Raleigh Continues Downtown Safety Discussion
Discussion began with a briefing from Wake County Manager David Ellis on what health & human services the county provides, and how they coordinate community providers who handle social services not directly administered by government programs. Two bright spots were the expansion of Medicaid services bringing in more resources for the county to implement (something the Raleigh Chamber championed), and that most municipalities in Wake County are now implementing their own housing plans to boost supply and increase affordability, something critical to keeping people housed.
Next came a briefing on the city’s fare-free transit program, which began during COVID and continues today. Of note, GoRaleigh only accrues roughly $3.5 million in revenue from transit fares, with about another $1.5 million coming in through special access programs and contracts with private organizations who pay for bus service to their locations. Pre-COVID, the city ran a number of programs to reduce or eliminate fares for targeted groups like senior citizens, children under 12, and teens who signed up for a youth pass program. No discussion was held about re-introducing fares at this meeting, but many questions were asked about whether these reduced/free programs could be reinstated, and that question is something you should expect the council as a whole to grapple with soon. The Chamber supports re-introducing transit fares to reduce ridership that is disruptive to normal operations, along with bolstering city programs to support those who need assistance paying transit fares.
Lastly, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance gave an update on their efforts to improve downtown and what they’ve been seeing in their day-to-day work. Key highlights were the implementation of their own private security to bolster their ambassador’s coverage of downtown, and that they have seen a decrease in youth congregating in groups downtown and causing disruptions. They attribute this decline directly to the increased RPD presence and more visibility across downtown.
There was discussion on moving discussion out of committee and to the council as a whole, but there was confusion as to what recommendations, if any, would be sent to the council. In the end, the topic was again held in committee where staff will bring some concrete ideas for them to act on at the next meeting in November. That means action on downtown safety is delayed about another month with the exception of private security activating downtown.
Regardless of the council’s continued delay, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance began utilizing unarmed guards to supplement its ambassador program by providing more oversight of public spaces, and additional resources for downtown police to respond to issues more quickly. The Raleigh Chamber supports the use of private security to improve police’s ability to prevent or respond to issues more quickly.
The Chamber continues to urge council members to act swiftly and decisively to restore vibrancy to downtown and provide a safe environment for businesses, residents, and visitors alike.
Chamber Staff Head to Atlanta
Once we’re back, staff will share our experiences and ideas with the task force that helps plan the main trip so they can consider what would be most exciting and informative for everyone when we visit in April.
This pre-trip is one of the last stages of planning before registration is opened for Chamber members to attend ICVLC, so be on the lookout for more communications on it coming soon.