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Citizens demonstrating they value mass transit more than officials understand, says WMPO Chair

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The entrance to Brunswick Forest in Leland, one of three Park and Ride locations slated to open within several weeks.

Brunswick County is likely to see the largest population surge in southeastern North Carolina over the next several decades. 

In preparation for this growth, policy makers from the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the regional transportation planning agency with representatives from New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender Counties, are developing a modernized transportation plan to address congestion and what they're calling "enticing" options for the next generation of commuters.

The old paradigm of a 16-year-old getting a driver’s license as a rite of passage is changing, according to a growing body of research.  And that means metropolitan areas hoping to attract and retain next-generation workers will have to offer better and more reliable mass transit. 

Pat Batleman, Vice Chair of the WMPO, says in just a few weeks, WAVE Transit will start promoting the North Carolina Ride Share Program.

"We’re going to be the first ones to have Park and Ride lots in the Leland area.  We’re going to have one in Brunswick Forest, one at the new Town Hall, and one at a Food Lion on Mount Misery Road."

Batleman says officials are hoping this will introduce people to the practice of sharing rides to and from work.  There will even be an option by which stranded commuters can call for an emergency ride home. 

But the real trick to expanding the public transportation network, says WMPO Chairperson Laura Padgett, is finding the money to pay for it all. 

"If you look across the country, you see a lot of success most of the time with referenda to add a sales tax or whatever way to pay for public transportation… And I think there’s some indication that the citizens actually value and think more highly of public transportation than elected officials tend to understand."

Case in point, says Padgett:  the $44 million transportation bond overwhelmingly approved by City of Wilmington voters last month. 

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This was part of the discussion on the most recent edition of CoastLine.  If you missed it, tune in on Saturday at 1 PM – or listen online here: 

http://whqr.org/post/coastline-modernizing-transportation-cape-fear