Wake weighs transit plan as fewer people get behind wheel
Posted April 29
Raleigh, N.C. — Millennials are driving less than previous generations, which area officials say needs to be considered in planning for future transportation needs in the Triangle.
The percentage of people ages 16 to 44 in the U.S. with a driver's license has fallen steadily for three decades, according to a study by the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan. For example, 91.8 percent of those age 20 to 24 had driver's licenses in 1983, but that had fallen to 76.7 percent by 2014.
"Across the United States, we are seeing a change in behavior," said Sam Schwartz, a former New York City traffic commissioner. "If that continues, it really changes the whole nature of how we get about and where we live and how we live."
Schwartz spoke to business leaders Friday morning at the Regional Transportation Alliance's annual breakfast, telling them to plan for a future with fewer cars.
Union Station, a multi-modal transit hub, is under construction in downtown Raleigh, and Wake County voters could soon play a role in shaping the future of regional transit.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners is expected to consider a transit plan in June that would include an expanded bus system, including rapid transit lanes, and commuter rail. Commissioners might put a half-cent sales sales tax on the November ballot to help pay for the plan.
Business leaders at the Friday meeting said they support more transit options for the region.
"I think it's pretty clear there's strong political support and from elected leaders for this plan," said Steve Brechbiel, community relations director for Durham-based drug development firm Quintiles Inc. "We're all very hopeful we'll see this on the November ballot and we'll see a positive result."
Schwartz said good transit options will help attract younger people to Wake County.
"If you vote against this bill, you might very well be voting against your future," he said.
"Cities that don't get in front of growth with a robust transit plan eventually lose the momentum they have going," Brechbiel said.