Choosing how we’ll get rolling on Transit

rail vote

Today, the Wake County Transit Advisory Committee took a major step towards producing the plan that we will ask you to vote on in November. A few factors went into this decision. First, the Rail Rapid Transit concept, which included Diesel Motor Units on the main rail line serving as a substitute for light rail, was not compliant with Norfolk Southern’s current requirements on its freight line.

Given that fact, any rail element would – for the immediate future until such restrictions can be lifted – need to be a commuter rail type system, with longer runs and longer trains running less frequently.

Those kinds of systems work best on long lines, such as one from Johnston County to Durham.

If we build that first, it restricts what we can spend elsewhere.

What you see in the photo above is a vote to roll the rail out gradually. We will focus first on (1) quadrupling funding for buses. (2) building 22 miles of BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) infrastructure to improve the speed and reliability of those buses and (3) putting aside money for use on a regional commuter rail network.

There are all kinds of possibilities yet to be explored, and this gives us the opportunity to leverage our county dollars with future state, federal and Durham money, rather than putting all the chips in on a short, Wake County-only commuter line that might have trouble drawing riders initially.

I asked a lot of questions during this discussion, because I wanted to make sure you were going to be presented with a system that served Wake County and was not dependent on action from Durham or anyone else. But rest assured, I intend a rail element to be part of this transit plan. Eventually, we will have rail running to several terminus points from downtown Raleigh. It’s always been a long-term plan, and I think this gives us the flexibility to move people around more efficiently, deal with our traffic issues and still hit the ground running when rail is viable.

As you can see, the vote in Chris McDonald’s photo is overwhelmingly pro train. 26% wanted trains funded in the first year. 63% were ok waiting until year 5 or 6. But 89% are pro train.

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