Some believe commuter trains are crucial to handle Raleigh’s growth and are necessary for any major metropolitan area. Others think a rail system will not offer enough convenience to lure many motorists from their cars and that it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Those views will clash Monday, Aug. 1, when the City Council holds a public hearing on proposed light rail routes through downtown Raleigh. The hearing will be in Council Chamber, Room 201, at the Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex, 222 West Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh. A worskhup begins at 5:30 p.m. and a public hearing starts at 7 p.m.
At the workshop, city officials and representatives of the Passenger Rail Task Force will also discuss potential routes for a light rail system. The task force has recommended a route along Morgan, Salisbury and Wilmington Streets. (See map at left.)
Area planning officials say a light rail system is necessary to handle the explosive growth in Raleigh and surrounding areas in coming years.
Rail must be part of strategies to handle growth, according to Triangle Transit. According to an analysis on the organization’s web site:
”The Triangle is home to 1.5 million people and is projected to grow rapidly to 2.5 million people over the next generation, adding more people than currently live in our four largest cities combined: Raleigh, Durham, Cary and Chapel Hill. With the added population will also come changes in its demographic makeup, housing and the propensity for people to want and to use high-quality transit service.”
Rail is a no-brainer for the area, according to Karen Rindge, executive director of WakeUp Wake County, an organization dedicated to bringing about public policies that effectively deal with growth.
“All of the major roadways are going to be at capacity,” Rindge said. Raleigh needs rail to complement bus service like “every major region in the country,” she added.
Rail supporters hope to get voter approval for a half-cent sales tax dedicated to mass transit, though plans are not fully developed and no target date has been publicly sent for such a referendum.
Others balk at the cost of the rail system, which could top $1 billion. The antiplanner, for instance, a web site “dedicated to the sunset of government planning,” calls the rail plan “stupid” and mocks assertions that it is needed for a major metropolitan area: “Never mind that local taxpayers will have to pay half the construction and most of the operating and maintenance costs — you can sell rail to them by talking about congestion (even though it won’t relieve congestion) and the need to be a ‘world-class city,’ or at least keep up with Charlotte/Minneapolis/whatever-is-the-nearest-big-city with a rail project.”
On Monday, the public has its say.