Public Transit

is on the ballot!

New Hanover County voters will decide if they support a ‘Quarter-Cent Sales Tax Referendum for Public Transportation

Public transportation offers an affordable way for community members of all physical abilities and economic statuses to get safely to work, school, grocery stores, doctor appointments, businesses, and entertainment venues. And it increases access to employment opportunities.

Our community needs a more robust and connected public transportation infrastructure to make it easier to get from one place to another, improve transit times, and create a more reliable network that leads to more usability to serve more people. With the proper dedicated funding and the ability to leverage these funds for federal support, that can be accomplished with Wave Transit.

About 45 percent, an estimated $65 million, of the quarter-cent sales tax would be used to help modernize public transportation over the first 10 years of the sales tax being in place. Below is an outline of the goals for public transportation and Wave Transit, both in the near term and future, and how the sales tax funding would be used.

Move Forward. Go Further. Quarter-Cent Transportation Sales Tax to Expand Trails and Modernize Transit

Election Day is November 8!

The last day to register is October 14
Early voting begins October 20

Register to vote
Check your registration
How to vote in New Hanover County

Learn about plans for bicycle and pedestrian projects at

What will Wave Transit do with a designated funding source?

We have detailed plans for where the funds will be prioritized

Extended Bus Hours 

Extending operational hours would allow Wave to serve more people and ensure it is more accessible on nights and weekends for our service industry workforce, residents, and visitors.

To do this, the sales tax would help fund the hiring of additional staff and could be an immediate upgrade for the transportation system.

Increased Frequency for Bus Routes

Increased frequency for high productivity routes would allow riders to get where they need to go faster and more efficiently.

In order to increase the frequency that the bus comes, the sales tax would help purchase additional buses which could be sized based on the route with smaller vehicles used where demand isn’t as high.

Wave has three routes with 30-minute frequencies, meaning they come by the bus stop every 30 minutes. By 2024, the goal would be to increase service on three additional routes to 30- to 45-minute frequencies, which would make the frequency on more than half of Wave’s routes 45 minutes or less.

By 2027, two additional routes would be added with a faster frequency of 30- to 45-minutes, bringing more than 80 percent of Wave’s routes to 45 minutes or less. And in some cases, routes with higher productivity could have more frequent service times.

Added Passenger Amenities

Over the first three years, the sales tax would be used to add 17 new benches and 10 shelters to Wave bus stops. The updates would also include lighting, trash receptacles, and enhanced ADA accessibility.

After three years, Wave would continue to increase amenities with additional benches, shelters, lighting, and accessibility at additional stops.

Enhanced Technology for Riders

Utilizing greater technology would improve the rider experience and allow residents to use data to better plan their journeys.

The sales tax proceeds would be used to add passenger wi-fi on board all buses and implement a Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platform in the first year. MaaS would integrate mobile ticketing and payments, bus tracking, and microtransit booking and tracking so customers could ride easier and have real-time information.

In the next two years, the sales tax would be used to add wayside signs to the 10 highest productivity stops to effectively communicate timely information to riders.

Expanded Microtransit Options

Wave has implemented microtransit, which is a flexible service where residents can book an on-demand ride from a virtual stop within a RideMICRO zone and be connected to Wave Transit’s fixed-route service or brought to their destination.

It is a point-to-point service available to anyone traveling within the designated service network and provides greater flexibility, decreased wait times, and increased stop locations than a traditional fixed-route bus. The fares to ride microtransit are the same as the fixed-route buses.

Utilizing sales tax funding, RideMICRO could be enhanced in the future with more vehicles and stops, and vehicles with bike racks to connect cyclists with additional trails and opportunities. Microtransit hours would also be extended to be in line with fixed bus route hours as they are increased.

Youth Passes

Utilizing sales tax funding, Wave would implement special transportation programs to serve the community, like free youth passes for anyone 17 years old or younger to be able to use public transportation to access after-school activities, attend classes at CFCC, or get to work.

These free passes could be implemented immediately and continue for years to come, building a new generation of public transit users and providing greater mobility options for our students. Youth passes could be used on the fixed-route bus system or on microtransit.

Currently, children four and younger ride free, and those in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade and local college students receive half-price fares.

Future Services

With improvements to the Wave system using sales tax dollars, the goal of Wave Transit would be to increase ridership and passenger revenues, which would also increase federal formula funding that can be leveraged to do even more in the future.

This could mean opportunities like:

  • Airport Express Line
  • Continuous trolly service to downtown restaurants and shopping with extended hours
  • Park and ride lots
  • Integrated service with bike share
  • Investing in zero-emission vehicles that reduce fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions

There would also be the possibility in the future to explore and plan for bus rapid transit (BRT), which offers a more efficient and fast transportation option utilizing designated bus lanes, traffic signal priority, raised platforms with open door boarding, and platform ticketing. BRT is operating in over 40 cities in America and is integral as part of a long-term vision for transportation in growing cities.

A message from New Hanover Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, JR.