by Sam Hieb
At last night’s meeting the Winston-Salem City Council endorsed plans for a streetcar line running between Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Fifth Street. Council member Robert Clark was the lone ‘no’ vote:
Pointing out that the city’s consultants, HDR Inc., is involved in building streetcar systems as well as doing consulting, Clark said that someone would expect a life insurance salesman to recommend getting more life insurance.
“It is awfully difficult to predict these things,” Clark said, citing examples of North Carolina cities that have seen shortfalls in attendance at museums. Closer to home, Clark said the downtown trolley – a type of bus – is heavily subsidized and doesn’t have enough riders.
Clark said Winston-Salem may simply not have the urban density to support at streetcar.
Supporters Dan Besse and Derwin Montgomery pitched the old tail wagging the dog theory, aka ‘transit-oriented development:
Besse made the argument that developers will build next to fixed rails because they know the streetcar isn’t going away, but won’t develop near a bus route that can disappear at any time.
Montgomery said it is better to act now instead of waiting for people to say later on that the city didn’t take the steps it needed to take.
“Someone had to see the vision to see these things happen,” Montgomery said.
Bottom line is “transportation policy is too important for much-needed resources to be expended in a manner that has nothing to do with a community’s actual transportation needs.” Take a look at down I-40, where GTA is looking at a $2m budget shortfall.