It has been a long time coming — and Wake County voters owe it to themselves and to generations to come to support a small item with big possibilities on their November ballots: a one-half percent local sales and use tax dedicated to public transit systems. This tax will allow the county to catch up with the need for developing faster, more efficient transit systems and to plan connections with Orange and Durham counties.
The tax, which would support the Wake County Transit Plan, would triple bus service, make possible a “Bus Rapid Transit” (BRT) network with dedicated bus lanes in congested areas and better boarding platforms, and ultimately create a commuter rail line that would use existing tracks to make passenger train service across the county practical and offer relief from traffic congestion.
Transit services would run for longer hours, and schedules would be kept.
Here’s what else a comprehensive transit plan does: It speaks to needs for several generations: Older residents will have more and better ways to get to hospitals, doctors’ appointments, or just recreation. And they’ll get there on time and reliably with those dedicated bus lanes.
And the transit plan has something for those who do like their cars: Less-crowded roads.
It’s a tax people won’t notice for a lot of benefits that are overdue. Republican county commissioners long delayed a transit vote — denying citizens even the right to have a say. It’s unfortunate that Wake now is going to play catch-up with nearby counties that did pass referendums. In time, it’s hoped all the transit systems can work together. In any case, citizens eventually revealed their feelings by voting the Republican commissioners out of office.
But the most important step is ahead, and that’s passing the referendum so the county can begin to build the resources needed to move quickly on this 10-year plan. When finished, the county will be part of a region that can boast to prospective employers a number of transit options, cleaner air, and evidence of a place where government actually plans for the future. That’s going to be a tremendous help in drawing business to Wake and the region.
The delay in this vote was petty politics and damaging to the economy and the future of Wake County. At last, the chance to vote is here. Citizens need to remember as they go through their ballots not to forget to fill in the “for” oval for the transit referendum.