Commissioners to discuss transit at work session Thursday

Hope some folks will join me in observing the Orange Commissioners' work session on transit, Thursday, 7 PM, at the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road.

The title of the agenda item:  Triangle Regional Transit Program – Orange County Bus and Rail Investment Plan; Alternatives Analysis and the Locally Preferred Alternative. There are two attachments. The first was compiled by County staff and is interesting, in many ways.

Ruby (with Izzy) were the bulk of the citizens in the room for the Commissioners' discussion of transit last last month. Because Izzy declared that he had other priorities, Ruby left me to let the Commissioners know that the grassroots organization was out there waiting for a signal from the Commissioners to get going on a transit referendum.  It will most likely happen in the November 2012 election



Thanks for attending, Ed. I have exams and what-not, so can't make it this time. Hopefully the commissioners will be able to focus on the entire system, and not the rail line routing which was the topic of conversation at the discussion last month.

I can't make it either, but I just sent the chair of the county commissioners an email voicing my opinion. You can too! Phone numbers and email addresses are listed for all the commissioners here!

Vicki BoyerI love rapid transit.  But next November is not the time to vote on a sales tax increase.  Republicans in Orange Co are already gathering signatures to put a referedum on the ballot to repeal the 1/4 cent tax approve last month.  No one knows if they will get enough signatures or if the momentum to that end will last. But the sentiment is strong enough against the last tax to set something in motion, and we don't yet know where it will go.We have four Democratic Commissioners (presumably) running for re-election. An active anti-sales tax campaign could result in an active campaign to un-seat the Dems and replace them with Republicans.  If that happens, not only will the transit tax fail, but the future of many issues we all support will be in doubt.We will already have the Commissioners running for re-election put on the defensive by a challenge to the last tax and on top of that, trying to defend an additional tax. Take the wind out of Republican sails; let this one ride. Don't let them keep screaming about "Tax and Spend Democrats." A large Republican turnout in Orange County could have repercussions in up-ballot elections; Governor Purdue and President Obama are also up for re-election. Not to mention Rep. David Price. If Republicans win the statehouse and the White House, we can forget about any federal funds to help local transit issues. And remember, Orange Co. Democratic votes were a large part of what made NC go blue in 2008. Giving the Republicans a rallying cry is not a good idea.We may also have the new districting in effect and that is already enough of a challenge for Rep. Price, without stirring up a hornets' nest of conservative opposition.In my humble opinion, November is not the time to put the transit tax on our ballot. I am in favor of improved transit in the Triangle area, but we cannot afford to put this on November's ballot. Sorry. Really.

I do not think the comments are well founded in electoral reality. BTW it would take 11,000 voter signatures to put a sales tax repeal on the ballot, under GS 105-473 it could not be held at the same time as the 2012 general election, or within 60 days before or after that date

"We may also have the new districting in effect and that is already enough of a challenge for Rep. Price, without stirring up a hornets' nest of conservative opposition."

The Republicans in the General Assembly redrew this district from a relatively self-contained one, to a long squiggly line that sort of resembles Italy, to the effect of making it much more Democratic so as to make sure surrounding districts will be less so.  They have guaranteed there will be no conservative opposition in that congressional district for the next decade. 

I disagree completely. This will be a national, high-participation election, making it far more favorable to a transit tax than midterm elections, which attract an older, more conservative demographic. With the convention in Charlotte, we'll see the Democrats wage a very active campaign in NC, benefiting initiatives like the sale tax increase. Also, Democrats have to address the "Tax and Spend" charge (which I feel is overplayed by this point) directly. Democrats lost this argument in the past not because taxes were too high, but because the spending was misappropriated. A half-cent sales tax for transit is the kind of direct funding for services that will lead to more support  for government services, not less. It's the sneaky, ill-defined tax and spending increases that upset people. Also--the immediate and future benefits for the transit tax are considerable, and every six months or a year that we wait will get us on the wrong foot. For example, the transit tax will immediately fund increased TTA service, including Sunday service to RDU, which would greatly increase the appeal of car-free, high-density developments. Such developments take years to build, and won't work without at least some residents using public transit to get to work. By committing to transit in 2012, Orange County will lay the groundwork for decades of transit-friendly growth.

