By Mass Transit Magazine (Jan. 29, 2020)
Wake County’s draft transit work plan outlines big-impact investments for the county and at the top of that list is a $67 million project for the next fiscal year, which will fund the county’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor along New Bern Avenue in East Raleigh, N.C., with an expected completion at the end of 2023.
The money will allow the city of Raleigh to finish final design, right-of-way acquisition and construction and buy vehicles for the BRT corridor running from downtown Raleigh to New Hope Road.
The draft plan also includes $4.5 million to continue work on the other three BRT corridors –Northern, Western and Southern – identified in the 10-year Wake Transit Plan that voters approved in 2016. Features of bus rapid transit include dedicated bus lanes, priority signaling for buses at intersections, stations instead of stops and easier boarding.
Other proposed improvements for fiscal year 2021, which starts July 1, include three major bus service expansions, planning for at least two new maintenance and operations facilities and for two major transit transfer facilities – one in North Hills and one in East Raleigh – and more than $6 million in bus stop and park-and-ride additions and improvements.
“This is really going to be a shovels-in-the-ground kind of year,” says Michael Moore, director of the city of Raleigh’s Department of Transportation. “We’ll be putting more than $37 million into bus transfer points, transfer centers, park-and-ride lots, bus stop improvements, bus maintenance facilities and sidewalks, not to mention moving to the next stage of our first BRT corridor. These improvements will allow us to keep expanding our transit network to reach the Wake Transit Plan goal of providing frequent and reliable urban mobility and access to transit across the county.”
The fiscal 2021 draft transit work plan, listing a total of $114.2 million in proposed investments, is available now for public review and comment through Feb. 29.
Planners for GoRaleigh, GoCary and GoTriangle will use the public comments to adjust the proposals before submitting the recommended work plan for review and adoption this spring. Residents will have another opportunity to comment on any revised proposals before July 1.
“Hearing from our residents is an important part of this process because it ensures the proposed projects for the coming year continue to reflect the community’s vision for transit,” said Sig Hutchinson of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “In the year ahead, we plan to add more all-day service between more municipalities and even more frequent service, which will create vital connections and support our growing ridership.”
More frequent service on Glenwood Avenue
As part of the three major bus service expansions, GoRaleigh would add a package of two routes along Glenwood Avenue to better serve major destinations including Crabtree Valley Mall, downtown Raleigh and Brier Creek Commons. Route 6: Glenwood would extend the high-frequency network portion of the route from downtown Raleigh to Duraleigh Road. Route 70X: Glenwood North would provide hourly service north of Duraleigh Road to Brier Creek Commons.
GoRaleigh also would add frequency on Route 21: Caraleigh, creating 30-minute service all day from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and extending hourly service to midnight.
GoTriangle would add all-day service to its Route 305 between Apex and Raleigh with 30-minute service at peak times and hourly service during the middle of the day, evenings and weekends. The route currently runs only during peak hours on weekdays.
“Apex is excited about getting on the bus,” said Apex Mayor Jacques Gilbert. “The investment in GoTriangle Route 305 will provide a practical transit option for workers of all professions and schedules to travel between Apex and Raleigh and help to connect western Wake County to the region. We are eager to see the opportunities this investment will create.”
The Wake Transit Plan commits to connecting all Wake County towns to transit by 2027. It also aims to connect the region, enhance access to transit and provide frequent and reliable urban mobility with improvements financed mostly with a half-cent transit-designated sales tax that voters also approved in 2016.
Over its 10-year span, the Wake Transit Plan will:
- Add a network of more than 80 miles of bus service that runs every 15 minutes or less.
- Create 20 miles of bus rapid transit infrastructure.
- Build a 37-mile commuter rail transit system from Garner through Raleigh, N.C. State University, Cary, Morrisville and Research Triangle Park to Durham.
Mobile ticketing on the horizon
Over the past fiscal year, GoRaleigh, GoCary and GoTriangle, along with GoDurham, have worked together to implement new fare technology that would include mobile ticketing, which allows customers to use their smart phones to buy and use bus passes. Plans also call for fare-capping technology that would allow single fares paid by riders to be “capped” when they reach the cost of an unlimited-ride pass. Plans call for the mobile ticketing system to be implemented in fiscal year 2021.
Other highlights of the draft work plan for fiscal year 2021 include:
- Regional Bus Operations and Maintenance Facility: $17.6 million for the town of Cary to build a facility that will accommodate GoCary’s growth, allow for service expansion and reduce ongoing operational costs associated with leasing an operations facility. It may also serve as a site for fueling, repairing or storing vehicles for other regional transit systems.
- New buses for GoRaleigh: $9.9 million to replace 15 diesel buses with five electric buses and 10 compressed natural gas buses and four replacement transit vehicles for demand-response and paratransit operations.
- GoRaleigh/GoWake Access Paratransit Operations and Maintenance Facility: $4 million to buy land and begin design for a facility that will accommodate 100 vehicles and provide space for administrative and management functions, including dispatch and scheduling, call center operations, training facilities and driver break rooms.
- East Raleigh Transfer Facility: $3.2 million to build a transit center in eastern Raleigh on New Bern Avenue. A park-and-ride lot will also be established with up to 100 spaces, depending on final site location. When the transit center is complete, up to four routes, including the New Bern Avenue bus rapid transit route, could serve this location.
- Midtown Raleigh Transfer Facility: $2.5 million to buy land and begin design work for a facility near North Hills and I-440 to create opportunities to travel east to west without having to go into downtown Raleigh. The planned transit center would be staffed and support three high-frequency network routes and one local route with 30-minute frequencies.
- GoRaleigh transfer point enhancements: $1.6 million to update six transfer facilities. Updates could include larger shelters, lighting, passenger information systems, benches, trash cans and bike racks.
- Regional Transit Center improvements: $1.25 million to continue work on studying the best location for the center, taking into consideration current and future planned routes, land use, supply and price.
- New and improved GoTriangle park-and-ride lots: $1.2 million to build a 100-space facility to serve west Raleigh routes that operate to NC State University, downtown Raleigh, Raleigh-Durham International Airport and the Regional Transit Center; $1.2 million to build a 100-space facility to serve North Raleigh, specifically the North Raleigh Express that takes commuters between North Raleigh neighborhoods and destinations in RTP and connections to other regional destinations; $343,000 to improve existing park‐and‐ride facilities by adding shelters, lighting, trash bins, maps and cases, signage, emergency phones, security cameras, bike storage and Americans with Disabilities Act improvements.
- Youth GoPass: $287,900 to continue the program that allows teens aged 13 to 18 to ride regional transit free. As of Dec. 31, more than 9,200 passes had been issued with more than 730,000 boardings since the program began in August 2018.
- Eastern Wake microtransit: $100,000 for GoWake ACCESS to study whether any microtransit options would be feasible in serving rural, elderly and disabled residents in the eastern part of the county, which is not served by fixed-route transportation.
The Wake Transit Plan is part of a larger effort to build a strong regional transit network connecting Wake, Orange and Durham counties. Orange and Durham counties also have approved transit-designated money and long-range transit plans in recent years.