WRAL: Wake voters to decide on transit tax

Wake County voters will decide this fall if they want to raise local sales taxes by a half-cent to help pay for a $2.3 billion plan that expands public bus and train services.

That question will be the last item on the ballot for voters heading to the polls already during early voting or on Election Day, Nov. 8.

Among the new transit options that are part of the Wake County Transit plan are a 37-mile commuter rail linking Raleigh and other parts of Wake County with Research Triangle Park and Durham. The plan would also expand bus routes to Wake County towns not currently served by public transportation and increased frequency of existing bus routes. 

 

Shoppers in Wake County currently pay 6.75 cents per dollar in sales tax. If the referendum passes, the county's sales tax rate would rise to 7.25 percent, so the tax on a $100 shopping trip would move from $6.75 to $7.25.

Proponents of the plan point to the Triangle's population growth in recent years, citing statistics that show Raleigh, Durham and the surrounding area are growing by 63 people a day, which is adding to traffic congestion.

"Right now, a lot of bus services don’t even run on Sundays or past 9 (p.m.)," said WakeUP Wake County executive director Karen Rindge. "With this plan, the amount of service would expand significantly to all Wake County towns."

The Wake County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously in June to put the tax increase on the ballot. Voters in Orange and Durham counties approved similar sales tax increases in 2011 and 2012, respectively, for their own transit projects.

Yet, organizations such as the conservative John Locke Foundation, Civitas Institute and the Wake County Taxpayers' Association oppose the tax increase and the transit plan, saying it could be underused, overpriced and outdated by the time it is completed.

"We are not an urban metropolis like New York or Chicago," Civitas Institute spokesman Jim Tynen said. "We need a decentralized transportation system."

Tynen's argument was echoed in a statement from the John Locke Foundation, which says the rail map in the transit plan is flawed because all of the lines run in and out of Raleigh, potentially making travel more time-consuming if one had to travel through a central point to get to other, outer Wake County towns.

"So, what about people who live in Knightdale but work in Wake Forest?" the statement asks.

Rindge points to the plan’s promise to add transit to all cities in Wake County and its bipartisan backing.

"I can’t think of a public policy issue that has such broad support. We have businesses working with environmentalist groups with the Home Builders Association," Rindge said. "That's unprecedented."

A WRAL report written by Sharon Nunn, on October 28, 2016. Read more here http://www.wral.com/wake-voters-to-decide-on-transit-tax/16168122/