Vicki BoyerDon't underestimate the cumulative impact of:a difficult property tax re-evaluation, where many saw a steep increase in their property unsuccessful attempt to pass the 1/4cent sales tax,a successful passage of the 1/4 cent sales tax,and then add to it another 1 cent sales tax hike.And remember, I believe it is this year we go through property re-evaluation again.  We don't know if the outcome of that can be kept revenue neutral.This is not a matter of taxes, but a matter of spurring local conservatives to organize.  Even if their attempt at a referendum flops, they will have collected names, phone numbers and emails for people in this area, in a way they have not done before.  This can make all future elections difficult.I voted for the 1/4 cent sales tax.  I am not against the transit tax.  I, personally, do not believe this is the right time to put it on the ballot. 

Of the 89 pages of Commissioner agenda for this work session, no election is mentioned until the "Draft" last page.  The discussion tonight is most likely about the large picture and important details of the "Bus and Rail Investment Plan for Orange County."  (BTW, that name is stated the way it is at the specific request of the Public Transit Partners Committee  -- Carrboro, CH and UNC -- in particular the University members).  Again, hope interested folks will come to hear their Commissioners think out loud about this critically-important issue. Ed Harrison

The transit tax is a half-cent sales tax, which, as I understand, will just return us to the status quo, given the expiration of the penny tax from before. Taxes are very low right now (the lowest level in decades), and I just don't see an anti-transit tax campaign getting much traction.That said, pro-transit advocates should emphasis that investing in transit will preserve farmland and the rural way of life, as it will reduce sprawl. In addition, transit services to Hillsborough and rural Orange county will increase, making it easier for seniors, homebound, etc., to access medical and other services. In general,  I see the tension in Orange County be much more about city/rural than Democrat/Republican, even if there's significant overlap between these two groups. I don't think a transit tax is going to mobilize people who otherwise wouldn't vote, particularly in November 2012.I am, however, mixed on a May 2012 vote, as that could easily fail given the marriage referendum and what may be still be a competitive Republican primary. How would you fund transit?  I think federal support is too uncertain to be of much use. Sales taxes are fine, but other revenue sources (such as increased car registration fee, with perhaps an exemption for people who don't live within a half-mile of a bus stop), would be nice supplements. I also support fare increases for express/rush hour service (not CH transit, but TTA, Chapel Hill/Hillsborough routes, etc.)

You do know that round trip for TTA express is $5, right?  Why make it harder for those who are already taking the bus?

Having just returned from the airport, where I paid $18 for parking because TTA doesn't offer early morning and late night service to the airport, I would love to pay more for the bus (say, $10 roundtrip) if service increased. As long as we see public transit as something we do for the poor, we're never going to get a functioning system in this country. Now, I don't think we need to make non-car transit a luxury item (like Amtrak's Acela service), but we can find a happy medium.  

Frankly, I think the county is already years behind in this effort. The region and the state look to us for leadership and this regional transit system is critical to our economic and environmental future. This is another area in which Durham is showing us up again. Better transportation systems are of critical importance to Orange County voters, and I hope the Commissioners realize how frustrated we are right now.I would like to see the Commissioners even consider putting this on the May primary ballot. In Orange County we will have lots of people coming out to vote against the Marriage Distrimination Amendment (or whatever it's being called this month). Another reason to get this decision made soon is so that transit supporters have options to find other candidates if the current commissioners won't get with the program. 

Here are my OP tweets from tonight's meeting, with other people's replies in italics:

  • Commissioners now looking @ rail station alignments, whether to preserve proximity to hospital or connection Carrboro & Carolina North.
  • Now Commish debating Meadowmont vs Woodmont stations. Concerned w/ where $$ wld go if station not in Orange Co. So short-sighted.
  • @kcs_tarheel: @orangepolitics considering the economic impact of a project is not shortsighted.
  • Glad @BernadettePelis gets that key criteria for alignments is which will make transit system succeed. Seems over concerned abt parking.
  • @geoff_green: @orangepolitics yes. I don't see why every single station needs gobs of parking. That's antithetical to transit oriented devel.
  • @marcoplos: @orangepolitics Any word on the key contributions to the discussion that Pam Hemminger has made?)
  • @mmarcoplos I don't believe Commissioner Hemminger has had anything to say so far this evening.
  • Commissioners formally decide to keep both Meadowmont and Woodmont station alignments on the table. Decisions? Leadership? Later. 
  • @geoff_green: @orangepolitics that's probably the better decision at this stage. Environmental uncertainties need to be dealt with
  • Can't believe how narrowly our commissioners think of econ devm't from stations. Successful regional & local transit is critical to economy!
  • Pelissier: We need to make decisions by March/April if we want to put regional transit tax referendum on November ballot. 

