County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, Jr Asks Council for Support of Quarter-Cent Public Transportation Sales Tax

County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, Jr Asks Council for Support of Quarter-Cent Public Transportation Sales Tax

County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, Jr Asks Council for Support of Quarter-Cent Public Transportation Sales Tax Featured

By / Local News / Monday, 25 July 2022 17:04

At yesterday’s regular council meeting County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, Jr along with members of the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) asked Mayor and Council for their support of the quarter-cent sales tax to be used for public transportation systems. “Having personal mobility, being able to easily and safely get where you need to go, and creating a more walkable and bikeable community is important for the growth and health of our community,” said Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, Jr. who is helping to lead the education campaign for the sales tax. “The transportation sales tax could have a meaningful impact on residents, provide access where it doesn’t exist currently, and improve life in New Hanover County for everyone to move forward and go even further.”

The purpose of the local tax would be to provide a dedicated source of revenue to expand and enhance the community’s networks for bicycling, walking, and public transportation. The tax would equate to approximately 25 cents per every $100 spent by visitors, commuters and residents, and the tax would not apply to items like groceries, fuel and prescriptions.

The goals of the tax would be to connect people to jobs and education; expand reliable and efficient bus service and on-demand transit; enhance trail connections and pedestrian safety; improve community health and positively impact the environment; leverage local dollars for more state and federal funds to improve public transportation and rail realignment; and plan for our community’s growth and future.

According to the WMPO the first five years of the sales tax, opportunities for improvement could include: More than 10 miles of new multi-use trails, five additional sidewalks and nine improved intersections and crosswalks within the city and county, with additional bike and pedestrian connectivity projects in the beach communities that could also be funded. Increased bus frequency so over half of Wave Transit’s routes come every 30-45 minutes, expanded hours for buses and microtransit by 16 hours each week, improved bus stops with 17 new benches, 10 new shelters, and signs at the 10 busiest stops to show real-time bus arrival times, new technology for rider access, and free youth passes. Rail Realignment Project work on South Front Street to relocate part of the railroad track and make pedestrian improvements for greater transportation access.

“Having a dedicated source of funding would allow us to create a more efficient transportation system that runs more often and for longer hours so we can have more choice riders, take cars off the road, and ensure those who rely on the bus get the service and speed they need,” continued Barfield. “It would provide more opportunities for residents who want to walk or ride a bike to easily connect to a bus stop, reach a business, or visit a quality-of-life asset like a park or library – bringing about greater connectivity, increased physical activity, and healthier lifestyles. And it gives the county and city the opportunity to leverage funds for state and federal dollars for large, impactful projects like the realignment of the railway.”

Out of the 19 privatized areas recognized by the WMPO none of them included Carolina or Kure Beaches. If approved by voters in November and levied by the Board of Commissioners, the sales tax would be implemented in April 2023.

Additional information about potential projects from the transportation sales tax, frequently asked questions, and a project map can be viewed at TrailsTransitNHC.com.

The Island Gazette emailed Mayor and Council from both Carolina Beach Kure Beach and will share their responses next week. 

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