Regional transportation leaders looking for feedback on mass transit options for the Triangle are finding out that smaller towns and cities in the Triangle want some of the same amenities being recommended for larger cities.
But that doesn’t really seem to be on their radar. The heart of the issue surrounds rail service and the ability to move large numbers of people with trains rather than on buses. But for the most part, that’s not what regional transit leaders envision.
Supporters of rail in Garner say it would help boost economic development efforts in downtown and provide residents with a quicker way to reach downtown Raleigh or points west.
Opponents of rail in Garner say it would decimate the town’s small-town atmosphere and that population densities are not large enough to merit the expense of train service.
That the two groups are not on the same page doesn’t bode well for the adoption of a plan that everyone can support. And as expensive as mass transit is to provide, it’s important to regional leaders to build an overwhelmingly large base of support. And, of course it does not help transit leaders that the previous plan included rail service for Garner while the proposed options do not.
As with many disagreements, we suspect there is a middle ground to be found here that will give both sides something of what they want. And both sides should be willing to compromise. Transit leaders need to understand that Garner is growing at a steady pace and more growth is on the way. Planning a mass transit program requires planners to think far into the future and do their best to anticipate what towns like Garner might look like 20 or 30 years down the road.
Residents should understand that much of the funding for a new transit system would likely come from federal sources who will turn down a request for funds if the proposal is too aggressive and seeks too much money.
We hope that as planners digest what they are hearing from the public and local elected leaders, they will also look for ways to provide residents with some of what they need and want. And we hope residents will understand that this can’t be an instant-gratification game.