Wake commissioners consider outside advice on transit plan
Posted September 3, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Commissioners will talk Tuesday about ways to improve the county's transit system, including an option that would create an independent panel of experts to advise the board on the best path forward.
Tuesday's meeting is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
The ongoing debate about how best to serve the county's growing population has centered recently on whether or not to build a light rail system similar to what Charlotte offers its commuters.
Proponents of light rail say it could help Wake County roadways deal with huge growth expected in the next 10 to 20 years. Others have questioned a light rail's efficiency because of Wake County's "sprawled metropolitan area."
Wake Up Wake County, a transit advocacy group, says they have been waiting about two years for county commissioners to publicly discuss the issue.
"The current Wake County plan, the first phase is just bus and commuter rail," Karen Rindge said. "But the light rail is certainly the vision for the future."
Commission Chairman Joe Bryan said the board's goal is to address the issue this year. The possible creation on an independent transportation panel could help leaders make sure they're heading down the right track. Commissioner Paul Coble suggested the formation of the independent panel during the board's Aug. 19 meeting.
"This is making a decision for the long-term," Bryan said. "Let's make sure we get it right."
Rindge said the current draft plan, which includes a light-rail system stretching from Cary Parkway up Capital Boulevard into north Raleigh, needs to be reviewed fully.
"How much more money are we going to spend?" Rindge said. "How much more time are we going to spend? Triangle Transit looked at this and provided input, and they even hired local consultants to look at bus and rail needs."
Recently, the Regional Transportation Alliance, a group that serves as the business voice for transportation initiatives across the Triangle, took a position saying the current draft plan for Wake County is not the most effective or viable option.
"You have got to have a good plan to start with before you can go to the public and say, 'Are you willing to support it?'"
John Pucher, a professor in the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said in March that the county is not suited for a light rail system.