The next step in the future of the Wake County transit system begins with a collection of brightly colored stickers.
At meetings across the county, residents are weighing in about how Wake should best balance expanded bus service, trains and bus rapid transit service in a 10-year transit plan.
In conference rooms and meeting halls, they push the stickers onto a matrix that charts the possibilities.
Would they like to see a rail line coupled with frequent bus service downtown and fewer routes stretching into the suburbs?
Less frequent service and multiple bus lines to the farthest reaches of the county?
Or, if the county doesn’t move forward with plans for rail, what should bus service look like? Heavy, frequent coverage at the county’s core or less frequent coverage with lines all over Wake?
Representatives from various municipalities and transportation organizations gathered off Poole Road on Wednesday to discuss and gather feedback from residents about the options.
They displayed maps with multiple scenarios to get residents thinking about the trade-offs of rail and bus service. The information they gather will be used to develop an official recommendation for a countywide transportation plan that likely is a blend of the scenarios.
David Eatman, transit administrator for GoRaleigh said the meetings and an online survey are residents’ chance to help shape the plan.
“As we prepare for growth, our transit network is going to be very important,” he said. “These options help provide a guide.”
Once a plan is in place, the Wake Board of Commissioners will schedule a referendum for sometime in 2016 on a half-cent sales tax that would help pay for the expanded service.
At the meeting, residents’ preferences ranged across the matrix.
Helen Tart, who lives in Raleigh near Oakwood, is a longtime proponent of bringing rail to the region. She wants to see the county go forward with rail and as extensive bus coverage as possible to get people to the trains.
“I come out every time and tell them to build a train,” Tart said.
DeAntony Collins, who lives near Crabtree Valley, said he was most persuaded by plans that would expand coverage as much as possible as he eyed a map with extensive bus coverage.
“If people are going to shoulder the responsibility for paying for it, then they should get some coverage,” said Collins, who is challenging City Councilman Bonner Gaylord for his seat on the council.
A series of community open houses on the transit plan will begin May 26. For more information, go to waketransit.com.