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The Triangle’s transit troubles

Seats.jpg(Cross-posted from the Action NC blog [1])

I have decided that it’s time to replace my car. It’s a clunker, to say the least. With more than a decade on the road and well over the 100,000 miles on the odometer, the old girl is just starting to fail.  My car has become so unreliable, in fact, that I thought it might be a good idea to figure out how I would get to work if one morning my car just decided not to start.

Every wonder how you would get to work if you didn’t have a car? The short answer is that you probably wouldn’t [2]. And if you could, it would take you a long, long time to get there.

To go from my home in North Raleigh to my office in Downtown Raleigh, it takes roughly twenty minutes to drive the roughly ten miles. To take the bus, the only available form of public transit in Raleigh (or almost anywhere in North Carolina, if it’s even available) it would take more than an hour and a half [3], in the best case, assuming no traffic and no late buses. And I’m lucky – I’m within walking distance to a bus stop, and there is a bus stop very close to my office. If you had to walk more than half a mile on either side, the time would be even longer. The real problem is that many areas – areas with good jobs – aren’t even accessible via bus. My wife can’t even take a bus, any bus, to her job in RTP, because the routes don’t move in that direction from our home.

So, to those who say we don’t need a commuter rail system, I say you have never had to worry about your car breaking down. Or not having a car. Or you just don’t care about those of us who do [4].

Thankfully, Durham County residents will have the opportunity to vote on a referendum next week [5] that will take the first step in implementing a real transit system for the Triangle. You know, the region that is expected to see more than 1 million more people move here in the next twenty years? The place that a recent study of traffic congestion found that congestion in a single year resulted in over 18 million hours of travel delays and 11 million gallons of excess fuel consumption, with the combined cost of those inefficiencies estimated to be $346 million?

You know, the place otherwise known as our home [6]?

A regional public transit system is not a luxury – it is a necessity. If you think a rail system is expensive, just think about a million more cars on the already crowded roads and all the gas you will be burning while inching along I-40. How about a million people who are ready and able to work, to be productive, tax-paying members of the community, but can’t get to work because they don’t have cars or worse, can’t afford to gas up the ones they already own?

Don’t you think a half a cent sales tax increase is worth avoiding all of that?