For nearly a year, a broad-based, bipartisan advisory group has been reviewing a variety of transit options and principles, guided by Wake County staff, regional transit partners and transit consultants.

More than 70 community leaders — including several RTA members such as RTA transit chair Eric Braun — have learned about transit choices and tradeoffs and the potential that enhanced transit investment holds for our community.

Last week, at the final meeting of the Wake Transit Advisory Committee, the group reviewed and compared several options and endorsed four primary recommendations to the Wake County Board of Commissioners and area transit partners:

  • A significant expansion of bus service during the first few years in Wake County — quadrupling the current operational investment
  • A rebalancing of existing and expanded bus service to emphasize productivity as well as geographic service, moving our community to a 60-40 ridership focus from our current 70-30 coverage focus
  • The implementation of more than 20 miles of bus rapid transit infrastructure across the County during the next 5-10 years — providing higher quality transit service, reliability, and permanence in multiple corridors while giving Wake County one of the largest BRT systems in the United States
  • The reservation of substantial matching funding for regional commuter rail, coupled with the commencement of planning studies and the ongoing outreach to partners at the adjacent county, state, and federal level

In addition, the committee endorsed the development of a matching fund arrangement for new coverage-based bus service, to ensure that additional service beyond ridership priority corridors has the buy-in of local municipalities.

The passage of these recommendations means that we have a specific framework to move forward with the accelerated development of an enhanced regional transit system for our community, endorsed by a broad-based, bipartisan advisory committee. This is a big deal.

 

How we got here

The Wake Transit process was initiated in summer 2014 through a bipartisan effort of the Wake County Board of Commissioners and has been a major priority of the County since that time.

The subsequent appointment of a geographically broad-based, bipartisan Wake Transit Advisory Committee to spearhead the community’s detailed engagement on transit has allowed for an increased understanding of opportunities to move transit forward through various possible modes and approaches.

This year the County has held a series of public engagement meetings, multiple online surveys, the creation of an expanded transit choices report, and formal outreach to the leader of every municipality in Wake County.

The RTA referred to the May meeting of the Advisory group as a “watershed day for regional transit” because the group affirmed the development of multiple example scenarios for the broader community to review and contrast.

At last week’s meeting, armed with new information and insights, including the results of a statistically valid poll funded by RTA and Wake County, the group endorsed a reasonable, rational, and regional approach for enhanced transit.

 

Next steps

Area transit partners will develop a draft final plan consistent with the Committee’s recommendations during the next few weeks.

RTA members will receive a preview of the plan at our annual meeting luncheon, The State of Mobility 2015, on December 3rd. Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria and Wake County Transit Advisory Committee member John Kane of RTA Leadership Team member Kane Realty will summarize the plan prior to remarks by two national keynote speakers on transit. I hope you can join us there.

Wake County will then release the draft final plan at an event on Tuesday evening, December 8th, at the Raleigh Convention Center. I encourage you to attend and/or have your employees there.

The Regional Transportation Alliance business coalition will review the plan upon its formal release. The Committee’s primary recommendations — an immediate expansion of bus service, the rapid creation of a significant bus rapid transit-based transit network, and appropriate planning for regional rail in our market — are all consistent with our current RTA position on accelerated transit in Wake County as well as our ongoing support for a bus rapid transit-based approach so I anticipate a favorable review.

 

Kudos, and let’s get moving

This process has been purposeful and focused — just the way the business community likes it — and the participants have been dedicated to the success of the effort and our community.

Please thank the members of the transit advisory committee for their work, and please thank each of the Wake County Commissioners for their leadership. All have been outstanding advocates for enhanced transit, with two in particular, Sig Hutchinson and Matt Calabria, serving as tireless point persons in outreach to the entire county.

RTA has been engaged in the advancement of transit in our region for more than a decade.  That engagement increases again, effective immediately, as enhanced regional transit in Wake County is the top priority of our regional business organization and will remain so at least through the 2016 referendum vote.

In the coming weeks and months we will have much more to say about the accelerated mobility and economic development benefits of this bold, bus rapid transit-based approach that includes substantial bus service expansion and a solid framework to develop regional rail.

Thanks to the work of our county leaders, the Wake Transit Advisory Committee, county and transit partner staff and consultants, and colleagues across the county, “now we’re getting somewhere.”  It’s time to move our community forward, together.

Let’s get moving,
Joe

 

Joe Milazzo II, PE
Executive Director, Regional Transportation Alliance business coalition
www.letsgetmoving.org