Eastern Wake County buses will stay as is, staff says

mhankerson@newsobserver.comDecember 2, 2013 

A rider boards the bus for the inaugural ride of the Wendell-Zebulon Express service in 2009.

2009 FILE PHOTO JOHNNY WHITFIELD — 2009 FILE PHOTO BY JOHNNY WHITFIELD Buy Photo

— At a Listening Tour stop in eastern Wake County last week, not many residents showed up and of those that did, few had more to say than to lend their support for previous comments by county staff or commissioners.

But when Raleigh resident and one of the masterminds behind the Listening Tour, Octavia Rainey, asked about bus transportation, residents perked up.

Almost every topic came back to transportation: a local business owner suggested including ways to build at-home businesses since some residents in east Wake can’t travel far. The Eastern Regional Center’s resources are stressed, in part, because residents have no way to go to other centers, director Darryl Blevins said.

County commissioners and staff, however, had less-than-satisfying news: there are no plans, money or discussions on the table about extending transportation systems in eastern Wake County.

Interim county manager Joe Durham told residents there was no direct funding being considered to extend any sort of public transit. Instead, the county offers programs like park-and-ride routes and the TRACS program, which organizes rides for people who book an appointment.

For Rainey, who rides the bus regularly, and Blevins, who said transportation issues affect almost all parts of residents’ lives, those programs are not enough.

“The conversation about transportation is to get people out of their cars and onto the bus, not the conversation of need,” Rainey said. “When you ride the bus, you have needs.”

No neighborhood options

Rainey said the county seems to favor park-and-ride express bus systems, not neighborhood bus routes. There is no bus system that stops in neighborhoods or at other locations in towns.

In eastern Wake County, Knightdale has its own park-and-ride bus route that runs to Raleigh three times in the morning and drops riders off in Knightdale in the evening. The same route runs out of Wendell and Zebulon, too.

“That’s ideal for folks who have transportation to get to the park and ride,” Blevins said.

Blevins said he sees many residents at the Eastern Regional Center who have trouble getting around their towns and in turn, struggle to take care of their basic needs.

“(Transportation) is a barrier to getting medical care, getting employment and even seeking employment,” Blevins said.

Blevins said, ideally, the county would implement some sort of system that would help residents get to locations in town. In time, he said, it will probably be resolved.

“It’s one of those things that just takes time,” he said. “I think as the population continues to grow ... we’ll start seeing something a little more comprehensive.”

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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