Thursday, January 31, 2008

TPPC January 30, 2008

The Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian Committee (TPPC) of Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met on Wednesday morning. From that meeting:

1. One of the new hybrid buses was brought by for inspection. 10 will arrive this Spring to begin replacement of the overage fleet of 32 trolleys. It had a nice interior and is designed to seat 26.

My peeve: all the seats are sideways (along the bus' outer walls). Anyone who has rode Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) mainline knows people regularly take up 2-3 seats on such. Therefore, I doubt you'll actually get 26 seated.

2. A compromise may be in reach on the issue of replacing Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) for the VBWave Oceanfront trolleys. The framework:

a. HRT will buy and install 6-7 high-end TVMs. (That's up from the previous proposal of 4.) These machines will take credit cards.

b. All 8 Sunsations locations will sell VBWave passes. In just two months last year, they did over $12,000 in sales.

c. To bring more merchants in, HRT may offer a commission on ticket sales. Such is being considered in the ongoing Fare Study.

Oberndorf Wins In A Landslide

Meyera would love to see that headline in November. In our latest poll. Mayor Oberndorf got 84% of the vote. John Moss had 10%, while Will Sessoms and Don Weeks mustered 3% each.

I was surprised by the rout as much as anyone else. What happens in November? I myself have had a hand in an effort to recruit a fifth candidate for the Mayoral field. We'll all find out what the final field looks like in June.

The new poll is on current transit options for Virginia Beach:

1. Boost by 20%.

Enhancing what most believe to be substandard service. It would also make us eligible to begin light rail talks with the FTA.

2. Cut mainline for residents by 24%.

The position taken by City Staff in a January 9 meeting with HRT.

3. Maintain the current level.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Transit Day

Virginia's annual Transit Day will be Thursday, February 21. Transit advocates from across the Commonwealth will gather in Richmond to meet and lobby members of the General Assembly.

I'm slated to be part of a delegation going on the behalf of the riders of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT). Given the low level of service in our large metropolitan region, we need all the help we can get.

Update: Transit Day has been moved back a day to Thursday, February 21 from it's originally scheduled slot.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

TDCHR January 24, 2008

This afternoon the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR), the governing board of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), held it's regular monthly meeting. Two big issues came up:

1. In drafting a HRT Budget for FY 2009, both Virginia Beach and Newport News have initially requested cuts in service. Newport News and HRT are about $300,000 apart.

Virginia Beach and HRT have a $1.2 million difference. The gap becomes larger when you realize Virginia Beach needs a 20% increase in year-round service before the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will even discuss light rail with it. HRT has a draft plan that would meet the FTA criteria. $1.2 million in cuts would mean eliminating entire routes and/or weekend service.

Under FTA regulations, cuts in neither city can be made without Public Hearings.

In addition, Virginia in 2007 made available an additional $60 million/year for mass transit. With that money contingent on maintaining service, HRT could become ineligible with cuts.

2. Commissioner Paul Riddick reported a proposal out of committee for the TDCHR's a luxury hotel a five hour drive away.

Commissioner Jim Wood immediately protested. Wood noted that the transit-dependent would be unable to come to such an event, and that a location in the region should be found. In addition, Wood requested a roll call vote on the Retreat with all Commissioners present.

Me? I agree that a location should be found locally. Furthermore:

a. Even if observers could get hotel rooms at the TDCHR rate of $169/night, two nights room and tax would be about the price of seven 30 Day Passes ($50 each).

b. With HRT crying poor over funding for service, it sends entirely the wrong signal to be holed away in a luxury hotel not even in the same area code.

In closing, wishes for a speedy recovery to the wife of Commissioner Randy Wright, who is in the hospital.

All They Want is Transportation

In response to yesterday's Virginian-Pravda story on the possibility of new tolls on I-264, Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun made the statement "folks, no one wants to ride mass transit." Note his comment.

