Wake County residents streamed through a Raleigh Convention Center exhibit hall Tuesday evening to learn about a $2.3 billion county transit plan, try out the seats in a few buses, and ogle Will Allen’s electric toy train set.
A grass-green miniature locomotive traveled in circles, hauling double-decker cars like the ones that carry commuters to work in Dallas, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.
“This is very standard, and these cars are cookie-cutter cars that are used in almost every major commuter rail system in the country,” said Allen, a Raleigh management and railroad consultant and board member for GoTriangle, the regional transit agency.
It’s called a push-pull train, Allen told visitors. The locomotive engineer drives the train to the end of the line, stops and walks back to a second set of controls in the rear car, and drives back in the other direction.
Commuter trains, running for 37 miles from Durham and Research Triangle Park to Raleigh and Garner, are a big part of a proposed 10-year transit plan, released Tuesday, that will be considered by county commissioners next spring.
Kelvin Dumas, a commercial real estate broker with Colliers International, said commuter rail will be a critical element for growth in Durham and Wake counties over the coming decades.
“Historically, where the rail stations go in, there is heavy development around them,” Dumas said. “So it is very positive.”
The plan includes 20 miles of bus rapid transit (BRT) service, running every 15 minutes on 20 miles of Capital and Western boulevards, New Bern Avenue and South Wilmington Street. BRT often runs faster than automobile traffic, with features that can include dedicated bus lanes and green-light priority at traffic signals. Another 63 miles of Raleigh streets would have standard buses at 15-minute intervals.
“This is going to get people out of their cars and onto the bus,” said Karen Rindge, executive director of Wake Up Wake County, a civic group that favors planned growth. “Many more people in many more areas won’t have to check to see when the bus is coming in 60 minutes or in 30 minutes. They’ll know the bus is going to be coming in a few minutes.”
Many more people in many more areas won’t have to check to see when the bus is coming in 60 minutes or in 30 minutes. They’ll know the bus is going to be coming in a few minutes.
Karen Rindge, Wake Up Wake County
Rindge’s group will campaign in the coming year for transit – and an expected vote on a sales tax to pay for it. So will the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed the transit plan Tuesday.
“We look forward to a successful referendum next November,” Jill Wells Heath, the chamber’s board chair, said in a news release.
The proposed half-cent sales tax would provide the biggest single revenue source for the transit plan, with $962 million expected in the first 10 years. The federal government would be asked to cover half the capital cost ($720 million) for commuter rail and BRT.
Construction of the Wake portion of the commuter rail line would cost an estimated $886 million. Durham County would have to agree to pay for its part, too.
The Wake plan also includes buses to Raleigh from all outlying towns, and 50 percent grants to help smaller towns launch their own local bus routes.
Download the Wake Transit Plan at tinyurl.com /waketransit2015.