Over 100+ ONE Wake members and Zebulon residents attended a strictly non-partisan assembly at Wakefield Missionary Baptist Church led by leaders of the Eastern Ministerial Alliance (a ONE Wake founding member), and supported by ONE Wake members from across the county. In attendance were all six candidates for the Zebulon Board of Commissioners, as well as District 1 Wake County Commissioner Donald Mial.
At stake was the future of the popular micro-transit SmartRide program that delivered 13,000 rides for low income residents in the last fiscal year (over 7,000 were Zebulon riders), as well as larger questions of how the Wake Transit Plan can more equitably distribute hundreds of millions in funding to under-served communities.
The SmartRide program is facing a number of changes next year, including: the body that will administer the program; a revised service area; and a different funding stream that could require cost sharing between cash strapped eastern Wake municipalities and the regional Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Further complicating this picture is that Zebulon community leaders and riders have lacked a voice in the planning for these changes so far.
On Tuesday night, each candidate for Zebulon Board of Commissioners was asked whether they would champion the continuation and expansion of the SmartRide program, and whether they would attend a key stakeholder meeting before the end of the year to bring all decisionmakers and Zebulon residents together at the same table. Every candidate said YES!
Wake County Commissioner Donald Mial was also present, and pledged to work with us to convene this stakeholder meeting. Commissioner Mial also brought forward a surprise announcement, stating that Wake County had recently approved an additional $400,000 investment in the program. We are eager to learn more about this new investment, which could potentially address our concern about the continuation of funding for the SmartRide program.
Also on display on Tuesday night was significant cross county solidarity, with over 40 members of ONE Wake institutions from outside Zebulon showing up in support. This support was crucial to demonstrate, given that the continuation and expansion of the SmartRide program will ultimately require the approval of countywide decision making bodies.