Wake Transit Meeting Lays Out Bus and Rail Plans

Cary, NC – With the half cent sales tax increase and other fees passed in the 2016 referendum, Wake County is raising more than $80 million for public transportation improvements and updates. GoTriangle’s general manager met with the Cary Chamber of Commerce to lay out some of these changes and provide a timetable.

Tripling Bus Service

Wake County is currently the second-fastest growing American county with a population of more than one million people. This rapid growth puts more emphasis on the need for public transportation, said GoTriangle General Manager Jeff Mann.

“Transit will not stop congestion but it will ease it. If we don’t have transportation alternatives, we won’t stay competitive,” Mann said.

Mann spoke to the Cary Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, March 1, 2018, joined by Cary Councilmember Jennifer Robinson.

“In my district, you have people who find they can get to Southpoint faster than they can get to Cary Towne Center,” Robinson said. “You can see the importance of improving connection.”

As a result of the half-cent sales tax increase and other fees, Wake County is raising $86.7 million to fund transit improvements, with Durham and Orange Counties raising around $42 million.

“Some people want to be protective of their funds but we must connect with other regions,” Robinson said, with GoTriangle currently tying into Durham and Chapel Hill, with plans to connect to Chatham County systems in the future.

Transit funding will go to both bus improvements and commuter and light rail. On the bus side, GoCary is adding a corridor to go to Weston Parkway and Park West Village in an effort to link more employment centers. Also, Cary’s bus maintenance facility will be expanding.

County-wide, there are plans to fund 55 bus stop improvements and introduce mobile payment. By the end of the ten year plan, Mann said the goal is to triple bus service, with bus stops within walking distance of 80 percent of Wake County employees and 54 percent of Wake County homes.

“We simply don’t have that sort of connection now,” Mann said.

There will also be funding to provide free bus fare to passengers aged 18 and younger.

Additionally, there are plans to introduce Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the area, with the potential for dedicates lanes just for BRT. Routes would run every 15 minutes. There are plans in place to have Downtown Cary and Downtown Raleigh connected with a BRT route but Mann said they are still studying the full map of where BRT would go.

One of the biggest challenges to bus expansion, Mann said, is finding reliable drivers.

“We’re losing drivers to Amazon Prime and the trucking industry,” Mann said. He said the GoTriangle system is working with the university, community college and public school systems to spread the word about careers in transportation.

Rail Transit in the Triangle

One big change the Wake County Transit Plan is bringing is commuter rail, which would stretch from Garner to Duke University with stops along the way. Mann said the timeline is dependent on expanding the rails currently in the area.

“What normally takes one year takes three years,” Mann said.

There are also possibilities for double and triple tracks for the commuter rail line. It will run eight times in both directions during peak hours.

Another big rail project in the area is the Durham-Orange Light Rail, which would link three of the state’s 10 biggest employers and is projected to create 10,000 new jobs. The rail would extend from UNC Hospital to North Carolina Central University and make around 26,000 trips per day.

Mann said the light rail is in the final design and engineering phase, with construction starting in 2019 and finishing 2026.

The cost of the light rail is $2.48 billion, with 40 percent coming from the counties, 10 percent coming from North Carolina and 50 percent coming from the federal government.

“When we apply for federal funding in April, we need all non-federal money set. Then we have assurance we will get funded,” Mann said. “All cost overruns would be on the local and state government to pay.”

With the speed of the Triangle’s growth versus the speed of implementing transit improvements, some at the Cary Chamber meeting voiced concerns these changes may be obsolete by the time they are finished because of how populous the region will become. Mann said new services are being added throughout this process so he does not believe the project will become obsolete.

“We are constantly building it up. It’s not all or nothing,” Mann said.

Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of GoTriangle and the Town of Cary.


10 replies
  1. Michael Schwartz
    Michael Schwartz says:

    I am glad to see that Cary would be addressing the lack of service on Chapel Hill Rd. Raleigh and GoTriangle riders need to be able to connect with this route as well. In a related matter, I have personally written and spoken about the the lack of local stops on the 300 route. Between Maynard Rd & Jones Franklin Rd. there is a single stop: at WakeMed Soccer Park, of all places. I can only assume there was a park and ride scheme in place at one time, because there was no events that corresponded with the bus operating schedule until very recently. I have to walk in the dirt and grass alongside a 45mph road in order to reach it if I need to go to travel to Raleigh.

    As an aside to Mr. lazzaro, have you considered that Cary is a car community because we lack buses that connect to many places to where people live, work and shop? And that existing route are deficient in stops, as I described above?

