Town leaders have a wish list if Wake County voters approve a half-cent sales tax increase to fund more public transportation, and rail service is a top request.
The sale tax vote won’t come until November 2016 at the earliest. There are four plans the county is considering at the moment, with a goal of selecting one by this October to focus on and further refine.
But the town is weighing in on what leaders prefer.
Benjamin Howell, Morrisville’s transportation planner, said in a memo that council members should provide formal input in the Wake Transit process before the report is released in October.
On Aug. 25, the Town Council voted unanimously to support a network of buses and rail service.
“The Town believes that rail transit will provide the best transit connection for the Town to Cary and downtown Raleigh, and potentially Durham and Chapel Hill in the future,” the council said in part of its formal resolution. “Rail transit has the opportunity to provide the most direct, and potentially quickest, connection to these areas from Morrisville. If rail transit is provided, it would also be important to include service to RTP.”
While Orange and Durham counties have voted to build a light rail system, Wake County officials have said they won’t consider light rail. Wake County could instead pursue what’s known as rapid rail transit, a cheaper but less flexible option than light rail.
The town already has a plan, from 2013, to build a transit station at the corner of N.C. 54 and McCrimmon Parkway. The McCrimmon Transit Small Area Plan includes both a train station and a bus depot with a park-and-ride lot.
Officials believe it would also attract retail and apartment or townhomes to the area.
Types of service
The main transit debate at the county level is one of coverage versus ridership – whether it’s more important to cover a wide area with buses and trains that might not always be full, or to only focus on densely packed areas that would ensure more efficient ridership numbers.
Morrisville officials support the coverage plans, as do most officials from the suburbs. The ridership plans mostly focus on Raleigh, given its large population.
Morrisville would get its first bus route along N.C. 54 in the proposed ridership plans, but not much else.
The coverage plans, on the other hand, could also lead to an east-west bus route in town – possibly including Morrisville Parkway, Morrisville-Carpenter Road, Aviation Parkway or McCrimmon Parkway.
Howell said if the county chooses a ridership plan, an east-west bus route would be unlikely, and the north-south route on N.C. 54 would likely be delayed.
Councilman Kris Gardner, though, said he would be comfortable with less bus service if it meant the train service was in place sooner.
“I’d rather see that money invested in rail,” he said. He said it might mean a longer timeframe, but would ultimately be a better investment.
Councilman Steve Rao said he thinks Morrisville should ask for both.
“We benefit from having both the rail and the bus,” he said.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran