In a new stage, Raleigh must think anew

A Raleigh city bus painted in the new color scheme departs from Moore Square Transit Station in downtown Raleigh in 2015.
A Raleigh city bus painted in the new color scheme departs from Moore Square Transit Station in downtown Raleigh in 2015. cseward@newsobserver.com

I moved to Raleigh from eastern NC in 2010 to attend Peace College. I was used to back roads and small town living and wasn’t sure how at home I would feel here. Nearly eight years later it’s hard to imagine calling anywhere else home.

It’s as though sometime in the past eight years, the secret got out about how awesome Raleigh is. As a twenty-something, the growth has been exciting. I’ve experienced the revitalization of downtown firsthand and worked to increase sustainable transportation options throughout the city. But a city is more than cool restaurants and breweries, right?

There are growing pains, including concerns about affordability, traffic, and maintaining the character of the city. We’re in unchartered territory. There haven’t ever been this many people living in Raleigh and growth isn’t slowing, so I can’t help but ask, why are some of our elected officials so resistant to try new approaches to adapt to growth when they know what we’ve been doing isn’t cutting it?

Take housing for example. There is an affordable housing shortage and we see historic neighborhoods, like South Park, quickly gentrifying while long time Raleigh residents of color are displaced. If we care about keeping people from being forced out of their neighborhoods, we all need to give a little in our own. Maybe that means zoning for taller buildings near Cameron Village or allowing accessory dwelling units citywide, but that is a small price for us to pay to bring more housing onto the market so that families who have lived in Raleigh for generations can stay here.

We don’t have time to waste. Whether it’s housing, transportation, or development, we need to be more willing to try new things with the understanding that some efforts will fail. There is a need to research and study, but it’s a disservice to all when City Council members drag their feet because they aren’t willing to go out of their comfort zone.

Molly McKinley of Raleigh is a grassroots organizer for the North Carolina Conservation Network and board member of Oaks and Spokes, a collectively led bicycling advocacy organization.