On October 26, proponents of bus rapid transit (BRT) from the Charleston region joined proponents of BRT from the Cary Chamber at the Mills House in downtown Charleston to discuss their respective plans. Cary, NC is a thriving community of more than 165,000 residents in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. The Research Triangle, consisting of Cary, Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, is experiencing tremendous growth, similar to the Charleston region. Both regions have determined that BRT, sometimes referred to as “light rail on wheels”, offers a very effective way to rapidly connect their growing communities with enhanced transit.
Lowcountry Rapid Transit (LCRT) is funded locally by a 2016 Charleston County Sales Tax Referendum that included $180 million for LCRT construction and an additional $70 million for operations. LCRT includes 20 stations with three park and rides connecting the Ladson/Fairgrounds to North Charleston, the Peninsula, the Medical District and West Edge. The LCRT corridor is 21.5 miles long. The region has proposed additional BRT corridors that would complement our initial north-south corridor.
Members from the Charleston business community expressed their support of LCRT because of its flexibility, scalability and connectivity. The project is currently awaiting approval from the Federal Transit Administration in March of 2022 and construction of LCRT is projected to be complete in 2027.
The Wake County, NC BRT system of six proposed BRT corridors and extensions is funded locally by a 2016 half cent sales tax that focused on investment in public transit. The Western Corridor will connect downtown Raleigh to downtown Cary. The line will be 12 miles long and include 20 stops. For every three buses on the line, that could mean 177 cars off the road.
Members from the Cary business community spoke in support of the project citing the opportunities for investment and the ability to attract new tenants to their buildings. Currently, the project is at the 10% design phase. The first Wake BRT corridor, serving downtown Raleigh and points east, will go under construction next year and open in 2024; the Wake BRT Western Corridor serving Cary is projected to open in 2027. The Research Triangle region plans to open 55+ miles of BRT in the next 10 years.
The regional significance of both these projects was clear on October 26. The business community recognizes that regional growth is good for business and the economy, but the increased congestion and lack of mobility can create unforeseen problems. BRT represents the best chance for quickly increasing mobility options to support a thriving economy.