Can Mass Transit Improve Quality of Life in Cary?

Story by Lindsey Chester and photo by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, NC- Karen Rindge of Wake Up Wake gave everyone an update on transit and how it effects Cary at the Heart of Cary’s Feb 2 meeting.

Rindge made the case that mass transit is going to be key to sustaining growth and quality of life not just for the Triangle, but specifically for Cary, and its Downtown area.

#1 in Gas Consumption

Our area makes many Top Ten lists, here’s a few lists we would rather not be on at all.

  1. Fastest population growth in Nation. Wake County’s population will double by 2030 from 2005 levels
  2. The Raleigh- Durham area ranks #1 in the nation for gas consumption per person
  3. The Triangle is #5 Nationally for longest commute

The list the Triangle never makes: quality mass transit. The area has very little public transit infrastructure. These facts can weigh heavily on quality of life.

Two Phases Will Help

Wake Up Wake has worked with area municipalities to come up with plans to expand transit in the future. Two main phases were adopted by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

In Phase 1 bus service will be improved and expanded. Commuter Rail will also be implemented. Bus service could double to over 322,000 bus hours to connect all Wake County municipalities within five years. In Phase 2 Light Rail will be built and that requires additional funding from the State and Federal Governments.

Cary’s Part of The Plan

Cary needs to expand service for the existing lines and add frequency. New lines need to be opened to serve areas that are currently not serviced at all. The idea will be to have all points connecting to the current Downtown Depot as the hub. There will eventually be the need for a Western maintenance facility for these trains and buses.

Commuter Rail

Rail for commuters to ride further distances would operate to operate mainly during rush hours. Proposed are 37 miles of tracks with 12 stations connecting Durham, RTP, Downtown Cary, and Garner with trains to run every 30 minutes.

Light Rail the Last Phase

Light rail would be electric, running shorter distances with up to 14 miles and 16 total stations. This would require federal funds to be built.

Sales Tax Increase

This costs money- and to accomplish these goals, an additional 1/2 cent sales tax is proposed. For other outlying Counties, they may add a 1/4 cent sales tax if they are to be connected.

Benefits Outweigh the Cost

In the thirteen years I have lived here, Cary has added over 60,000 residents. Traffic isn’t as bad as what I experienced  commuting from our home in New Jersey to New York City, but I also never drove my commute. Riding a bus or a train to my job freed up my time to read, listen to music or get some work done on my laptop. Three things you can’t do behind the wheel if you’re are spending 30-45 minutes a day driving.

Here’s a quick list of the benefits our area can experience if we expand our transit system:

  • Jobs are created
  • Growth happens around transit stops
  • Improved air quality
  • save on energy
  • spurs economic development
  • Increased Downtown activity

People in metro areas with transit also walk more and therefore actually get more exercise, which in turn is part of a better quality of life. They also experience less stress from driving in traffic. Home values increase when areas have more mass transit options.

The current Cary Depot (which serves the train to Charlotte and C Tran buses) experiences 800 passengers a day in 2012. By adding commuter rail we could see over 2020 passengers a day by 2017. With the addition of light rail, that number could increase to over 3300 per day, annually that would mean 1 million people would be coming through Cary’s Downtown.

Could be the catalyst we need in our downtown.


6 replies
  1. Gary
    Gary says:

    Americans Riding Public Transit in Record Numbers

    “People are making a fundamental shift to having options” aside from a car in how they get around, said Michael Melaniphy, president and CEO of the public transportation association. “This is a long-term trend. This isn’t just a blip.”

    Transit advocates argue that the public increasingly values the ability to get around without a car. They offer as evidence the nation’s urban shift and the movement to concentrate new development around transit hubs.

    “People want to work and live along transit lines,” Melaniphy said. “Businesses, universities and housing are all moving along those corridors.”

  2. Gary
    Gary says:

    Took a ride on Charlotte’s Lynx electric train on Saturday. About 10 miles long. Downtown to I-485 in 25 minutes.
    Clean, quiet.
    85 cents each way for a senior.
    Honor system for ticketing via kiosks.
    Boarded near NASCAR Hall of Fame and Bobcats Arena.
    Got off at end of run, walked to a Steak n’Shake, then across the street to a Joanne’s Fabric. Bride was happy.

    I feel all those making any transportation decisions in Cary ought to visit Charlotte.

    Imagine this same type of train running between Durham’s and Cary’s Amtrak Stations, with a stub running into RDU Airport, once their parking ramp is paid for!

    DPAC could be easier to get to than Raleigh’s equivalent. Hmmm.

    This story talks about mass transit, too:

  3. Frank Lazzaro
    Frank Lazzaro says:

    Light rail would be an awesome addition to enhance the growth of the downtown area. If that happens perhaps some of the car repair businesses could relocate so business that would make downtown a destination location could be established.

  4. Brendan
    Brendan says:

    Remember when (the TTA brought?) a light rail train to Cary in ’98 or ’99 to give citizens a chance to ride a mile west and back, and tons of families with kids showed, desperate for something to do in the Triangle? I honestly think we’ll see light rail in the Triangle and Cary a week after never.

  5. Lindsey Chester
    Lindsey Chester says:

    Thanks for your comment and your enthusiasm.
    Hope we see some real progress in this area in the coming years

  6. Gary Brown
    Gary Brown says:

    This article really nails it!

    Take a ride to Salisbury some afternoon and walk around there and get back on the train around 6 to come back to Cary.

    Trolley tours in the summer! Easy town to walk and great places to get BBQ and and ice cream sundae, from local non-chain places.

    Chamber of Commerce open during the day all times with great restaurant tips, clean restrooms.

    Or, go up to Richmond and visit Carytown Street. Loads of shops and places to eat. $1.99 movies at local theater with mighty Wurlitzer concerts. No neon. Mass transit from train depot to Carytown.

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