Friday, October 5, 2012

NC Residents Aim to Bolster Public Transit

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Orange County advocates are diligently working to build support for the Orange County Transit Plan (OCTP). Much like the proposed Wake County Transit Plan (WCTP), the Orange County counterpart would also provide for extended  routes, commuter rail, and a half cent sales tax increase to fund the improvements. Unlike the Wake County plan, the OCTP will appear as a referendum on the November ballot. Check out this letter by Harry Johnson, an Orange County transportation advocate, to learn more about this effort.

Despite some setbacks with the WCTP, there are still plenty of smaller modifications that Raleigh and Wake County can make that would significantly increase usability and accessibility. In most cases, such simple improvements can be identified by just taking a stroll (or bus ride) around the city.  For example, a significant number of bus stops in Raleigh are not covered and, as a recent editorial in the News and Observer pointed out, "Waiting for the bus as a summer thunderstorm approaches can be a test of more than just patience." Likewise, most stops do not have benches, which can be of particular concern for individuals who cannot stand for sustained periods of time.  However, as discussed in an earlier blog post on public transit, wait time can be minimized by using various tools, notably Google Maps. Other smaller, but meaningful improvements include sidewalk maintenance/renovations, expanded and more frequent bus routes, bike roads/lanes, as well as posted signs with bus times at each stop for increased ease of use.

Union Station Area Rendering
Proposed layout of Union Station
With or without any of the above modifications, there is still one new and exciting addition to the Public Transit system that we can all look forward to: a new train station. Unexpectedly, the Federal Railroad Administration revealed in a surprise announcement that it would provide $24 million to fund the new station. The new Union Station will be built in the Dillon Viaduct Building on Martin Street and will replace the Amtrak Station on Cabarrus Street, whose building and parking lot have grown too small to accommodate riders. Union Station will also be able to accommodate federal high speed rail expected at some point in the future, as well as commuter rail should the need arise. First-phase construction, which could begin as early as fall 2013, will focus on track improvements and the site layout. For more information on Union Station visit the Public Record and the City of Raleigh website.

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