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"Connecting North Carolinians to Opportunities" is Transit Strategic Plan

RALEIGH – Transportation leaders from across the state met in Raleigh Wednesday to unveil the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Public Transportation Strategic Plan, a framework for setting priorities and strengthening partnerships to improve urban and rural transit service.

With a vision of “Connecting North Carolinians to Opportunities,” the Strategic Plan recommends expanded local and regional commuter services and spells out strategies to focus transit spending.

The plan features a Connected Statewide Network with 70 suggested new routes, linking rural and urban areas with scheduled transit service to give more North Carolinians access to major hospitals, community colleges and employment centers.

“Together, we will strengthen our workforce and our economy by giving people access to education and good-paying jobs that make full use of their skills,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday in a video released with the Strategic Plan. “When we don’t see county lines as barriers to transit service, people in rural communities can use transit to explore new education and economic opportunities, and seek better health care.”

More than 300 local officials, transit operators and citizens came to the Raleigh Convention Center Wednesday to hear highlights of the Strategic Plan and to start planning its implementation.

Two state legislators who head transportation committees told attendees they began their political careers as transit skeptics but now call themselves “believers.”

“I understand now about light rail,” said Rep. John Torbett of Gaston County. Citing Charlotte’s 18-mile Blue Line, he said rail transit can stimulate private investment and ease the traffic surges that are coming with rapid growth in the state’s two largest cities, Raleigh and Charlotte.

“You look at the economic development that parallels that track, going from Center City all the way to UNC-Charlotte. And it is hundreds upon hundreds of million dollars that will be revitalized in areas that perhaps might have been blighted just a few years ago,” Torbett said.

Sen. Jim Davis of Macon County applauded the Ridge Runner, a recently launched mountain transit route from Hayesville to Asheville with stops in Franklin and Sylva.

“It connects residents from our more remote counties to the services that they need,” Davis said. “It’s a ground-breaking part of the interconnected plan that we have for all throughout North Carolina. … Our community transit systems will need better ways of delivering transit service, along with focused state and federal assistance.”

A Raleigh-based software and technology executive called for “world-class public transportation” to help keep the Triangle successful.

Nate Spilker of Raleigh, vice president for project management at Citrix Systems Inc., said the city’s high quality of life helps Citrix compete with Austin, Boston and other technology hubs for talented young workers.  Raleigh has “relatively smooth traffic,” and that’s important to the 600 Citrix employees who work in the city’s warehouse district, he said.

 “There’s no doubt that commuting has a significant impact on quality of life, and quality of life has a significant impact on our ability to attract and retain the top talent,” Spilker said.

The NCDOT Public Transportation Division developed the Strategic Plan over the past two years with help from health-care providers, local leaders and the state’s 100 urban and rural transit agencies.  Many of the routes proposed in the Connected Statewide Network were suggested by citizens who took part in community workshops across the state.  

Debbie Collins, director of the NCDOT Public Transportation Division, said the Strategic Plan final report will be released in mid-2018.  It will include an action plan and implementation recommendations for three strategies and fifteen tactics.  It will also include a financial plan to strengthen North Carolina’s transit services and supporting infrastructure.

“We have a lot of ideas,” Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon told attendees at the Strategic Plan Summit in Raleigh. “And we want to have ideas from you. We look forward to advancing those ideas here in North Carolina for everyone’s benefit.”

Contact: Bruce Siceloff


9/7/2018 2:27 PM

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