Building Support for Transit Begins!

A day after the elections for city-wide offices in Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough several of our elected officials joined advocates for transit to publicly launch "DO Transit" - Durham Orange Friends of Transit.  Thanks to Gerry Cohen for posting info about the kick-off meeting here on OP and for being there last night to help explain House Bill 148.  The newly enacted legislation establishes the Congestion Relief and Intermodal Transportation 21st Century Fund, providing the Triangle with an unprecedented opportunity to build a robust transit system.  

It is rare for the General Assembly to open up new revenue streams for local governments.  This law provides an opportunity we cannot afford to waste.  In order to start putting money in the fund -- money that will help attract additional state and federal dollars for transit -- voters in the triangle will need to approve a sales tax increase in local referenda. 

OP readers will remember what happened the last time Orange County Commissioners put a new tax on the ballot.  The real estate transfer tax was defeated in a landslide.  In a high turnout primary election, those voting against the transfer tax outnumbered those in favor by an almost 3 to 1 ratio.  Supporters of a modest transfer tax as a way to provide new revenue for Orange County schools and parks were given little time to organize in favor of the transfer tax.  Those who were opposed, on the other hand, were ready with a well funded and effective campaign, parachuted in after similar success in other NC counties. 

The DO Transit organization is the first step in ensuring that this recent history will not repeat itself.  Other than the far right, anti-government crowd that opposes every kind of public investment, I do not know who will be organized against these referenda.  But getting the voters to approve a tax increase, especially with high unemployment and a tough economy, is always tough. Moreover, the General Assembly's slow pace in considering revenue reform that would lower state sales tax rates while broadening the base presents additional uncertainties and challenges.  

DO Transit has the potential to bring together business, environmental, low-income, anti-sprawl and smart development interests under one big tent in support of the referenda.  Current and former elected officials from the area are already on board - but they will need our help to ensure passage of the referenda (whenever they are put on the ballot here and in Durham and Wake Counties).  In attendance and participating in the meeting last night were Orange County Commissioner Alice Gordon, Durham County Commissioners Ellen Reckhow and Brenda Howerton, Durham City Council members Mike Woodard and Diane Catotti, Chapel Hill mayor Kevin Foy, and Hillsborough mayor Tom Stevens (my apologies if I missed others in attendance). Bo Glenn and the other organizers of DO Transit deserve much praise for pulling this meeting together and getting the Friends of Transit organization off the ground.  Wake County is also getting organized; advocates to our east have already started the Capital Area Friends of Transit

My first involvement was to attend the kick-off meeting last night.  As great as the turn-out was, more folks and organizations will need to get involved.  Sign up at DO Transit as an individual supporter and help identify other organizational supporters.  Become a fan of DO Transit's Facebook page. Spread the word.  An effective transit system is a key ingredient in managing the huge growth that is expected to continue in all of our communities over the next thirty years.  Without it, the Triangle is destined to become the next Atlanta, spread out over ever more congested roadways.




We all need to join the Durham Orange Friends of Transit to take on this very big challenge.  It will take us all working together to bring this off, and last night's meeting was a great start.  What is needed is a well thought our community organizing effort which can explain the benefits in plan language and get people involved in small discussion groups, surveys and informational meetings.  If people understand the benefits they will be willing to tax themselves to make transit possible.  Julie

Done and done. Thanks for posting.Any idea when the next meeting is going to be? 

1) Orange County commissioner Bernadette Pelissier was also at the meeting.2) Next general meeting not yet set, will likely be in Orange County. Steering committee meets November 16.3) The legislation allows four potential referendum dates the next two years, May or November of 2010, or October or November of 2011 (or rinse and repeat). May of 2010 is not on the table, too early.4) Though ancient history, Orange County held five transit tax referenda in the 1970s before a ten cent property tax supplement was appoved for Chapel Hill and Carrboro.  Both towns defeated it in 1971 (Chapel Hill by 8 votes, Carrboro by a landslide), Chapel Hill approved it overwhelmingly in 1974 while it met a narrow defeat in Carrboro, and finally Carrboro voted yes around 1976. 

Gerry is much too modest to point out what an impotant role he had in making those events happen in the 1970's.  Thank you Gerry, for your leadership both then and now!

The real credit for establishing Chapel Hill Transit goes to Howard Lee and Terry Lathrop. I just ran the student part of the campaign in 1974 (the 1971 referendum was eight weeks before the voting age was lowered to 18) and worked on the initial route designs. As far as extending service to Carrboro was concerned it was folks like Ernie Patterson, Doug Sharer, Frances Shetley and a small band of activists.

I attended also, and wrote about it here: -Bryn

I'm excited about the possibility of using regional rail here in the Triangle. Hopefully in my lifetime! :)

I hope you're young. :)

This is so logical that it is amazing to me that there is even a debate. This isn't even an environmental issue. It's a common-sense issue. Business benefits, commuters benefit, the environment benefits and let's face it the car industry is dying under its own weight.Besides, US ownership of car manufacturing is so low that it could even be said that it is Patriotic to use public transport. From a NC perspective, aren't we tired of California paving companies ruining our roads? There is something for everyone in this. Why is there even a debate?Public Transport Now! 

I was just informed that another elected official who is a booster for transit was at the kick-off meeting last week - Ed Harrison, Chapel Hill Town Council.

For some reason, I had to ask for this notice to be put on the Town home page. It's there now, with a link to the large Plan. Next week's session is Tuesday. There's another scheduled for January 12.  Carrboro had a hearing and discussion on the 24th, which sounded quite interesting (assuming the media reported it accurately).  Chapel Hill's hearing is tentatively scheduled for February 15, after it's gone to one or more advisory boards.   This plan is "sub-regional," but still quite extensive.  Ed  Here's the PR:The Town of Chapel Hill will hold a series of public information sessions to provide information and gather input on the final draft of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro 2035 Long Range Transit Plan. Sessions will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8,  and from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010 in the Council Chamber of Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.The sessions will start with a short presentation from Town staff, and then the public will be invited to share their opinions. An electronic version of the plan is available at Interested persons unable to attend the information sessions may submit comments by any of the following methods:Email to Call (919) 969-4900 Fax to (919) 968-2840 Mail to Chapel Hill Transit - Attention Long Range Transit Plan, 6900 Millhouse Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27514All comments received by 5 p.m. Jan. 12, 2010, will become part of the official public forum record and will be considered by the Town.URL =


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