From Rudy Austin, president, Ocracoke Civic & Business Association (OCBA)
As our community and in particular the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board, works through the public transportation needs generated by the probable implementation of passenger ferry service between Hatteras and Ocracoke village, I think it important to clarify the position of the OCBA Board of Directors as communicated in a recent letter to the Occupancy Tax Board.
The OCBA Board has expressed opposition to the funding request submitted by Hyde County Transit to the Occupancy Tax Board to cover one-year of tram operational expenses ($214,000). We understand that funds have been secured to make infrastructure improvements for the passenger ferry and to acquire trams to provide public transportation within the village and to/from the beach. The OCBA Board strongly supports the development and implementation of a public transportation solution to complement passenger ferry service should the latter in fact come to fruition. We believe passenger ferry service is very likely but not yet guaranteed beginning in 2018. We believe visitors who choose the passenger ferry and public transportation option will view their experience as a total package. If visitors have a bad public transportation experience it won’t matter how fast or wonderful their passenger ferry ride is (and vice versa). While we recognize there is no perfect solution, we believe any public transportation solution has to be as good as possible when it “hits the ground” or it will leave visitors with a “bad taste in their mouth.” The current proposal has not been sufficiently evaluated relative to the envisioned use to merit occupancy tax funding at this time.
Our primary concerns include:
- The details of the plan and the associated cost appear to be in constant flux based on comments made at public meetings;
- The ridership capacity of the trams has not been reconciled with the projected passenger ferry ridership in real-world contexts;
- The plan for the trams to make stops in the Highway 12 and other road rights-of-way has not been assessed for traffic flow impacts, nor has the proposal to extend the 25 mph zone to the Lifeguard Beach;
- Passenger ferry status is probable but uncertain and is likely to be delayed beyond Spring 2018.
We believe that before funding can be provided from any public transportation solution, a more robust level of analysis must be completed similar to what has been done for the passenger ferries themselves. A comprehensive traffic flow analysis and surveys like those done with visitors in line for the ferry to estimate capacity must also happen for our on-site guests and our residents since how much they use the proposed Tram System is key to its sizing. A public versus private cost analysis must also be studied in more detail, since “managed Private” seems to be the overwhelming choice of other, similar municipalities.
For all of these reasons (and expounded in greater detail in our letter to the Occupancy Tax Board), we believe the current proposal is not the solution.
Disclosure note: Ocracoke Observer editor Connie Leinbach is secretary of the OCBA board but recused herself from discussion and vote on this and the prior letter referred to in this letter.