Published: Mar 17, 2012 09:06 PM
Modified: Mar 17, 2012 09:08 PM
MORRISVILLE - Representatives from groups including AARP, Capital Area Friends of Transit and Wake Up Wake County urged the Morrisville Town Council to support the Wake County Transit Plan at a recent public input session.
The plan – which includes new and expanded bus routes, commuter rail service and new transportation facilities – would help address demands of population growth, help people save amid rising gas prices and help senior citizens avoid isolation, said the representatives.
It will be up to Wake County Commissioners to decide whether to put a referendum on the fall ballot for a half-cent sales tax to fund the plan. Durham voters approved a half-cent sales tax for transit spending last year.
Local governments like Morrisville will be asked to sign inter-local agreements in support of the measure. No date has yet been set for the agreement to appear before the council. The council held a public input session Tuesday.
“We think that transit is a critical part of the solution for planning for growth. Demand for transit will increase. We’re going to see a lot more seniors,” said Karen Ridge, with Wake Up Wake County, which represents about 3,000 people.
Residents could gain improved access to job centers and the metro region would benefit from an expanded tax base the transit industry would bring, she said.
“Every year we don’t plan for the growth it will put us further behind,” Ridge said.
Morrisville Chamber of Commerce Director Carlotta Ungaro said the chamber supported the transit plan because it would manage growth, reduce costs for workers and install infrastructure improvements.
“Let’s do the right thing now,” she said. “Addressing transit earlier rather than later retains our competitiveness.”
The transit station planned for Morrisville creates opportunities for retail and walkability, she said.
Under the Wake County plan, Morrisville would gain a commuter bus route that runs every 15 minutes during peak hours, new neighborhood bus circulator routes to Apex and from Morrisville to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. There would be new bus routes along N.C. 54 from Cary to Research Triangle Park.
The proposal has new commuter rail service from Morrisville to Research Triangle Park and from downtown Cary to Morrisville every 30 minutes during peak hours.
North Carolina State AARP Director Doug Dickerson spoke about how the transit plan would help senior citizens.
“Throughout North Carolina, older adults are increasingly finding themselves disconnected,” Dickerson said.
He said that as adults get older, it’s difficult for them to travel to visit friends, the grocery store and other social centers. Dickerson added that the isolation can lead to depression and the need for other federal services.
The Morrisville Town Council voted to extend the transit plan public input session into its March 27 meeting. The council voiced its support to Wake County Manager David Cooke at its Jan. 24 meeting. Mayor Jackie Holcombe said it was time to move forward.