Majority of Wake mayors support transit plan

Posted November 21, 2008 12:50 p.m. EST
Updated November 21, 2008 7:08 p.m. EST

— Most Wake County mayors are in favor of a regional transit plan to add buses and light rail. Raleigh's Charles Meeker is pitching a plan that would expand bus routes and add light rail to ease travel among the county's 12 communities. 

"There are many people coming to this area who want the option of public transportation, not just having to rely on cars all the time," Meeker said Friday.

The Special Transit Advisory Commission (STAC), a citizen advisory group, spent a year developing the proposal. It calls for 75 new buses for express service between municipalities and a light rail line stretching 17 miles from Spring Forest station in Raleigh through downtown and into Cary.

Meeker favors funding the plan through a half-cent sales tax increase and higher vehicle registration fees. He has the support of eight other mayors in the county. Three are not sold on raising the $700 million to $800 million that light rail would require.

"No study I have ever seen about light rail in the Triangle area is something commuters want or will use," Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly argued.

Light rail plans have failed before in the Triangle. In 2005, the Triangle Transit Authority scrapped a plan for regional rail after federal funding fell through.

Any plan financed by taxes would have to be put to the voters. Mayors in Wake County plan to get public feedback on the transit plan in January or February. They would then ask the Legislature to put the proposal on the ballot as soon as next fall.

STAC co-chairman George Cianciolo said local funding has to be in place before the state or federal governments will step in. "The federal and state authorities want to see that the local people are committed and believe in it," he said.