Local News

Demand for Transportation Grows, Money Runs Low

Posted July 12, 2007 11:46 p.m. EDT

— Many people in Wake County depend on bus service to get around. But one program has to turn people away.

It all comes down to the county's growth and not enough money to keep up with it.

A van comes to Rose Buscemi’s Garner home, picks her up and drops her off at her job. That’s how she gets to work everyday. It's a county program she has grown to depend on, like so many others.

“Before the TRACS program, I was paying $95 a week to go to work,” Buscemi said. “Now with TRACS, I pay $20 a week.”

TRACS stands for transportation and rural access. It's a door-to-door van service for anyone who lives in rural Wake County. But as the county continues to grow, more and more people who need a ride are being denied.

The number of people needing service has doubled in the past year, but the program’s grant money has not.

“We get $140,000 from the department of transportation,” said Don Willis, Human Services Transportation director. “We’ve been stuck at that number for a couple years now.”

Transportation leaders said they have to turn away about 25 percent of the people who call.

“We would like to be able to do more than we can,” Willis said. “We would like to be able to offer more services.”

In the past, they’ve asked local mayors for help.

“We have funded them in the budget for the past three years,” said Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams.

But that's still not enough to meet the demand. Buscemi said she has been denied trips in the past. But for the most part, she has been lucky and just wants everyone to have the same mobility as she does.

“I just want it to continue to grow as much as possible,” she said. “I think it’s a great program.”

TRACS costs either $2 or $4 per trip, depending on the location. But transportation leaders say the small fees only cover about 10 percent of total operating costs. They are in the process of applying for a $90,000 supplemental grant to help fund the program.