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Local leaders build momentum for transit investments in Wake County, NC

Leaders in Wake County, NC – including participants of T4America’s Transportation Innovation Academy co-hosted last year with TransitCenter – are building support for transit ahead of a November ballot referendum.

Earlier this month the Wake County Commission approved a long-term transit plan and put a measure on the November ballot to raise a half-cent sales tax to build out the regional transit network. Planned service, including 20 miles of new bus rapid transit routes and new commuter rail, is expected to quadruple transit ridership in the county in the next ten years.

In his address to a WakeUp Wake County forum earlier this week in Raleigh, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx pointed out how transit can be a magnet for economic development. Foxx, former mayor of Charlotte, noted how Raleigh’s recent transit expansion helped attract new employers. Playing into the cross-state competition for jobs, he joked, “If I were mayor of Charlotte, I probably would be giving you a different speech. I would probably tell you not to do this so that we could compete with you better.”

Sec. Foxx also warned that the region would be “at the epicenter of a national crisis in mobility” if it does not invest in new transit. Commute times are “gonna get worse if you don’t do something different.”

County Commissioner Matt Calabria, one of the elected leaders who attended the Transportation Innovation Academy, recognized that “traffic is increasing [in Wake County] and we’re going to face challenges associated with growth.” He went on to add that the proposed transit plan “is the best thing we can do to stave off that congestion.”

Sec. Foxx was introduced by U.S. Rep. David Price (D-N.C.-4). Local leaders, including County Commission Chair James West and Vice-Chair Sig Hutchison, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, and Cary Town Councilor Jennifer Robinson, all spoke at the event about the new transit vision for the county.

Grassroots support for transit is also rolling in. The new Riders of Wake campaign is collecting first-person accounts from transit riders.