conjestion comes from where the people commuting from these cities to work in Raleigh, meet up with the people who live in Raleigh and drive to work.

    A light rail system only benefits Raleigh and still leaves the congestion of those commuting from outside of Raleigh.

  • Tidbit Dec 10, 2008

    ...get rid of Meeker and we might have a chance.

    That's the most common sense thing I've seen on this blog yet

  • Tidbit Dec 10, 2008

    Light Rail is not the answer for Raleigh - at least not the way they have been proposing it - like the stupidity of it not even going to the airport.

    I'm all behind mass transit. But I'm not behind stupidity and wastefullness just to get something done. That's not the answer.

    Charlotte did light rail... yet it's ridership is till less than 3%. That doesn't cover the cost of even keeping it maintained.

    The best thing that could happen to raleigh are better busses, and HOV lanes with substations in the suburban areas where people can "park n ride". Leave your car in a gated parking lot and take the busses.

    Houston did this and it's fantastic. NOTHING could help Houston's conjestion because they did too little too late.

    It's not to late for Raleigh.

    The problem is Raleigh is too sprawled out. Most of the conjestion comes from commuters outside of raleigh - Benson, Holly sprins, etc....

  • jeffthompson Dec 10, 2008

    I haven't lived in Raleigh in years...and have heard nothing but bad things about Meeker.

    Thank GOD...Charlotte has a great Mayor that is 100% behind Light Rail...and 100% in helping the City of Charlotte grow.

    Charlotte gets the bad end of the stick when it comes to Roadways. I-485 in South Charlotte is the busiest interstate in a NC city with between 160,000 - 180,000 cars per day and it is only 2 lanes in each direction...It is dead stop between 4pm - 730pm Mon-Fri for at least 7 miles or they can build a Bypass around Fayetteville that will handle 9,000 cars per day...but Fayettevilee is in Eastern NC.

    Meeker makees me not want to move back to Raleigh...he should take lessons from Pat McCrory. :)

  • jmh531 Dec 10, 2008

    I think we are too spread out for a light rail system. For people to really want to ride, it would have to drop off right at their work, which would mean many stops throughout RTP. And what about all the errands and lunches people would have to give up. I think that people like to support the idea to seem progressive or environmental friendly, but when push comes to shove and the newness wears off, we will all be back in our cars parked along I40! Put the money into roads!

  • manofjustice Dec 10, 2008

    Come on Raleigh...get with the program! :)

    Raleigh will always be behind Charlotte. Charlotte is a visionary city. Raleigh needs visionaries...get rid of Meeker and we might have a chance.

  • yellow_hat Dec 10, 2008

    If this is such a great idea, then it should be easy to raise venture capital and build as a priviate enterprise. I am sure the owners could make a mint!

    Boy, it is really hard to say that with a straight face. Mass transportation does not work in an area like RTP. I suggest we MANAGE (i.e. limit) our growth instead of sinking money down this pit.

  • jeffthompson Dec 10, 2008

    Raleigh should take note of the most progressive city in NC...Charlotte. Charlotte's Light Rail opened Nov 24, 2007. Charlotte's already planning their 2nd & 3rd lines (with 4-5 lines planned). It will take years and millions of dollars but it will help. They forcasted 8,000 people per day to ride Charlotte's Lynx 1st Line (South) has averaged 16,000 per day...double their expectation.

    I am from Raleigh...but it seems like Charlotte is ahead of Raleigh in many aspects. Charlotte has already had the extra sales tax and already has an additional $30 Vehicle fee on ALL cars registered in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

    Come on Raleigh...get with the program! :)