- Published on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 22:22
- Written by Super User
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
KURE BEACH - Albert Eby of Wave Transit spoke to the Kure Beach Town Council at their January 15, meeting about a new route from the Wilmington area to Pleasure Island.
Eby explained, "We were down here about a year or so ago to make a proposal about what we would consider a pretty intensive service down to Pleasure Island."
He said Wave Transit is an independent transportation authority and, "We provide public transportation not only to the City of Wilmington but to all of New Hanover County with limited support from New Hanover County as well as service to Brunswick County. Since the last time I was here we've started providing van pool service" to Elizabeth Town and Jacksonville. They also provide service to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and 90% of Medicaid Transportation.
In 2011 the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority (Wave Transit) released plans to expand bus service to Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.
In order to fund that expansion, they proposed an additional vehicle registration tax of up to $7 dollars per vehicle to generate an estimated $1,104,040.00 in revenues to cover that expansion and system funding in general.
Eby said the last proposal was for a vehicle registration fee to support a new route to the Island. He said, "While that wasn't successful, we haven't stopped fighting for it and we will continue on that path. But one of the things the Council asked us when we were here last time - in response to some folks from the help center that were here - was to reach out to those folks with the help center on Pleasure Island to see if there was something we could do to both identify the need of transportation... especially to more of the retail areas not only in Wilmington, but New Hanover County and the Medical Center. Also to get a good handle on what the need is and how we may be able to possibly address the needs with our current structure."
He said after speaking with the Help Center and working with Council member Emilie Swearingen, "We were able in or short range transit plan... to identify some areas were we could see some efficiencies and to provide extended service down to Monkey Junction. Instead of one route to Monkey Junction we will now be providing two routes to Monkey Junction."
Eby explained, "With that intensive service one of the plans we had was to deviate one of the buses that comes from" the station behind Costco on Market Street to Monkey Junction and a certain number of trips would be deviated to Pleasure Island.
Eby said, "This allowed us to not add any cost to the Monkey Junction express bus... as well as provide some service down here. I think one of the things that I was most amazed with when working with the Help Center was the real need for public transportation here on Pleasure Island. Us folks up in Wilmington just think beach community, people can take care of themselves, you don't have any poverty, you don't have anybody that needs assistance. With the assistance of the Help Center we had over 120 surveys and while we are still analyzing the data... one of the things our planning staff pointed out the number of folks that live on Pleasure Island that don't have transportation off the Island. They are dependent on friends, on family and folks that do have a limited amount of funds sometimes have to take a taxi cab to Monkey Junction so they can access the services of Wave Transit and this can cost as much as $35 to $50 round trip just to get a $2 bus ride."
He explained, "We felt we had to step up and find a way to address the need down here on Pleasure Island because we were created to serve not only the City of Wilmington but New Hanover County."
The routes have not yet been finalized.
Eby said, "Monday through Saturday we'll have five trips from Monkey Junction to Pleasure Island starting at 7:30 in the morning and ending at 7:30 in the evening. On Sundays we will have limited service so we will have three trips starting 10:30 in the morning and ending at 4:30 in the afternoon."
He said, "We see this as a first step. This is by no means something that can't be changed as we get a better understanding of what the needs of the folks on Pleasure Island are."
He said, "The bus coming from Monkey Junction would go just past Town Hall in Carolina Beach, turn around there on Canal Drive and Carl Winner and come back. I think that will still be a challenge for folks that live south of Carolina Beach to access that service but certainly it takes in a large area that has been unserved or underserved in the past. While we are not where I think we can be and should be, we are certainly a lot better off than I think we were before we made this change."
Eby said the new route will begin February 3. He said, "That has to do with the opening of the VA Clinic" and many veterans depend on public transportation.
Eby said the service will provide access to educational services, medical services, and employment opportunities for people that would not normally be able to travel to other areas of the County.
He said, "For too long I think your needs, when it comes to public transportation, were overlooked and by pointing that out to us I think it will make a tremendous difference."
The cost will be $2 from Pleasure Island to Monkey Junction where riders can transfer to a bus at $2 a ride that routes to other areas in Wilmington and New Hanover County.
Eby said the cost for a roundtrip would be $8.
He said, "And once you get in our system, you can transfer to other buses without additional cost."
Eby said once the stops are finalized, maps will be given to the Town and distributed to the public. That could be the week prior to February 3.
One resident asked when service would be extended south of Carolina Beach to Kure Beach.
Eby said, "Our time frame kind of equals our money frame. Unfortunately. The challenge right now is, we are supported not only by the local governments, City of Wilmington and New Hanover County, but a lot of our support comes from the State and Federal governments and to some degree we are under assault right now. While I say it's one of our priorities, we obviously have to find the resources to bring it down to Kure Beach."
For more information, visit www.wavetransit.com