I thought I had written a reply to Kristen (@kcs_tarheel) but now I don't see it. What I meant to say was:  This is about a transportation system. If it fails, specific projects costs won't matter.

Here's a Powerpoint presentation given by Wake County Manager David Cooke on Monday to let you know what is happening over here in Raleigh as far as the regional plan  The TENTATIVE timetable is on slide 33 and pasted below (ILA= Interlocal agreement):Task/Milestone  Date

•Finalize Wake County Transit Plan  November 2011

•Municipalities Consider/Approve Transit
Plan & ILA  Nov. – Feb. 2012

•CAMPO Consider/Approve Transit Plan  Feb. – March 2012

•Triangle Transit Consider/Approve Transit
Plan  Feb. – March 2012

•Wake BOC Consider/Approve Transit Plan
& ILA  April 2012

•Wake BOC Authorize the Referendum  April 2012

•Referendum  November 2012

If you want to also follow the Wake County side of the pro-transit debate, "like" this Facebook page 

if this Tax increase referendum is placed on the May 8th primary ballot…
strategically placed for low turn out... it will be but another needle in the eye
of the rural voter. Have you seen the pitch forks and torches disappearing from
the stores? I assure you... I have only purchased 2 sets. The voters leaving
the polls last Nov. knew the game of an off year referendum….May 8th
will not be lost on them one bit. They will not be able to leave the parking lot for flat tires from all the nail spitting. I saw it last Nov. This is would not an equitable date if the goal was an accurate opinion from the county. AAs Vicky states, "This is not a matter of taxes,
but a matter of spurring local conservatives to organize.  Even if their
attempt at a referendum flops, they will have collected names, phone numbers
and emails for people in this area, in a way they have not done before.
 This can make all future elections difficult."...I agree and it will
not be underutilized. 

rail will not serve the rural resident. The throw away cookie of a rural bus
cruising one way for an hour and a half for minimal ridership to concilate will be short lived when the cost:rider becomes evident and it is canned. County
folk already have their mechs. to get about the county...and on their own
schedule. The rail will only serve CH so that their residents can ride to a
county that has not taxed retail out of it....and provide easy access of CH to
the miscreants of Durham.


 the failure of line recogintion of this format and my Word is irritating


is provocative. "One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."-Maj.
Douglas Zembiec 

The reason the formatting of your comments looks odd is because you are copying the text from another source. The best way to clear Word's formatting is to either write your comment in (or copy/paste the text into) a plain text editor (such as Notepad) before posting.

Chris: do you think rural residents will benefit from:a) Being able to maintain their quality of life (low traffic, no sprawl, shopping centers, etc.)b) Being able to make a living in agriculture, rural tourism, etc.?If so, light rail, by allowing growth without sprawl, will help the rural people in the county.  

 ML,A) Quality of life is regulated by taxes and the influence of CH on their remaining liberty. I know this as I have asked. Light rail will do nothing to control spraw...why there is the BOCC for that and they seem to have it well under control by the names of companies that scrapped plans to locate here.B )To be able to make a living again is affected by the second highest taxes in the state(if not the highest w/ the new) again seemingly controlled by CH. Rural Tourism?  What are the returns projected for rual touism and what are the defined revinue streams? (This is a new idea to me). In asking about Light rail(on my list), (approx 310 voters) no one wished for it, mentioned any benifit. This might prove an interesting  perspective. I know not where you are located, but the citizens I met seemed to know what they wanted and what is best for them and it is not light rail and the accomaning taxes.Review the  election data for the 1/4 tax...look at the map to see who voted how. The people in light green are feeling like those in dark green are running their lives....    Weakness is provocative.
"One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."-Maj. Douglas Zembiec

A) Light rail will deter sprawl, as it will encourage high-density development that reduces the need for turning farmland into low-density suburban communities.  Liberty means different things to different people. I feel most free in places where I don't need a car to get everywhere.  Rural voters do more to infringe on the liberty of urban voters than the reverse, given the political structure of our system (U.S. Senators representing just over 20% of the population can use the filibuster to veto bills that are in the interest of the 80% majority). For example, whenever a highway is built, the feds pick up 80 percent of the costs, but whenever a light rail line is built, the feds only kick in 50% of the costs. I would happily trade low taxes on rural farmland in exchange for keeping it rural (no subdivisions, no commercial use). But, if people want to maximize the value of their property, they need to pay the corresponding taxes. B) Rural tourism is just one answer: But, perhaps, there are better solutions. I just don't think it's in rural Orange's interest to increase suburban sprawl, nor is it in their interest to have a stagnant economy.  I understand people's skepticism about something that they themselves do not imagine using. But, in the long run, they will benefit, both from the increased economic returns provided by the rail investment and the reduced threat from suburban sprawl. 

