Public transportation offers an affordable way for community members of all physical abilities and economic statuses to get safely to work, school, grocery stores, doctor appointments, businesses, and entertainment venues. And it increases access to employment opportunities.
Our community needs a more robust and connected public transportation infrastructure to make it easier to get from one place to another, improve transit times, and create a more reliable network that leads to more usability to serve more people. With the proper dedicated funding and the ability to leverage these funds for federal support, that can be accomplished with Wave Transit.
About 45 percent, an estimated $65 million, of the quarter-cent sales tax would be used to help modernize public transportation over the first 10 years of the sales tax being in place. Below is an outline of the goals for public transportation and Wave Transit, both in the near term and future, and how the sales tax funding would be used.
Extended Bus Hours
Extending operational hours would allow Wave to serve more people and ensure it is more accessible on nights and weekends for our service industry workforce, residents, and visitors.
To do this, the sales tax would help fund the hiring of additional staff and could be an immediate upgrade for the transportation system.
Initially, Wave would be able to utilize the sales tax funds to:
- Extend weekday hours on high productivity routes by two hours in the evening, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
- Extend Saturday hours by two hours in the evening, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- Extend Sunday hours by one hour in the morning, starting at 8 a.m. instead of 9 a.m
- Extend Sunday hours by three hours in the evening, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
After five years, additional operational hours could be added, based on demand and need.
Increased Frequency for Bus Routes
Increased frequency for high productivity routes would allow riders to get where they need to go faster and more efficiently.
In order to increase the frequency that the bus comes, the sales tax would help purchase additional buses which could be sized based on the route with smaller vehicles used where demand isn’t as high.
Beginning in July, Wave will have three routes with 30-minute frequencies, meaning they come by the bus stop every 30 minutes. By 2024, the goal would be to increase service on three additional routes to 30- to 45-minute frequencies, which would make the frequency on more than half of Wave’s routes 45 minutes or less.
By 2027, two additional routes would be added with a faster frequency of 30- to 45-minutes, bringing more than 80 percent of Wave’s routes to 45 minutes or less. And in some cases, routes with higher productivity could have more frequent service times.
Added Passenger Amenities
Over the first three years, the sales tax would be used to add 17 new benches and 10 shelters to Wave bus stops. The updates would also include lighting, trash receptacles, and enhanced ADA accessibility.
After three years, Wave would continue to increase amenities with additional benches, shelters, lighting, and accessibility at additional stops.
Enhanced Technology for Riders
Utilizing greater technology would improve the rider experience and allow residents to use data to better plan their journeys.
The sales tax proceeds would be used to add passenger wi-fi on board all buses and implement a Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platform in the first year. MaaS would integrate mobile ticketing and payments, bus tracking, and microtransit booking and tracking so customers could ride easier and have real-time information.
In the next two years, the sales tax would be used to add wayside signs to the 10 highest productivity stops to effectively communicate timely information to riders.
Expanded Microtransit Options
Wave has implemented microtransit, which is a flexible service where residents can book an on-demand ride from a virtual stop within a RideMICRO zone and be connected to Wave Transit’s fixed-route service or brought to their destination.
It is a point-to-point service available to anyone traveling within the designated service network and provides greater flexibility, decreased wait times, and increased stop locations than a traditional fixed-route bus. The fares to ride microtransit are the same as the fixed-route buses.
Utilizing sales tax funding, RideMICRO could be enhanced in the future with more vehicles and stops, and vehicles with bike racks to connect cyclists with additional trails and opportunities. Microtransit hours would also be extended to be in line with fixed bus route hours as they are increased.
Utilizing sales tax funding, Wave would implement special transportation programs to serve the community, like free youth passes for anyone 17 years old or younger to be able to use public transportation to access after-school activities, attend classes at CFCC, or get to work.
These free passes could be implemented immediately and continue for years to come, building a new generation of public transit users and providing greater mobility options for our students. Youth passes could be used on the fixed-route bus system or on microtransit.
Currently, children four and younger ride free, and those in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade and local college students receive half-price fares.
With improvements to the Wave system using sales tax dollars, the goal of Wave Transit would be to increase ridership and passenger revenues, which would also increase federal formula funding that can be leveraged to do even more in the future.
This could mean opportunities like:
- Airport Express Line
- Continuous trolly service to downtown restaurants and shopping with extended hours
- Park and ride lots
- Integrated service with bike share
- Investing in zero-emission vehicles that reduce fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions
There would also be the possibility in the future to explore and plan for bus rapid transit (BRT), which offers a more efficient and fast transportation option utilizing designated bus lanes, traffic signal priority, raised platforms with open door boarding, and platform ticketing. BRT is operating in over 40 cities in America and is integral as part of a long-term vision for transportation in growing cities.
What are the goals for the future of trails and transit in New Hanover County?
The overarching goal is for our community to achieve greater mobility, accessibility, safety, and access to opportunities for the best quality of life possible. The sales tax can help accomplish that by: Connecting people to jobs and education, benefiting our economy Expanding reliable and efficient bus service and on-demand transit, giving access to everyone Enhancing […]
How is this going to benefit me and our community?
Public transportation provides personal mobility and freedom for people from every walk of life. With dedicated and increased funding, Wave buses could run more frequently and take more direct routes, including routes with less stops so that it could become a functional part of everyday life for citizens who choose it. A robust and efficient […]
How will the transportation sales tax benefit the environment?
Transportation contributes about 36% of all greenhouse gas emissions in North Carolina, making it the largest contributor, according to the NC Department of Environmental Quality. Providing a range of transportation choices and walkable communities where people can drive less improves air quality and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, as noted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). […]
What are the health benefits of trails and transit?
Active transportation like biking and walking to destinations can increase physical activity. It is associated with better fitness, reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, and lower rates of obesity and diabetes. By improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure, more people can utilize it to get to public transit and also recreationally – which both lead to better […]
How would this benefit our economy?
Public transportation infrastructure improvements, including sidewalks, trails, crosswalks, and bike lanes, can produce tangible economic benefits and create jobs. According to the America Public Transportation Association, every $1 invested in public transportation generates $5 in economic returns. It also benefits businesses to have access to a broader, more diverse, and specialized labor market with the […]
How could this benefit all residents – from children to seniors?
Transportation – the cost of getting to work, school, and other places – is the second-largest household expense (only housing costs more). But our community has lagged others in making the investments to ensure that more people have transportation options that are affordable, healthy, and expand job opportunity and access. Greater transportation options through a […]
Why is public transit important?
Efficient public transportation is important for any growing community. It increases worker satisfaction and productivity by reducing commuting times, cushions the impact of high gasoline costs on working families, reduces traffic and thereby lessens air pollution, encourages more walking, provides a safer form of transportation than traveling by automobile, and it expands job opportunities for […]
The buses aren’t always full, so why should Wave receive more funding?
You’re right – there are times when Wave buses are not full and the primary reason is the transportation system is not as efficient as it could be. By providing a dedicated source of funds, Wave could update its system to be more efficient and frequent with limited stops and more direct routes, keep large […]
Why can we not just use state or federal dollars to fund projects?
While the county or city can request funding through grants and other state and federal programs, a certain amount of local matching funds are typically required and a dedicated funding source is preferred by the state and federal government. So the transportation sales tax would help ensure a consistent amount of funding is available for […]
What other North Carolina counties have passed a transportation sales tax?
Other counties in NC to pass a transportation tax include Durham County (.5 cent transit tax), Mecklenburg County (.5 cent transit tax), Orange County (.5 cent transit tax), and Wake County (.5 cent transit tax). The tax in all of these counties has focused on their transit systems. New Hanover County’s tax would be a […]