Mayoral Issues: Public Transportation

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CORRECTION APPENDED: Due to an editing error, the original story said Durham and Orange counties will vote on a half-cent sales tax for public transportation this fall. Orange County will not vote on the referendum, only Durham.

In preparation for the October elections, the Record interviewed the mayoral and city council candidates. The interviews will be part of a printed voter guide to be released in September. Using the responses from the interviews, the Record is doing a series featuring the mayoral candidates’ views on issues facing Raleigh.

Public transportation is a big issue for Raleigh and the city council. Fix the bus system, reduce congestion, pay for light rail, promote dense development around transit — those are all commonly heard throughout the city and around the city council table.

Each of the candidates — Nancy McFarlane, Billie Redmond and Randall Williams — gave their different views on public transportation.

Billie Redmond

Billie Redmond

Redmond said the public transportation system is “good,” but also needs improvements.

Redmond said it would take “all of the transit methods that we have here, because for the same reason we attract and keep people.”

“They want their car; they want to drive. They want to ride a bicycle, so they need bike lanes. They want to walk; they need the greenways. They want to ride public transportation because they don’t want to own a car or they want to live in a truly urban environment. I think we can do all those things,” Redmond said.

Redmond thinks public transportation “is a really difficult subject for a lot of people, and a lot of people support public transit because they want someone else to use it.”

“What they really want is for someone else to ride the bus or the train so they don’t have to wait in traffic in their car,” Redmond said.

Redmond takes a businesslike approach to the issue of light rail. Redmond believes light rail will help the city build its tax base, and that it “has a demonstrated track record of creating exponential private sector investment.”

“Ultimately, for us to really be a world-class city, we need to provide some levels of public transportation, but I think what we really ought to focus on today is what can we afford today, what can we preserve as an opportunity for the future, then how do we really stay focused on creating that private sector investment. And we know it will,” Redmond said.

Nancy McFarlane

Nancy McFarlane

McFarlane said public transportation would be most impacted by future population growth.

“If we double in population, we cannot possibly have twice as many cars on the road. No one will be able to get anywhere,” McFarlane said.

McFarlane felt that, with the demographics of the population shifting, having transportation, housing and work options are “critically important.”

McFarlane wants to see a combination of different transportation forms—buses, light and commuter rail.

McFarlane said she didn’t think the current “spoke” system for bus routes all running from downtown works well. “I tend to think of things developing as a spider web, and you not only have spokes, but you got to be able to have the rings too. Everything doesn’t need to come back down. You need to be able to get from here, to here, to here,” McFarlane said.

McFarlane also believes “a rail system is not going to work without a good bus system to support it.”

McFarlane said she wants to see a light rail system that serves Raleigh’s communities and helps future development.

“What’s going to be really important is that, as that develops, there are clear development patterns around transit stops that will allow for denser development. That allow people to have options, to be able to live, and work, and play, and not have to get in their car to do what they want to do,” McFarlane said.

McFarlane said light rail with areas for more development would create a “much higher tax base with a low cost of services.”

Randall Williams

For Williams, public transportation is about “regionalism.”

Randall Williams

“So, when we talk about public transportation, we’re talking about federal, state, county, and then regional authority, and then the city of Raleigh,” Williams said.

Williams said that the city is the “one entity” that “doesn’t probably have any role in paying for it.”

“If you look at everything out there, it’ll come out light rail, buses and referendums, it’s all on the county level,” Williams said.

Williams believes the city should “do its part as a regional entity” when it comes to public transportation, but that he is “sensitive” to the costs as well.

“You know the referendum is $900 million, of which $400 million is for buses, so certainly I think we can all agree on the $400 million for buses, regional buses. It’s the other part that I think is kind of out of our control, but clearly, all of the other entities put up the money for it,” Williams said, speaking of a proposed half-cent sales tax for public transit.

Durham County will vote on the tax this year, but Wake County Commissioners opted not to put the issue to voters this year.

As far as the rail system, Williams believes the answer is “more complex” than saying yes or no to it.

“I mean, I think you’ll talk to candidates who will go yay, nay. I mean, they’ll answer to that question very simply, they’ll go yes, I’m for light rail, commuter rail, every rail, I just think it’s more complex than that,” Williams said.


5 thoughts on “Mayoral Issues: Public Transportation

  1. Redmond is completely wrong if she thinks Raleigh’s buses can be described as “good”.

    Williams is wrong to think that public transportation should be focused on the entire region, rather then just the city. Serving the city of Raleigh should comes first over serving the entire area, due to density and low income populations.

    McFarlane is the only candidate who seems to understand the issue, and if elected I hope she will do more for CAT then Meeker did.

  2. While I think public transportation should be addressed regionally, I think that’s mostly for between-city travels to say, Durham, Chapel Hill and RTP. Which is a whole other subject than Raleigh’s public transportation needs.
    Williams talking about public transportation as a county issue is crazy! The entitled suburbanites of Cary, Apex, Garner, Holly Springs and Wake Forest are never gonna give up their fat gas-guzzlers for a bus. Ain’t…gonna…happen.

    Redmond’s answer starts good…particularly the part of saying everyone wants someone else to take public transit. True. But then she completely avoids the issues of actually paying for it, or getting people to use it. Blah blah…what we can afford…blah blah…private sector investment. Ah…so, sounds like she’s for anything as long as you keep taxes low. Got it.

  3. Williams is right not crazy. Clearly Apex, Cary, Wake Forest, etc. need to work with Raleigh to develop a county wide public transportation. McFarland’s web needs to be bigger than just Raleigh.
    Costs are most important. We already have too much spending in Raleigh. Light rail systems are very expensive. However, if we build a good one it could be much used as few will be able to afford to drive with the high tax burden brought about by not caring about costs. Eating peas is good, if you have a little steak to go along with it.

  4. Billie Redmond, endorsed by the Home Builder’s Association.
    All I need to know.

    McFarlane is the peoples’ choice.

    HBA doesn’t give a crap about consumers. Consumers are only suckers to be taken advantage of.
    Right wing all of the time.

    They do make voting easy though.
    A consumer voting for the HBA’s candidate is like chickens voting for Col. Sanders!