I think the chance of an Orange County transit referendum being on the May primary ballot is somewhere between slim and none, tho I would argue that things are exactly opposite from the November 2011 sales tax referendum in that Orange County school board election is on the ballot in May just in the more rural precincts.references like "pitch forks ... torches  ... nails and flat tires ... Durham miscreants" probably do not help your cause.

 Those reference were made to provide insight to the anger the voters had w/o actually using the terms expressed which would violate terms of use here. Like a tool, it was palpable and "angry" too simple to use...As for a May referendom....did the Mayor of Carboro not petition the BOCC for jst such a date? Who would have the ear of the BOCC on the "advantages" of another off cycle election? Those in dark green(see below) or those in light green? History  Weakness is provocative.
"One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."-Maj. Douglas Zembiec

Not all rural residents are conservatives. I feel Rural district 2 commissioners (McKee, Yuhasz) do not represent their constituents (ie their sales tax support) but represent Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Hopefully we can change this in future elections. It's obvious district 2 rural residents whether conservative or liberal feel they are way overtaxed and would like some property tax relief.A future part of regional rail is a line from Carborro up towards Hillsborough  at old University Station and meeting with existing main line all existing rail most condusive to light rail. Since the first phase will probably be light rail, I feel the whole thing should be the same infrastructure. This allows more options (ie express trains from  Chapel Hill to Raleigh) increasing usage by people working trhoughout the region. If 2 different infrastructures passengers will have to make transfers in Durham increasing transit times considerably and lowering usage.The existing rail between Carrboro and Hillsborogh area is mostly undeveloped rural country. Highly dense compact developments around train stations can be implemnted protecting rural areas yet providing new residential and commercial development opportunities in a sustainable way.   

"Not all rural residents are conservatives"If I infered this I did not mean to(( actually in terms of Republican/Democrat)I have developed the impression that many democrats in the ruals areas are very conservative))"  It's obvious district 2 rural residents whether conservative or liberal feel they are way overtaxed and would like some property tax relief."This is true .However, language like "developments around train stations can be implemnted " seems to be what they are used to getting...(implemented)  cw   Weakness is provocative.
"One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."-Maj. Douglas Zembiec

Not sure what this: "This is true .However, language like "developments around train stations can be implemnted " seems to be what they are used to getting...(implemented)"  haz to doo wit de issssssue or anyhting fur thet matter.

simply an observation of a verb used that portends force....  Weakness is provocative.
"One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."-Maj. Douglas Zembiec

In the past Orange County has developed Small Area Plans for potential development areas with input from citizens (including many neighbors), businessman and politicians with losts of study and analysis by staff. Is a good process. I would think small area plans would be developed for each and every train station if the light rail to University station ever becomes a reality.  A really neat small area plan was done for the area next to landfill (I believe site 3 in the landfill search) quite a few years back. It addressed transportation as well as development. Was pretty much ignored but the process is a good one.

Incidentally the rail line goes thru Carrboro and contiunes right by the Horace Williams site. Would be great way to ferry students and workers from Horace Williams to main campus and back. The right of way is still there and goes right up to Columbia near the Credit Union. Of course this was brought up many times to the UNC development people during the Horace William planning sessions but again was pretty much ignored by this supposedly forward thinking institution.

Was this done w/ ICLEI?Thanks  Weakness is provocative.
"One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."-Maj. Douglas Zembiec

Not sure what ICLEI is.UNC had many public hearings to discuss their plan and the rail line and their failure to consider it was mentioned at every hearing I attended.

