You may not have noticed, but traffic is getting very, very bad across Guilford County, and many people who remember driving around Greensboro 30 or 40 years ago are often astonished at the vast number of cars on city roads at all times of the day.

Greensboro’s Battleground Avenue, for instance, pretty much looks like it has rush hour traffic on it all day long, and some small streets that used to see a car once every five or ten minutes now have a steady stream of traffic.

The leaders of PART, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, say the problem will only get worse, and the Authority and more public transport options can be a key part of the solution.

It will cost money to expand the service; and the source of that money was a topic of discussion this week by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. At a Thursday, April 18 work session, the commissioners discussed the possibility of allowing PART to put a sales tax hike option on the ballot to address some of the current and future traffic problems.

The PART board hadn’t voted to ask the commissioners, or even made an informal request; however, so many members of the Board of Commissioners had heard that PART would likely ask for a sales tax hike at some point, that the commissioners discussed the matter even though it wasn’t on the agenda that afternoon.

There was clearly no desire among the commissioners, if PART did ask, to put that tax hike request on the ballot this November. There are already plans to have a quarter-cent tax increase measure on the ballot to help fund Guilford County Schools.

PART General Manager and CEO Scott Rhine said after hearing of the commissioners’ discussion that a sales tax hike to support the transportation authority would indeed be premature this year.

 Rhine added that traffic in Guilford County – and the other counties PART serves – is going to continue to grow and he said the expansion of PART could help address some of the area’s coming congestion and pollution issues.

Rhine said that, though the PART board hasn’t requested a sales tax hike to pay for expansion, a one-half cent sales tax increase is one option included in a long-term transportation plan drawn up by the City of Greensboro. He said that may have been one factor that led to the commissioners’ conversation last week.

Rhine said that PART currently has money to provide existing services, but also said that, in order to expand and make improvements to meet the demands of the increasing population and traffic in the county, PART would need a substantial amount of funding, which a half-cent sales tax increase could provide.

It could help fund Greensboro’s transportation plan and a more regional expansion of public transportation as well, he noted.

Rhine said that, with all the new companies and new people coming to the area, preparations have to be made.

“We need to start acting now for what the future is going to be,” Rhine said. “It’s only going to get worse.”

He added that he doesn’t want Guilford County to end up like Atlanta – which is a traffic nightmare.

“I don’t know if there is enough land to keep building the roads we’ll need,” he said.

He added that light rail doesn’t seem like a good option because it has failed in other parts of the state and has faced numerous environmental challenges.

But he also said that more funding for PART – whatever the source – would allow the Authority to enhance services and create a truly regional solution.

“There are a great deal of improvements that need to be made,” he said of the existing public transportation networks in central North Carolina.

Rhine said that what’s really needed is a “seamlessness across jurisdictions.”

Right now, he said, there’s a patchwork quilt of different counties, cities and towns doing different things.

“There are different pay scales; some are unionized, some are not; there are different policies and other differences,” he said.

According to Rhine, a true regional approach would lead to a more cohesive experience that would draw more riders.

“We need to get rid of barriers,” Rhine said.