Commission Unveils Draft Plan for Regional Transit System

Getting around the Triangle without a car could save you time and money. That's the message from a transportation advisory committee that unveiled a regional transit plan Friday.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The 29-member Special Transit Advisory Commission on Friday unveiled its draft plan for a multibillion-dollar regional transit system that would involve commuter rail, buses and 55 miles of asphalt.
Connecting Chapel Hill to Durham would be a light rail.

A diesel rail would link Durham through Research Triangle Park, Cary and downtown Raleigh up to north Raleigh along U.S. Highway 1.

And a connector from RTP to Raleigh-Durham International Airport would possibly be a street car or trolley.

"The whole process would take probably until 2035 to get on the ground," said Bo Glenn, STAC's co-chairman.

After creating a regional transit authority made up of elected officials, the first step would be to improve local and regional bus service.

STAC's draft plan will next go to local transportation leaders for consideration. Committee members said their job is not only to create worthwhile transit projects, but also to make sure the benefits of those projects are communicated to the public.

"It's all about marketing," committee member Michael Shiflett said. "Most people are concerned about the environment. Most people are worried about how much they spend on gasoline, insurance costs. I think there's something in mass transit for everyone, whether they believe it or not."

Committee members said that belief is crucial, because without public support, the regional transit plan will not happen.

A half-cent sales-tax increase would be the primary source of funding for the price tag of $2 billion. Other proposed methods of funding include tax-increment financing districts, increased vehicle registration fees, a regional fuel tax, vehicle-mileage taxes, and turnpikes or express toll lanes.

STAC expects the federal government to cover about 25 percent of the bill.

"Local funding is critical," Glenn said. "We can't get state or federal funding without local funding. So, yes, the local officials will have to agree to put this on the ballot."

The committee is still working on the final proposal. It expects it to be ready in April.