Jan. 17--Two weeks before county, city and Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority officials meet to formally discuss the interlocal agreement between the three organizations, New Hanover Chairman Woody White questioned if the authority has been successful changing how residents approach transportation.
"Is this community, culturally, today, at a point where it will embrace public transportation?" asked White during Thursday's the county commissioners' work session Thursday afternoon.
White said public transportation is two-fold -- it gives people access to transportation when they may not otherwise have it and it should change the habits of motorists.
"I'm of the opinion we're generations away from that," he said of the latter.
While contemplating what the authority, which oversees Wave transit, has successfully done in the decade since it formed, commissioners laid out the details they want included in the new agreement.
One big item for commissioners is having more say in how money the county gives to the transit authority is spent.
"I always like to know how I'm spending my money," Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said.
White said he thinks New Hanover and Wilmington officials should have a say on how and when the transit system expands.
Using the Wave-operated University of North Carolina at Wilmington Seahawk Shuttle as an example, White said that ridership for that service is high and steady.
Some of Wave's larger buses, however, vary from full to only a handful of passengers, he said.
"At any given time, anecdotally, you'll see one-to-five people on the bus," White said.
He wondered how Wave officials chose to purchase large buses instead of "growing into those."
"The devil's in the details," White said. "There's a lot more details that we need to talk about."
It was evident during the 30-minute discussion that transparency and communication between commissioners and transportation members is crucial to the new agreement.
White said the transportation group fills a crucial need in the region, but the self-governed board of Wave has not done the best they could leading such a key public service.
During Thursday's discussion, commissioners discussed how the county funded 16.7 percent -- $250,000 -- of the $1.5 million given to Wave by the city and county during the 2013 fiscal year.
There was no discussion about increasing that ratio.
Commissioner Beth Dawson asked Lisa Wurtzbacher, the county's finance director, if city officials said anything about that percentage split.
Wurtzbacher said she hadn't heard "any opposition" about the way funding is shared between the governments.
The joint meeting between city, county and Wave officials is scheduled for Jan. 30.
Albert Eby, executive director of the transportation, attended Thursday's work session. After the meeting adjourned, he said he thinks the three organizations will be able to compromise and create a document everyone can agree upon.
He also understood the commissioners' desire for more say in the authority's operations.
"They want to have more input on plans that will effect them financially," he said.
Caitlin Dineen: 343-2339
On Twitter: @CaitlinDineen
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