Ken Larsen's web site - March 7, 2017 DOLRT speech to BOCC by Alex Castro Jr
I am Alex Castro Jr., a Bingham township resident, the current Vice-Chair of the Orange County Unified Transportation Advisory Board, and a Volunteer Driver with the Department on Aging. Previously I served six years as a member of the Aging Advisory Board and serve currently on the Master Aging Plan Leadership Committee.
As you know the number of residents over 65 in our county is growing rapidly and will exceed 20% shortly. As we age, we reach a point where we no longer drive, we become dependent on others and public transportation to go out and buy our groceries, go to medical appointments and the myriad of other reasons we need to find transportation. The proposed Light Rail System will not serve the majority of us, and represents a double disservice to us. First, because of the adverse financial impact it will have on the county government budget and resulting large increases in the property tax. Second, because it will severely limit funding available for other modes of transportation that we are dependent upon. Need I remind you that the “trolley line “won’t have its first rider until 2028 at the earliest, yet we seniors will be paying heavily for it between now and then.
Seniors in our rural areas have little access to public transportation and while Orange Public Transportation (OPT) is expanding its service, it still leaves many of us with very limited service. Because our transit service are provided by three transit entities, Go Triangle, Chapel Hill Transit and OPT with jurisdictional constraints, some of our transportation needs are unmet. For example a resident of any of our townships can’t get to a medical appoint at the UNC facility in northern Chatham, or a Chapel Hill resident can’t get to an appointment at the UNC hospital in Hillsborough via one transit service provider. The Volunteer Driver program of the Department on Aging, currently totaling thirteen drivers, was created to meet the needs of these seniors who fall through the cracks in our transit network. However, this is but a stop gap solution to a problem that will only grow in size. Again the proposed trolley line will not be a solution to this problem.
Call me a skeptic, but a project like the LRT will not be delivered on time or within budget. We have already seen this occur and I strongly feel it will only get worst. Orange County has many growing demands on its county budget, and the LRT project will be a severe drain on future budgets. Meanwhile other programs that could help such as economic development will remain on the “back burner”. Why are we spending money on developing necessary infrastructure at our Buckhorn economic development zone while we ignore the need to improve public transportation to it? It sits aside a major rail line where commuter rail could bring workers and also serve Efland Cheek residents as well. Wake County has commuter rail planned for its residents and service is planned to the Durham county line. So too the Research Triangle Institute has plans to include commuter rail with a shuttle link to Raleigh Durham airport. Hillsborough is getting an Amtrak station but there is no commuter rail on the horizon. This transportation mode would better serve the needs of our senior residents but it won’t happen if the trolley line gobbles up all available transit funding.
In closing, I add my voice to the many Orange County residents that will pay for a trolley line that they will never use. Please don’t go down the rabbit hole by committing financial support to the LRT. It is time to cut our losses and move to more suitable transit alternatives for our future.
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