Come learn about Raleigh’s first bus rapid transit line on Wednesday

The city’s first bus rapid transit line will likely run along New Bern Avenue and Edenton Street between WakeMed and downtown, and riders and residents will be able to learn more about it at a public meeting Wednesday evening.

Bus rapid transit, or BRT, combines the cost and flexibility of a traditional bus system with some of the trappings of a light rail or subway system, including covered platforms where riders can buy tickets in advance and step straight on to the bus. BRT lines often have dedicated lanes and priority at intersections, allowing buses to move past slowed traffic.

The goal is to make using the bus more comfortable and convenient for people who have to ride it and more enticing to people who don’t.

The Wake Transit Plan, the 10-year blueprint for improving transit in the county, calls for building four BRT lines radiating north, south, east and west of downtown Raleigh by 2027. County voters endorsed the plan when they approved a half-cent sales tax for transit in 2016.

The east BRT line, which follows one of the most heavily-used GoRaleigh bus routes, will be the easiest to build because it will largely fit within the existing right-of-way, said David Eatman, the city’s transit administrator. If all goes as planned, the city hopes to open the line in late 2023, Eatman said.

On Wednesday, the city will present the concept behind the BRT line as well as potential sites for stations. There will be more opportunities for the public to weigh in on the project as it comes together in the coming years, Eatman said.

“This is just the beginning,” he said.

The city hopes to finish preliminary designs for the New Bern Avenue BRT by September. That would allow the city to apply for federal money that could cover up to 80 percent of the line’s estimated $60 million cost; the rest would come from the local sales tax.

Wednesday’s meeting will be hosted by City Council member Corey Branch, whose district surrounds the planned BRT line. It will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at WakeMed Andrews Center, 3000 New Bern Ave.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.