Over the summer, New Hanover County cut WAVE Transit’s funding significantly from the previous year, resulting in the likely closures of routes serving northern New Hanover County and Pleasure Island. However, WAVE was granted slightly more state funding this year for its Rural Operating Assistance Program. But since WAVE won’t be able to use that money to help salvage the routes in question, it will likely extend their current closure date—September thirtieth—until after WAVE’s board meets with the New Hanover County Commission to make final decisions in October.
Each weekday, there are more than 520,000 trips** on the region’s road network. This includes traffic from Pender, Brunswick and New Hanover counties. By 2040 that number is projected to double. That’s according to the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization, the agency responsible for regional transportation planning. As public transit agencies like Wave Transit struggle to stretch smaller budgets and improve service, it might be up to the community to choose its own transportation destiny.
If you build it, they will come. But before that happens, someone has to pay to put it together. The City of Wilmington and New Hanover County combined transportation forces to form Wave Transit almost a decade ago. The authority was set up on its own, independent of both city and county government. It also started with no cash balance, meaning no money in the bank. In part 2 of a series on Wave Transit, we explore the financial woes of the agency.
One thing is certain about funding for public transportation: the federal government doesn’t just give it to you.
It’s late Tuesday morning. I’m standing in front of Carolina Farmin’ on Market Street, waiting for the 108 bus. I’ve never taken the bus because I drive everywhere, even though there’s a bus stop 7 minutes from my house. I’m considered a choice rider – I don’t have to ride, but I choose to. Here’s what I’ve noticed about the bus as a person who never takes the bus: it looks difficult and inconvenient. There aren’t a lot of bus shelters or sidewalks. Sometimes I see passengers hurling their bodies across busy streets. Sometimes buses look empty. I pay my $2 fare, and climb aboard. I count about 10 passengers.
I’m headed to Forden Station, Wave’s main terminal located near Corning, and I meet Brian Creech and David Brewer.
Both are considered transit-dependent -- they rely on the bus to get everywhere. Both are on their way to Vocational Rehab orientation on Randall Parkway. They’re going to learn about job training and placement. David says he planned his trip an hour in advance. He doesn’t have a car, but says the bus isn’t so bad.