I've been a Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) regular rider for nearly 3 1/2 years now. I enjoy riding the bus, which has it's advantages over driving. I have no plans to go car shopping for at least another 3 years. HRT may not be perfect, but it's better than the common public perception.

Yesterday I was waiting at my home bus shelter. A lady came up to join me: probably in her 40s, simply dressed, and carrying a bag from Dollar General. Looking at her, I thought she'd probably had a rough life. Worse yet, extremists like Reid Greenmun would write her out of government policy.

Reid calls himself a "Christian". He would be well-advised to read The Last Judgement in Matthew 25, and realize the fiery eternity he and his cohorts have ahead of them. The poor lady's needs are basic; all she needs is bus service that's a tiny fraction of the overall City Budget.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Another Case Of Two Sets Of Rules In Virginia Beach

For over a week now, signs have been in the median advertising the new Panera Bread at Virginia Beach Boulevard and Constitution Drive. They're in the Virginia Beach Boulevard median just west of the intersection.

Of course, posting signs in a road median is a violation of Virginia Beach city Ordinances (at least two). I myself have seen police remove similar signs elsewhere on Virginia Beach Boulevard. If they were pushing anti-City Hall political activity, City Manager Jim Spore would be out there with his white Corvette clobbering them himself. Yet nothing is done.

Then, we shouldn't expect this city government to hold a Central Business District business to the same standards it would try to hold everyone else to.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Virginia News Source and Councilperson Rosemary Wilsom

As of this morning, Virginia News Source has put up links to attack videos against Councilperson Rosemary Wilson, who is up for reelection in November. The videos first started appearing last week; they're on YouTube.

Okay, my video reviews:

1. "Predator" - if you're going to imply Rosemary is involved in some shady real estate dealings, spell it out. Holding back for the Fall? Why not take her out now if you've got the evidence?

2. "What Has Rosemary Wilson Done? (Rosemary's taxing)" - not bad...except for the one rerun character from Robert Dean's 2004 Mayoral campaign. (Recycled footage?)

3. "Rosemary's babies" - I hate that song in the background. Bringing up term limits only gets the ad off-track. However, the best of the three.

Personally, I'm waiting for a good third candidate to get into the At-Large race. However, if Bob Hedrick's backers want to slime Rosemary for us, they're doing our dirty work. If we're going to get a steady diet of this between now and November, this could be fun.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Resort Advisory Commission Priorities

Today Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met for it's Strategic Planning Meeting. The RAC holds one once every three years to set strategic priorities for the Resort Area.

Voted out this afternoon as the top five (high) priorities:

1. Implement the Strategic Action Plan

Status: that is, the Resort Area Master Plan that is in the works. The Plan should go to City Council in late May-early June for approval.

2. Rudee Loop: Interim and Long Range Plan

Status: the City of Virginia Beach owns virtually all of one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the city. The latest consultant's report (the Hunter Report) underlines it's value, calling for it to be redeveloped well and cautiously. In the interim, there may be a better use for it than what is being done now.

3. Dome site redevelopment

Status: the Virginia Beach Development Authority (VBDA) has chosen three finalists for redevelopment of the City-owned property straddling 19th Street along Pacific Avenue. The aforementioned Hunter Report called for this property to be first in line for redevelopment in the Resort Area.

4. Work with Media Group for information sharing in all vehicles

Status: it's been an ongoing struggle for the RAC to get information on the value of Tourism to the residents of Virginia Beach. The RAC's Communications Committee is being charged with working with the City's Public Information Office (PIO) to get the job done. The need will become all the more acute when trying to implement the Resort Area Master Plan.

5. Future of Transit in the Resort Area

Status: the pending Resort Area Master Plan has transit proposals entirely different from what's in service now. Therefore, Commissioner Henry Ryto suggested this priority, so as to have the Transportation Committee shepherd what comes out in the Plan. Score one for the CCO RAC representative!

The Resort Advisory Commission will take these five back up at it's February 7 meeting, wordsmithing them before final approval.

