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Town of Cary Planning Retreat 2015

As many municipalities do, Town of Cary elected officials and staff go off once a year to plan for the upcoming year and have time to discuss procedural issues or concerns, and to just reconnect in a less formal environment. In general, we have had these retreats outside of Cary, so that we aren’t distracted from our work and home life while focusing on our Town jobs.

Since I’ve been on Council these “retreats” have been planned to be in areas where we can learn from the local experience. For instance, when we went to Winston-Salem, we spent time with the local folks getting a sense of what it took for them to revitalize their downtown. What did they do? How did they do it? What would they NOT do again? ☺  The idea being that we could learn so much from others who have attempted much of the same thing.

This time, our retreat agenda was focused on exactly THAT – but in Charlotte. We know we aren’t Charlotte and folks would probably say that we don’t want to be Charlotte, but there are always things that we can learn from another municipality that has, and is, facing similar issues and struggles.

Since I know that Councilman Frantz is posting HIS feeling on our trip, I’ll try not to cover what he did, and focus on what I learned during my “sick stupor” in the Queen City. (Yes, it’s true that I was sick during the whole trip – my biggest worry was that I didn’t want infect anyone while there.)

All Aboard

When we were first discussing Charlotte as a location, I asked if we could take the train, and what a great plan that was. The trip was fantastic – a real opportunity to use our transit system while having time to connect with staff and other council members. We had lunch on the train so that we could hit the ground running when we arrived.

Getting on the train

Getting ready to board the train

travelbytrainteam

Don, Harold, Jennifer and Lori – ready to go (Jack and Ed were already in their seats!)

We were lucky enough to have our own train car for our group of folks. After settling in we had several presenters from Amtrak that provided us with background on the Piedmont Improvement Program underway. This program’s goal is to make the train more reliable and safer, and the results are pretty impressive. The Carolinian (train from Charlotte to Raleigh and the return) has gone from a 4 hour 20 min trip in 1990 to a 3 hour, 10 min trip now. With their safety awareness outreach programs, they have seen a reduction in fatalities on the tracks as well.

Here are some interesting stats:

• Travelling at 55 MPH, it takes a mile for a train to stop

• Trucks are involved in 10 times more accidents than trains

• It is illegal to walk on the railroad tracks, they are private property

• Amtrak in NC also allows you to check a bicycle as luggage for free!

• Because of the increase in interest and ridership, a new midday service has been added between Raleigh and Charlotte

• The Cary Amtrak Station received an award from OneRail for being a National Example of Success

• The Cary Depot is the 4th busiest station in NC with 89,000 passengers

• The Cary Depot is the 2nd in the nation for customer satisfaction with a 94% customer satisfaction rate

• NC Train volunteers all over the state act as good will ambassadors – and they volunteer their time to help passengers. A number of Cary citizens are volunteers, including the president of the Train Volunteers, Bob Warner, who was on our trip

• The NC Train Volunteers are having their annual meeting in Cary this year, to be held at the Cary Theater!

Me and Bob Warner (Train volunteer extraordinaire)

Me and Bob Warner (Train volunteer extraordinaire)

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On the road again

This last week I spent 3 days traveling with 4 other Cary Town Councilmembers, our Town manager, Town of Cary staff, folks from the Cary Chamber of Commerce and local business leaders to Austin, TX. This Intercity visit was a first for me, and an opportunity to learn, connect and spend some time getting to know other folks that are passionate about our great town. Read More…

Choosin’ how you’re movin’

Last night’s Transit Work session was chock full of details regarding the Wake County Transit Plan. (You can read more about the full plan, here.)   It was nice to see a diverse set of attendees, with many folks from the Town across various departments, interested citizens and passionate transportation advocates.  Anyone that has been on I-40 at rush hour has seen the increase in traffic and what our growth can add to the impact on our transportation system. What this plan will do, (and what we covered last night) is address how bus service and future rail investment can provide added services for the entire Triangle Region along with the operational and financial implications.

Here are the Top 10 items of what I garnered from the session (some larger learnings, some tidbits): Read More…

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