About 600 people came to the Raleigh Convention Center Monday for the opening pitch for a hotly anticipated transit plan, billed as holding transformative power for the region.
Consultant Jarrett Walker, hired this year by the Wake County Board of Commissioners’ then-Republican majority, introduced himself with a broad argument for transit, then laid out choices ahead.
“Forgive me if I sound like an advocate for this little bit,” said Walker, who will work alongside the firm Kimley-Horn to gather residents’ opinions, review past work and draft possible general maps for buses and light rail.
Walker told residents and elected officials that transit brings a “triple bottom line” – benefits for the economy, for disadvantaged people and for the environment.
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“Ultimately, it’s about greater individual choice,” he said. “When we talk about choice, we talk about liberty.”
He said that transit can further development when highways get congested. He argued that transit suits a younger generation, and it opens doors for people making less.
Then he moved on to a big choice. Wake County will have to decide whether to serve more riders by focusing on dense areas, or whether it will spread its transit network over more of the county, he said.
In other words, he asked, will Wake County run lines around downtowns and dense corridors, picking up more riders more frequently? Or will it extend less cost-efficient lines for commuters in towns such as Zebulon?
The consultants will release “transit choices” reports in January and spring, followed by recommendations in the summer. They’ll be researching potential alignments of buses and trains, not street-level detail.
Along the way, they’ll be guided by an advisory committee of about six dozen people from municipalities, nonprofits and elsewhere, and they’ll meet with the public.
“The plan is going to be yours. It’s going to belong to Wake County,” Walker said.
The consultants’ fees, budgeted for $210,000 at most, will be divided among the county, the city of Raleigh, the town of Cary, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Triangle Transit, town of Cary and other partners, county records show.