WAVE Transit, the Cape Fear region’s public transportation system, is looking toward growth – much like the region it serves. But financing that growth is a steep road to climb.
WAVE bus 204, the Brunswick Connector, is pulling out from the Food Lion on Village Road in Leland on a weekday morning. The 8:30 run is half full as we head to downtown Wilmington.
WAVE is not an acronym. It’s simply the name given to the transit authority in 2002 and it stuck.
Today, WAVE is working on its next five-year plan. Exploring new routes, looking into ridership, and the frequency of routes. It’s called the Short Range Transit Plan, and has been in the works for almost a year.
“Every five years we take a comprehensive look at our system, we identify areas in which we can increase efficiency, we take a look at our funding our financial opportunities, and our service. And identify gaps in service.”
That’s WAVE Deputy Director Megan Matheny.
“Some of the identified gaps that we have heard from the community, are service to Porter’s Neck, as the growth along the Market Street corridor increases. We’ve received requests for Wrightsville Beach as well. And also increase in frequency of service, so coverage we have now – just increase the frequency in which the buses operate on current service.”
Through a series of public meetings which ended last week, WAVE has been collecting information on where to go, and how often.
During this last public comment meeting, people commented on how WAVE doesn’t serve the poor communities in Wilmington, such as Creekwood.
deAndré Corniffe is on the Executive Committee of the state’s Democratic Party, and is the Chair of Precinct W15 in Wilmington.
“But in the East Wilmington area, you have a high population of people, who are the working poor.” “And a few of those people, don’t have rides to get to work. They also need to go to downtown and they need to get to Cape Fear Community College, and you don’t have in your current plan availability for those people to get from East Wilmington to the places where they need to get to, to work.”
He says WAVE should focus more on the community.
“It just boggles my mind why you are having free ridership for people who aren’t paying a dime…. But when those people aren’t able to get to work or aren’t able to get a place where they can get an education to get a better job, that brings that neighborhood down even more. So maybe your focus shouldn’t necessarily be on the fact that you only have ten people riding the bus, it should be on improving the community as a whole.”
Paying for any expansion, won’t be easy. Kevin O’Grady is on the Wilmington City Council, and is a WAVE Board Member.
“It’s very clear for anyone who has followed WAVE, that the biggest restriction on its growth and fulfilling the needs of the community is that we lack any support from the County. They pay nothing for fixed bus transportation. Except for the one route that goes out to North Campus. And yet every route in WAVE, is in New Hanover County.”
According to WAVE‘s financial records, this year the city appropriated $1.36 million for the authority, while New Hanover County added roughly $312,000.
New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White said in an email to WHQR that “the County plans to continue its 12 year commitment to WAVE, but at what amount of monetary amount is not yet known.”
He added that “over the long term, WAVE should continue to focus on the routes that have higher density and user rates, and build upon what is working best in the system.”
Learn more about WAVE and it's five-year plan.