Burlington City Council to vote on public transit system

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BURLINGTON, N.C. -- It's been in the making almost 10 years, and Tuesday evening, the Burlington City Council plans to vote on a proposed public transportation system for the city.

Right now, Burlington is the largest city in North Carolina without its own public transit system.

Many nonprofit leaders in Burlington have united around this issue, saying public buses would greatly benefit the communities they serve.

April Durr, director of community impact of United Way of Alamance County, said the people they help are impacted every day by not having public transportation options.

"You're at risk for not getting to the doctor, not getting to school, not getting to that job site," Durr said. "And so you're often isolated from opportunities."

Robin Wintringham, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Alamance County, said her organization's clients are equally hindered.

"I've seen personally how car trouble can lead to getting behind on a mortgage, which leads to housing instability," she said. "If we expect our families to be tax-paying, contributing citizens, sometimes they may just need a little help getting to work."

In the proposal, the city plans to pay for at least part of the public transit system with an annual tax on Alamance County residents, totaling $5 per each vehicle he or she owns. Some opponents to the plan said that is an unfair cost on those who are least likely to use a public bus system anyway.

Wintringham disagrees. She said it's a small price to pay to help those who are less fortunate.

"Five dollars, really?" Wintringham said. "It's not a lot over the course of a year. But if it can make a career or supporting a family come to life, then it's a very, very worthwhile investment."

Suzan Evans, executive director at Crossroads Sexual Assault Response and Resource Center in Burlington, hopes the council will vote for the public transit plan. She said, oftentimes, women that Crossroads is helping are limited because of not having a car.

"Crossroads is one of those places that you hope you never need," Evans said. "But God forbid you do, you can only imagine how difficult it is to access those services when you don't have a car."

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. The council also plans to discuss a timeline for the public transportation plan, if it passes.

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