‘We have to be ready’ for influx of newcomers, say residents at Wake Transit meetings; 7 more to go!

Intertwined among the many reasons residents recently attended public meetings to hear more about the 10-year Wake County Transit Plan were a thread of fear and a measure of relief: fear about the continuing fire hose of newcomers potentially overwhelming our roads and relief that voters have chosen to invest in solutions.

“It’s nice to be living somewhere where you don’t have to twist somebody’s arm to see why it’s worthwhile to invest taxpayer money in public transportation,” said Gaby Lawlor, who moved to Raleigh from New Jersey with her husband a month ago. “I have high hopes for this area. Since we’ve been here, everything has reaffirmed our decision to move to Raleigh.”

Both Lawlor and Nathan Spencer, left, who moved his family from Boston to Raleigh four years ago, chose Wake County because of the numerous accolades it has received about being one of the best places to live in the country. But both are concerned about whether the area has the infrastructure to accommodate those who follow them.

“What’s coming the next two years is going to be insane,” said Spencer, 36. “I would expect in the next two years a correction in the market, and a lot of people my age and younger are going to be looking at the rent in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and saying, ‘I don’t want to do this again. I don’t want to live outside my means.’ They’re going to google the best city to work in, and they’re going to find Raleigh. We have to be ready.”

Otis Allen, a retiree living in Southeast Raleigh, wants to make sure that those who rely on public transportation to go about their daily lives remain a focus as the county continues to grow.

“We should be more conscious of the people who have low incomes who rely solely on buses to get to work or doctor appointments,” said, Allen, right. “That’s the only means of transportation for low-income people. It’s a sad situation when I ride by and have to see elderly people in the rain with no bus shelters, not even a bench. But if we don’t get commuter rail, and we don’t get better bus service, and that includes buses coming more often, I don’t know what’s going to happen. They need to allot for the people coming in.”

The fact that Wake County voters chose last year to invest a half-cent sales tax in new transit options is great news to all of them, and already the investment has allowed bus routes and frequency to be expanded. Now transit planners are setting priorities for more bus service, drawing up plans for bus shelters, studying transportation patterns to inform future decisions and starting to work on a bus rapid transit system and a 37-mile commuter rail system between Garner and Durham.

Seven more public meetings are scheduled so that residents can learn more about the plans and offer feedback. Residents also can help with the priority-setting process by taking a survey at publicinput.com/waketransit.

‘BRT is going to be huge to us.’

Spencer and his wife didn’t even own a car when they lived in Boston, using buses and trains to get everywhere they needed to go. Now they have two vehicles so that Spencer can get to work in Downtown Raleigh and his wife can get to her job in Research Triangle Park.

“I don’t want to have to commute everywhere here with a car,” said Spencer, who lives off Glascock Street in Raleigh and walks his son Eli to school at Powell Elementary. “I’d rather walk, bike or take the train. BRT is going to be huge to us. It’s going to shorten my commute significantly.”

Allen and Lawlor also are excited about bus rapid transit, which creates dedicated bus lanes on local roads so bus operators can bypass traffic and keep their routes on schedule.

“I love it! I love that idea,” Allen said. “It’s not only that I like it, but it’s something we have to have. We’re at the point now we can’t do without that. We definitely can’t do without that.”

The Wake County Transit Plan calls for building approximately 20 miles of BRT lanes on portions of four busy roads.

“I’m happy to see BRT in the works in Raleigh,” said Lawlor, left, who lives near NC State and works as a planner at WSP downtown. “The fact that they are more public transit-minded down here is definitely a positive note. I know the city is growing rapidly. Now is the time to put in alternative transportation, and it’s refreshing to see they are and the different options they are investing in.”

‘I love trains. I can’t wait to ride it.’

For 5-year-old Eli Spencer, nothing is more exhilarating than the plans for a commuter rail system, which would use existing railroad tracks to provide comfortable passenger service from Garner to Downtown Raleigh, N.C. State University, Cary, Morrisville, RTP and Durham.

“I love trains,” said Eli, 5, who attended the public meeting with his dad. “I can’t wait to ride it.”

Abida Haque, right, lives in southern Durham with her husband, Beck Waldbauer, and takes transit to classes at N.C. State University, where she is a graduate student in computer science. She attended a public meeting in Raleigh to learn more about any plans that might speed along her commute, which currently requires her to travel on GoTriangle Route 805 to Route 105 and then from 105 to NCSU’s Wolfline. The Wake County Transit Plan calls for tripling bus service in the next 10 years.

“I take all of the systems,” Haque said with a laugh. ‘I have to go to every meeting about every single system.”

Listening to riders like Haque is part of the reason for the public meetings. Based on public feedback last spring, GoRaleigh chose to add natural-gas-powered buses to its fleet when it next buys buses in fiscal year 2019.

To have your say and to learn more, you can drop in between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. at six additional meetings. The seventh is from 1 to 3 p.m.:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 1: Wake County Northern Regional Center, 350 E. Holding Ave., Wake Forest
  • Thursday, Nov. 2: Laurel Hills Community Center, 3808 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh
  • Monday, Nov. 6: Wake County Eastern Regional Center, 1002 Dogwood Drive, Zebulon
  • Wednesday, Nov. 8: Wake County Southern Regional Center, 130 N. Judd Parkway NE, Fuquay-Varina
  • Thursday, Nov. 9: Green Road Community Center, 4201 Green Road, Raleigh
  • Tuesday, Nov. 14: Cary Senior Center, 120 Maury O’Dell Place, Cary
  • Thursday, Nov. 16, from 1 to 3 p.m.: Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary

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