Local News

Wake transit leaders visit northern Virginia for ideas, inspiration

Posted July 1, 2016 6:15 p.m. EDT
Updated July 5, 2016 10:13 a.m. EDT

— With Wake County voters set to vote this fall on a half-cent sales tax increase that would help pay for mass transit projects, those responsible for planning and implementing projects are getting a closer look at how areas similar to the Triangle handle mass transit.

A group from the Regional Transportation Alliance traveled this week to northern Virginia to see how Arlington handles moving hundreds of thousands of people around each day.

"When a market is growing, your transportation system has to grow right along with it," Regional Transportation Alliance Executive Director Joe Milazzo said.

Milazzo said business leaders and elected officials chose to study Arlington's systems because it's similar to the Triangle.

"They're growing, high-tech areas – a lot of similarities with what we have here in Wake County, in the Triangle," Milazzo said.

The Arlington area offers many different transit options, including subway, commuter rail and a bike-sharing program similar to the one Raleigh approved this year.

Communities there also have access to something else Wake County officials want to implement: bus rapid transit.

"A lot of our buses don't come that often, and when they don't come that often, it's hard to look at that as a way you might want to get around," Milazzo said.

The Wake County transit plan calls for 20 miles of bus rapid transit corridors running along Western Boulevard, Capital Boulevard, New Bern Avenue and Wilmington Street.

Dedicated bus lanes and priority treatment at traffic signals would provide faster, more frequent service.

"Particularly in Arlington, those buses come as fast as the metro rail system, so you can count on it," Milazzo said.

Milazzo said several elements will be required to take Raleigh and the Triangle to the next level in terms of transit options.

If the referendum passes in November, Wake County would be responsible for paying half the cost of the $2.3 billion transit plan. State and federal dollars would account for the rest. Officials said a transit tax would raise an estimated $78 million a year.