‘Complete surprise’: Local leaders react to county’s vote to end agreement with WAVE

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — If you take public transportation, there could be some changes coming your way.

New Hanover County voted Monday night to end their agreement with WAVE Transit. Now, that could impact where residents can take the bus to and from.

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County Commissioners voted three to two in favor of cutting ties with WAVE. It was a move that not many people saw coming, including some city and county leaders.

“Complete surprise,” Wilmington City Councilman Kevin O’Grady said.

“I was very surprised by this issue being brought forward at the tail end of a very long meeting,” County Commissioner Rob Zapple.



Vice-Chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman and Commissioners Woody White and Patricia Kusek voted in favor of ending the agreement. Commissioner Rob Zapple and Chairman Jonathan Barfield voted against it.

“We need a mass transit system, and one that works and can serve all the people of New Hanover County,” Zapple said.

Zapple was caught off guard and says the vote came up suddenly.

O’Grady was shocked as well.

“WAVE needs to exist and it needs to expand,” O’Grady said.

O’Grady would like to see public transit grow, but it can only do that with more money.

“The city has been the primary supporter,” he said. “We’ve put in $1.4 million a year. Regrettably, the county has not been very supportive.”

If the county withdraws, they would not fund wave transit to areas outside the city of Wilmington.

White says WAVE is running a financial deficit of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He says he supports public transit if it makes sense, but says it does not make sense in outlying areas to fund routes that few people ride and are costly to operate.

On the contrary, Zapple has a different idea.

“Because it’s not getting to the places where it is now is because the county has not seen themselves a full partner with WAVE,” Zapple said.

Zapple would like to see the county invest the dollars to make the entire system more efficient.

At the end of the day, O’Grady says it’s the community that loses.

“The 5,000 people everyday that ride the bus to get to work or get to school, they’re not being considered in this,” O’Grady said.

WAVE Transit issued the following response:

“The Cape Fear Public Transportation is working to understand the details regarding the decision in an effort to draft a reasoned response. The Authority will consult with our board, our attorney and our main funding partner, the City of Wilmington, as we work to understand the impact the County’s decision will have on the important services provided by Wave Transit. Our goal during these discussions will be focused on continuing to provide the highest level of service to our customers and the community in the most efficient manner possible. As we work through the legal process in response to the decision by New Hanover County we will share on our plans moving forward.”

The county’s withdrawal from the agreement would go into effect July 1, 2021. The county says it will have alternatives to the WAVE buses.