  2. Len Nieman
    Len Nieman says:

    Mr. Lazzaro, your ad hominem comments regarding myself and the Town Manager do nothing to address the very real transportation issues facing The Town of Cary and Wake County in the near future. Do you have anything constructive to say about addressing those issues, beyond just maintaining the status quo?

  3. frank lazzaro
    frank lazzaro says:

    What a shame that our tax money is being spent on buses that no one rides. We are a car community not a public transportation friendly population. I have witnessed so many buses going empty anywhere to pick up people who aren’t waiting to ride somewhere. If a poll was to be taken, the commission will find that most residences don’t approve of our bus system and would like our taxes used on infrastructure repairs like water mains. Cary can spend many thousands on ghost riding buses but won’t place a temporary porta jon at the fountain park for the older visitors and residences.

    • Len Nieman
      Len Nieman says:

      You’d be surprised how many people depend on buses to get to jobs, doctor appointments, etc., etc. And if you look at the traffic projections for the next 10-15 years, all those cars will be going nowhere fast because of gridlock. The biggest problem with current bus service is lack of routes to places people want to go, gaps in service (GoTriangle is notorious among bus riders for stopping service during the middle of the day), and connections between systems being in strange locations. Fix those, and ridership will go up.

      • Mark Neill
        Mark Neill says:

        “…lack of routes to places people want to go…”

        When my high schooler started riding the bus around town to hang out with her friends, I was shocked to find no way for her to take the bus to the YMCA, because there’s no route that runs down Cary Parkway. Really? I mean, from north to south:

        • Harrison Square and the Arboretum shopping centers (connections to routes 3 and 300)
        • North Cary Park
        • Park West/Park Place shopping centers (connects to the new planned route from CTC to PW)
        • Preston Corners and the shopping center across the street (connects to route 4)
        • Towne Village shopping center with the Fresh Market
        • YMCA
        • Parkway Pointe shopping center
        • REX Wellness Center
        • Shops of Kildaire/Saltbox Village shopping centers (connects to route 5)
        • Wellington Park shopping center (connects to route 305)

        And that list doesn’t include several large office and medical centers along the way, or notable major intersections (CP and Evans, Chatham, Lake Pine gome to mind immediately). Six of those center stops along that route have no current routes. Only one has a planned future route. That seems like a giant hole covering a significant part of Cary.

        • Len Nieman
          Len Nieman says:

          No arguement from me. The basic Cary routes were layed out back in 2005 and, in spite of Cary’s growth, haven’t really changed since. Other than eliminating some stops and moving a few others. The only significant changes for the better were extending the operating hours and adding Sunday service. Even if it was an “express” route, with limited stops, the Cary Parkway route is long overdue.

          • frank lazzaro
            frank lazzaro says:

            may we suggest you consider going back to your previous employ….No offense however between you and the town manager things are really getting buffed up. He needs to go back to ILL. and you perhaps back to some sort of office in a larger more public transportation needy city rather than our town.

        • Robert Bush
          Robert Bush says:

          Years ago, Triangle Transit (now GoTriangle) ran a bus along Cary Parkway. It was not used. While some circumstances have changed (new development, etc), the basic household demographics along the route have not. A more productive approach that is included in the bus plans is to add routes along the major intersecting routes, with Lake Pine being a prime example.

          • Len Nieman
            Len Nieman says:

            Going by what happened “years ago”, before the population boom in Cary, is part of the problem today. Look at the C-Tran annual survey results for the last few years. Aside from extended hours, which have finally happened, one of the top requests has been for a Cary Parkway route. It’s not so much the househoulds along the routes, it’s people living elsewhere that want to get to places along Cary Parkway, like the YMCA, Rex Healthcare, and the many auto repair places at the Old Apex Rd. intersection.

            Even if initially there were just limited stops, such as:

            Harrison Square (Interchange with Route 3)
            Harrison to Cary Pkwy
            Hermitage at Beachtree
            Norwell Blvd
            Evans Rd
            Park West/Park Place
            James Jackson Ave (employment centers)
            High House Rd (Interchange with Route 4)
            Old Apex Rd
            Rex Healthcare at Lake Pine Dr (Interchange with future Lake Pine Dr Route)
            Kildaire Farm Rd (Interchange with Route 5)
            Seabrook Ave
            Parkway Office Complex (Radiology/Medical Offices)
            Tryon Rd (Interchange with GoTriangle 305)
            Left on Tryon, Right on Piney Plains, Right on Cary Pkwy and return.

            This would be a big help to a lot of folks. Additional stops could be added, or adjusted, as requests came in..

  4. Len Nieman
    Len Nieman says:

    Hopefully this increased service will eliminate the midday gaps in service on the GoTriangle 301, 305, and 311 routes.

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