Garner voters have plenty of reasons to support the sales tax referendum this November. The money will pay for a plan approved by county commissioners that would increase bus service to the town and it would add commuter rail service to the town’s menu of mass transit options.
Not only that, it would include a pair of train stops in Garner – including, notably, in downtown Garner – that proponents say will spur economic development.
But even if none of that were true – and originally it was not – Garner residents would still have been wise to support the referendum because the Triangle’s growing population needs more transportation options than just Interstates 40, 440 and 540.
The addition of increased bus service, under the plan proposed by commissioners would happen fairly quickly. Rail service will take a little bit longer because the logistics of creating the service and the cost will mean the region needs more time to make it happen.
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Nevertheless, county leaders say they expect to see rail service within six to 10 years, which really isn’t that far away in transportation terms.
The sales tax strikes us as a reasonable way to provide local funding. Sales tax is something that everyone pays and we pay it in a direct relationship to the amount of money we spend. Said another way, wealthy people buy more stuff and spend more money. Therefore they would pay more sales tax that people with less income.
County commissioners are currently out on the speaker’s circuit promoting support for the November referendum by pitching more than just the transit benefits. In Garner, they discussed the proclivity of train stops to promote business growth. New businesses have a way of finding train stops and setting up shop nearby, hoping to benefit from the increased foot traffic the trains will bring.
If their bet is right, that could be the boon downtown Garner has been looking for over the past several years as it has comtemplated how to revitalize its sleepy dowtown.
The local government has invested significantly in downtown, first with the Garner Performing Arts Center and the Senior Center and in the next several months with a new recreation center. The rail is the next step in public investment in downtown Garner.
We anticipate that private investment will follow and that bodes extremely well for the future of the area.
But it all depends on voters approving the increase in the sale tax rate this fall. We hope voters will see the wisdom of investing in the future.