Local News

Raleigh Seeks Options to Fund Buses, Transit

City officials are looking at the possibility of a half-cent local sales tax to help fund mass transit.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — City officials are looking at the possibility of using a half-cent local sales tax to help fund mass transit.

The General Assembly would have to give the authority for a local sales tax, but the option is among several ideas an advisory group is considering to pay for future transit issues that are expected to cost billions of dollars.

"Charlotte has a local sales tax option that they have used to fund transit in buses," City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said. "We are looking at Charlotte's success and trying to implement some of that."

The City Council two weeks ago approved a list of federal funding requests that officials plan to present to North Carolina's congressional delegation. Top on the list are $18.8 million for an operations and maintenance facility for Capital Area Transit and $7.5 million to buy 22 new CAT buses.

Raleigh's transportation operations manager, Mike Kennon, said CAT needs to replace about a third of its buses.

"We have a fleet of 85 buses, (and) approximately 28 of those have reached their useful life," Kennon said.

Federal funding for local transit projects has been scarce in recent years, however.

"All of the moderate-sized cities across the nation count on this funding for their transit vehicles," Kennon said. "(Funding cuts are) certainly disappointing."

A local sales tax isn't considered an immediate fix to get new buses, but Baldwin and others said it could be a solution as the city transit system grows.

"We need to invest more local money in bus service," Baldwin said.

Bus rider Tyrone Foster agrees that the system needs an upgrade.

"They need to get some new buses," Foster said.