By Mark Marcoplos

High Time for Some Transition

By Mark Marcoplos Posted October 25, 2012 at 10:10 am

If money were no object, I’d be hard-pressed to oppose a mass transit system on any of the major thoroughfares around here. But in these days of misplaced priorities, there’s not much money left after the corporate welfare kings and the war machine get done with our taxes.

So we have to make choices about where we think we will benefit the most from increased bus service and rail options. I wish we had started this process a few decades ago, but here we are facing garden-variety traffic congestion on a daily basis, summers full of bad-air days as a result of our own pollution, and a future of dwindling oil supplies.

It’s not surprising that some folks would rather see a transit plan take a different form than the one hammered out by local leadership. There are good arguments to be made for running rail along 15-501 instead of Highway 54. The argument for more bus service expansion and less light rail has some merits. But in the end we can’t have it all, and we need to start somewhere and soon.

First of all, everyone can probably agree that an Amtrak station in Hillsborough is a great idea. For me, I’m excited that I can make the twenty-minute drive from my rural western county home up Orange Grove Rd. and be on my way to D.C. or Charlotte so conveniently. Smart development on the already town-owned twenty acres around the station site could be a boon for Hillsborough (Call it Boon Village). We can expect folks from Durham, Greensboro, and beyond to make trips to visit Hillsborough and our county.

The rail line between Chapel Hill and Durham makes sense. A lot of Chapel Hill folks work in Durham and vice versa. Plus giving the younger populations in each city more of an opportunity to forego the expense and hassle of car ownership will accentuate the trend and make them more economically secure – surely improving our local economy.

Increased bus service is a no-brainer and will impact us relatively soon and begin to reduce traffic and pollution. In the long run though, we will need light rail running on electricity. Gas prices will only go up and become more volatile. You might counter by saying that electricity just requires more fossil fuel use, but we are in the midst of an alternative energy revolution. It’s not just the proliferation of solar and wind power. New energy-efficient light rail cars are ready for prime time. Not only are these cars about 6000 pounds lighter than those running now, they feature LED internal lighting.  

As a rural resident, I’m aware that some aspects of the plan will benefit some a lot more than me. That’s fine. I’ll be happy to see reduced traffic issues around the area. Less smog on the wind sounds good to me. Knowing that so many will reap economic benefits by being able to get to work without a car is a good feeling and I know I’ll benefit in many ways – like the opposite of a thousand paper cuts. And the sales tax won’t come out of food, gas, medicine, or health care purchases.

We can play the popular game “That’s Not How I Would Have Done It” until the cows come home, but it’s time to make this investment in our future.

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