Proposal to rebuild WAVE Transit includes tax increase for city, county residents

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A new financial proposal could help rebuild WAVE Transit, but it comes at a cost.

At a recent city council meeting, Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority presented several cost-cutting and fundraising options to better serve riders.

One option is increasing the vehicle tax in New Hanover County by $7 and in Wilmington by $5, $12 total if you pay both county and city taxes.

“There are some aversions any time you introduce a new tax or fees associated with vehicle ownership,” WAVE Executive Director Marie Parker said. “This has been something that has been introduced at a number of cities nationwide, has been adopted, and has turned out to be very successful for the community as a whole.”

This is a proposal some people take issue with.

“There shouldn’t be any reason why people who don’t use it, pay for it,” resident Dan Merenda said.

Scott Solari pays city and county taxes and owns four cars and two motorcycles. Already paying almost $700 in vehicle tax a year, this proposal would increase that by $72 for a service he doesn’t use.

“I drive wherever I need to go,” Solari said. “I’ve lived in Wilmington for over 30 years and have never ridden a bus. Why am I being forced to pay for a bus that I don’t need because again, I have multiple vehicles.”

Solari suggests alternatives like investing in more fuel-efficient vehicles or raising the price for riders.

“I’m sure there are people that rely upon it that do not have vehicles that have to be able to get places,” Solari said. “And I wouldn’t hold that against them, it’s just not efficient.”

According to WAVE Deputy Director Megan Matheny, WAVE Transit’s rider cost is already the highest in North Carolina.

Matheny compares the transit dilemma to the age-old public education argument. If you don’t have a child, why should you pay for public education? He says though you may not reap the benefits directly, the community as a whole will benefit from its effects.

“So, even though you may not step foot on a bus, you may be a beneficiary of economic benefit, a safety benefit, and again maybe an environmental benefit that Transit brings to the table,” Matheny said.

The board is also considering other options to save money, already deciding to cut down on a number of routes.

The next city council is January 19, where the WAVE executive director says they will continue to discuss options.

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