In 2016, the GoTriangle Board of Trustees and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization commissioned the Wake County Transit Plan, and Wake County voters passed a ½ cent sales tax to pay for it (which last year generated over $120 million). The Transit Plan currently has a fund balance of over $425 million.
Several big ticket items from this plan designed to serve larger urban areas (Bus Rapid Transit, the now-shelved Commuter Rail Plan) have commanded the majority of the attention when it comes to public transportation in Wake County. This overlooks a very successful pilot micro-transit service that has been operating in Northeastern Wake County: GoWake SmartRide NE.
The SmartRide program provides fare free, on demand rideshare service similar to Uber or Lyft, through smaller passenger vans that are more versatile than a full size city bus. In FY '23 SmartRide supported 13,000 rides in Northeast Wake County that connected low income residents and seniors to destinations that included medical appointments and groceries. SmartRide is particularly popular in Zebulon which represents the highest ridership in the program.
Despite this success, there is a danger that SmartRide service in Zebulon could be disrupted next year due to a potential funding gap in the fall of 2024. The fact that there is over $425 million in the Transit Plan's fund balance begs the question of why the Plan can't cover this cost, and a larger question about how these funds could be more equitably distributed across the county.
There is a compelling case for more county investment in the Town of Zebulon, which contains some of the highest poverty census blocks in the county, but also has one of the smallest budgets to address the needs of the Town's residents. On the whole, the median income in Zebulon is 50% that of the Wake County median income.
On October 17, ONE Wake and Zebulon community leaders are organizing a strictly non-partisan assembly with 5 of 6 candidates for the Zebulon Board of Town Commissioners, as well as select Wake County Commissioners. Our goal is to ensure that the SmartRide service is not interrupted, and to address the larger question of how transit funds can be more equitably distributed to outer municipalities like Zebulon and underserved communities across Wake County.
Please register today to show your support!
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