Light-rail lovers may be disappointed, but fiscal realists seem more likely to approve of a simple decision by Wake County Manager David Cooke to separate the region's ambitious bus-and-train plan into two packages: "core transit" and "extended transit" (see today's Road Worrier column, with reader discussion).
Wake commissioners had a good chat about this at a meeting in Raleigh Monday. Tonight in Chapel Hill, the Orange County commissioners will follow suit. Both counties are considering whether to hold a half-cent sales tax referendum in November 2012, like the one approved by Durham voters last week.
Wake can afford to promise voters that a proposed half-cent sales tax would make possible a big "core transit" package, Cooke said. Bus service would nearly double in five years, and Wake and Durham could get new rush-hour commuter trains rolling within eight years.
Light rail? Not so much. It's expensive, and current plans assume that local taxpayers would cover only 25 percent of the capital cost. Let's face it, Cooke said: Nobody expects the federal government to cover 50 percent and state government to cover 25 percent in the near future.
So let's call light rail "extended transit" -- something we're still hoping for, someday, when economic and political conditions are more favorable.
It's not something we can promise voters anytime soon. Sorry, light rail lovers.