Wake weighs transit plan as fewer people get behind wheel

Posted April 29, 2016

— 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.


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  • Jeff Gameo Apr 30, 2016
    user avatar

    I ride the GoRaleigh bus every day because it makes sense for me. But I will vote AGAINST any type of bond proposal because I see first-hand how poorly the current bus system is managed. Most of the drivers are pretty nice and on time, but the decisions made at the admin level make no sense and they never listen to suggestions or respond to questions. They are constantly moving routes and stops around just to stay busy. The bus stop signs on my route are a huge mess. Their website with schedules doesn't work on Android mobiles - instead I use the brochure pdfs. I would hate to be a new person in this neighborhood trying to figure out how to use the bus. Once someone was on the bus taking a customer survey and I thought great, this is my chance to let them know what I see. But she couldn't get her ipad to work so it was all a waste. Also, lots of money was spent for the special Fortify shuttle buses, but I never saw one person riding them. Another "great idea" all for naught.

  • Doug Smallen Apr 30, 2016
    user avatar

    Who in the private sector is leading this charge, that will tell us the story. Studies have proven it as not economically feasible, let this boondoggle die a silent death.

  • Shandy Scott Apr 30, 2016
    user avatar

    Here goes the Democrats that control the Commissioners Board and School Board raising our taxes again. Our real estate taxes in two years has increased by over 20%. They will be presenting a two billion dollar school bond this November that will increase it another 18% and promised future teacher raises over the next three years another 7%. Let's add these up. Total tax raise of 45%. Now they want to increase our sales tax rate for a completely wasted transit bond. Our state fuel tax is the eight highest in the country. Where is this money going? Light rail to where. RTP is to spread out. Downtown Raleigh is not the concentrated area like most large downtown's. Please voters stop these Democrats before they make us like any other Northeast over taxed and over spent city.

  • Bob Bucy Apr 29, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I'm sorry, but the number of largely empty public buses I see driving around the triangle doesn't convince me of that model being any more sustainable. And the last time light rail was pitched, it was hundreds of millions of dollars for a train system that didn't even go to the airport but made lots of money for politicians and their friends. So unless there is something way better on the table this time, I will be equally unimpressed by the "voting against your future" rhetoric, and will be voting against another boondoggle to take more taxes our of my pocket.

  • Russell Chapman Apr 29, 2016
    user avatar

    Why Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill don't have some sort of rail system already is beyond me. Nothing fancy. A few stops between all 3 areas: UNC, Duke, the Airport, perhaps PNC arena. Sit in the traffic on 40 and count the number of cars with 1 person in them. Its insane and unsustainable.

  • Matt Nickeson Apr 29, 2016
    user avatar

    "If you vote against this bill, you might very well be voting against your future,"

    Silly hyperbolic rhetoric like this makes me not want to support this regardless of the other arguments.

  • Craig Elliott Apr 29, 2016
    user avatar

    At what ridership level does this transit plan become self-sustaining? Or is it yet another under-utilized, over-subsidized pipe dream?