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WAVE ponders Route Overhaul

Riders wait for buses at WAVE's current hub on North 2nd Street.

By Megan Williams

Wilmington, NC – A lot can change in thirty years.

Especially if you're talking about growth in New Hanover County. But thirty years is how long its been since the region took a comprehensive look at its bus routes.

Now Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority's board of directors is weighing a new map that would spread routes more evenly across Wilmington and out into the county.

Many current lines will stay in service, but the changes could add routes in Castle Hayne, Money Junction, and down the length of Carolina Beach Road.

The plan also proposes bus service from the airport to downtown, to serve future convention-goers, but that line is currently unfunded.

WAVE Director Albert Elby says the changes are a long time coming; currently, many of his buses follow routes set in the early 70s.

"Obviously the demographics [have] changed," Elby said, "A good example is, well, I don't need two routes that go to Taylor Homes anymore." WAVE does continue to run a bus past the former public housing site.

The changes also shift WAVE's hub from downtown to its future home on North College Road. The authority closed on a 3 acre sight just above the Market Street intersection this week and hopes to have its headquarters in operation by 2009. The planned station would provide riders with sheltered waiting areas and real-time schedule information.

The site's location is key to WAVE's goal of serving more of the city, especially its commuters, with more convenient connections. Elby uses a trip from Mayfaire to New Hanover Regional Medical Center as an example. Right now, "You've got to go downtown to catch another bus to get to the hospital," he says,, "Obviously, not efficient for the passenger, not convenient. But for us, it's not economical."

Elby says some of the longer routes proposed for the future could help connect service workers with jobs on Pleasure Island or Wrightsville Beach.

If the board accepts the revised route map, the new services, and a temporary main bus station, are expected to begin operation late this year.