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
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
“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
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
“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