By Michael Praats | January 4, 2021 at 10:34 AM EST – Updated January 4 at 12:19 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – What is the future of WAVE Transit? That is the question that Wilmington City Leaders discussed Monday morning; perhaps, one of the bigger questions though, is who is going to fund it?
WAVE Transit has faced a series of setbacks in the past few years including New Hanover County Commissioners voting to terminate the contract with WAVE Transit, the complete replacement of the Board of Directors, and the separation with the former Executive Director of the transportation authority.
Now, the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority is looking to redesign the WAVE Transit brand. Wilmington’s Budget Director Laura Mortell gave City Council a look at the process during an agenda briefing.
Since the new board took control of the transit system there have been several areas of focus including balancing the budget, finding a new executive director, and redesigning the system; the first two items have been completed.
A study has been conducted by TransPro to help guide the transit system in the right direction, and not lose as much money, but in order to do that, the company is recommending just eight fixed routes – down from 15.
The plans would eliminate several of the routes people might be used to seeing including the northern route that runs to the New Hanover County Jail, the Pleasure Island route, and the Brunswick Connector which was discontinued prior to the study.
The WAVE Board voted 5-4 in favor of using the eight TransPro routes as a framework for the transit system. The estimated cost for the system is around $8 million annually and has several add-on options, including the downtown trolley.
There are two options for the trolley, Mortell said, a seasonal version that runs from June – Nov. that would cost $42,500, or a year round trolley costing $189,000.
Of course the biggest issue WAVE faces is funding, or lack thereof.
“As of right now there is an estimated shortfall with the design that has been created … of $1 million to $1.3 million,” Mortell said.
There are several options that are being considered – including more taxes for both city and county residents.
An idea that has been discussed in the past is a motor vehicle tax, it would be $7 county-wide and $5 for city residents which would raise approximately $1.7 million if implemented. Other taxes could be a one-quarter to one-half cent increase on property taxes in the county, or a sales tax increase of a quarter of a cent.
If approved city residents would be responsible for both the $7 fee as well as the $5 fee.
The WAVE Board has just started discussing the options, according to Mortell, and no decisions have been made just yet. City leaders agreed that a bigger conversation needs to take place between the city and county in order to come to an agreement as to how to move forward.
Copyright 2021 WECT. All rights reserved.