A recent story on WCHL informed us that Orange County rural residents were upset because, although they represent 40% of the county population, they would only receive 12% of services under a newly proposed Orange County Bus plan. One commissioner agreed, saying that it is crucial that county residents receive transit services in proportion to their investment in the overall plan.
I disagree. Receiving services in proportion to one’s investment is not achievable, nor should it be, with regard to government services. For example, many persons do not have children but they still pay taxes for schools. I don’t currently need the Department of Social Services, the Seymour Senior Center or our county jail – still, my taxes help finance these county budget items. In fact, with regard to transit itself, many residents of our towns get little or no bus service currently, yet our municipal taxes go toward our extensive and successful bus service.
One cannot view providing transit services only with regard to overall population. Transit services succeed if they are concentrated in areas that are dense — like in Carrboro-Chapel Hill and Hillsborough where 60% of the county population lives. It is economically sound to have most transit routes, including light rail, where they can carry large numbers of people.
This benefits the county as a whole – by helping our county’s workforce and other passengers move around efficiently, by informing our long-term land use planning, by helping us to avoid sprawl and create well-placed economic development opportunities, and by reducing our carbon emissions.
I ask everyone to consider that what might seem to be a benefit for one segment of our county can turn out to be a benefit for all of us.