An offshoot of the UN that the county has been in cahoots w/ for a while. They provide "guidance" to conform to UN(...non US) standards for "sustainability"(development). Weakness is provocative.
"One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."-Maj. Douglas Zembiec

According to WCHL, county commissioners and manager drew a blank on the economic development advantages of transit. is particularly odd given that just a few months ago they were touting how much of the new sales tax would be paid by out of county visitors. In the future, regional transit will be a big part of how they get here.In addition, transit is a major contribution to economic localization. Chapel Hill Transit's largest cost area by far is salaries, monies creating good jobs for local citizens who will spend their earnings locally.According to a December report from the American Public Transit Association, "Individuals can save $807 this month alone by switching to public transit for their daily commute." Obviously this is a national average and is no more than suggestive of what we might see locally. But what it does suggest is a lot of money staying in Orange County rather than going to Exxon or BP.There is a big economic development advantage in using transit to avoid tying up land with parking lots. Just look at the changes at UNC over the past decade and you can see this very directly. Especially in the county's municipal centers (i.e. the destination of most trips), parking lots are far from the "highest and best use" of any particular parcel. Minimizing the need for parking via increased transit allows for more economic development where it has the greatest chance of success.Finally, the commissioners and manager seem to overlook that the University of North Carolina is the overwhelmingly dominant engine for economic development in Orange County, creating many thousands of jobs and bringing countless customers to area businesses (and much more). It is vital for the university to have the means for their employees to get to work, i.e. to Orange County, so that it can continue to do so much good for the county. (This is something i hear about in great detail on a monthly basis as a Carrboro representative to the Chapel Hill Transit Partners Committee). 

This recent analysis from Asheville shows the potential benefit of the higher-density development which transit can bring versus more traditional, "big box" development which the OC commissioners were trying to bring to northern OC not so long ago. 

Instead of doing the job they were elected to do, the commissioners have handed over to county manager Frank Clifton all responsibility for articulating a vision for economic development, regional transit, solid waste, and who knows what else. I'm afraid this means we may be stuck with "not so long ago" development patterns for some time to come.

Orange County has the unique transit friendly sitation in the Triangle of a concentrated employment/destination center UNC and UNC hospitals. If the key elements for Orange County Commissioners are quoted opinions like how can their friends drive to a rail station (rather than have a mode of transit stations near origin/destination) or "let's start over and wait a few years", then Durham and Wake can just leave Orange County out. Orange does not generate enough sales tax revenue to run a line from Durham County up Franklin Street.

relative to urban/rural cost benefit (which is a very important "metric" for the discussion) what % of the county sales tax revenue is collected by businesses in Chapel Hill and Carrboro? This might help put things in perspective.

The short answer is: most of it, with additional from commercial in and immediately next to Hillsborough.Will have more to say after a day spent in work session and board meeting at Triangle Transit. I will convene a work session at 11 on "Orange and Wake Transit Plans" and will be interested how that goes, with an OC Commissioner at the table. Last night's meeting can be viewed on streaming video. The transit item starts about 1:50 into the meeting. If you are fascinated by this topic, highly recommend viewing.  Ed Harrison

we're already starting to get the sophomoric "choo choo" references sprinkled into the debate by opponents. This is actually quite fortunate, because in Mecklenburg County's 2007 campaign the opponents mainly kept repeating the words "choo choo" as if this would sway the debate. This phrase even found itself into the Durham County anti-transit tax debate last fall. I saw one Tweet last night from a frequent poster here that referred to the "Chapel Hill Choo-Choo" which while intended to be derogatory in fact inadvertently refers to Charlie Justice.

But it cuts right to the heart of the Tax. This is not a bus is a train tax...light rail. A UN/ICLEI initiative... Light rail Nationally
cost the taxpayers that support it $4 loss per rider. Charlotte’s Choo Choo costs the taxpayers -$20/
rider. The Citizen of D2 will not benefit from any Chapel Hill Choo
it would serve...CH/Carb, yet we will have an additional tax...and a Great
potential of Long Term Expenditures.

Add to this Choo Choo tax the off year
referendum sales tax...

desire of a trash transfer station that D2 will pay for and will predominantly
serve the volumes produced by D1....
And you get very....irritated D2...and when they hear that whistle blow for the
Chapel Hill Choo Choo......

Dan's Notion that a light rail will
increase   economic advantages is a pipe dream. The magic of a light rail
will suddenly create a non hostile environment to which industry will be drawn
to?  Sorry...the intransigent nature of Orange to development will not be solved by
the development of a costly light rail that will historically be a drain.

Weakness is provocative. "One of
the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."-Maj. Douglas Zembiec


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