In Our Closest Poll Yet

You narrowly endorsed a streetcar line along Virginia Beach's Pacific Avenue 54%-46%. Such a proposal is in Option 1 of the Resort Area Master Plan.

Of course, Option 1 is based on Pacific Avenue having an 80 foot Right-of-Way...when it actually has a 60 foot Right-of-Way. When Sasaki (the consulting company) comes in for Phase II of the planning (on February 28 & 29), there'll be a need for a reality check on the plan.

Our new poll: your preference in the Virginia Beach Mayor's race, based on the four candidates announced so far.

Friday, January 11, 2008

RAC On January 10

On January 10 Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) held it's monthly meeting. Two issues of note were covered:

1. Another push was made on replacing the Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) for the VBWave trolleys. HRT has now offered to replace 5...of 17. Resort business people want all 17.

A letter is being sent from the RAC to City Council Liason John Uhrin requesting replacement. The vote was unanimous in favor, with CCO RAC representative Henry Ryto abstaining. Ryto finds neither the HRT nor Resort positions realistic.

The troubling part is that the draft letter circulated to Commissioners already spoke of an unanimous vote...before the Commissioners ever voted?!?

2. On the ongoing Resort Area Master Plan drafting, the Transportation proposals were found unrealistic. The disenchantment focused on Pacific Avenue:

a. Pacific now has a 60 foot Right-of-Way (ROW).

b. Option 1 is based on an 80 foot ROW.

c. Options 2 and 3 are based on a 100 foot ROW.

It's hoped in the next round that the plans get a reality check, as all seemed to agree that the Plan won't work unless the Transportation works.

See And Be Seen

In the past two days, candidates for the Virginia Beach City Council have been out trying to make themselves seen:

1. Will Sessoms - on Thursday he was at the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association's Cookoff, as the "Celebrity" part of a cooking duo. The former Vice Mayor is running for Mayor in November.

I didn't get to stick around long enough to see if he was cooking vegetarian. Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian.

2. Bob Hedrick - Friday evening was at the CCO's annual Banquet. The VBTA Vice Chair is running for City Council At-Large, challenging Rosemary Wilson.

All this, combined with Virginia News Source's attacks on Wilson this week, mean the campaign is already underway.

VBRA Restaurant Week

Virginia Beach Restaurant Week will be January 13-20. On Thursday there was a Kickoff event at the convention center, with a few speakers and a cookoff by local chefs.

A few statistics were given. 48% of the population has worked in the restaurant business at one time or another. 32% had their first job in the restaurant business. (Yes, I'm one of the 32%.) In Virginia Beach, restaurant sales are $840 million per year.

For more info, go to

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Political Party Versus Extremist Cult

This morning is the annual elections and organizational meeting for the Tidewater Libertarian Party (TLP). Voting is restricted to dues-paying TLP members and the only notice I saw of the meeting was less than 24 hours prior, on Virginia News Source.

That stands in stark contrast to the rules of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach (RPVB). RPVB Mass Meetings are announced weeks in advance and open to any registered voter of Virginia Beach who professes loyalty to the principles on the Republican Party.

Conservative voters in Virginia Beach therefore have a choice between a democratic political party (RPVB) or an extremist cult (TLP).

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

It's the Dome site over the convention center

In the poll that just ended, voters prefered having the eastern terminus of light rail at the Dome site over the convention center by a 2:1 margin. I specifically had the poll end this evening knowing the RAC Transportation Committee is meeting in the morning. It will be interesting if the issues come up tomorrow.

The new poll question is whether or not to have a streetcar running the length of Pacific Avenue. The proposal is from Option 1 for the Resort Area Master Plan. This poll will end January 15, the evening prior to the RAC Strategic Planning Meeting.

Two other site issues:

1. I've signed up for a free hit counter service to see how many are actually reading this blog.

2. Per Vivian's urging, I'm trying to space the poll options out further. The poll option itself on Blogspot isn't allowing me to do it, so I posted in a help group for aid.

You Know You're A Regular HRT Rider When....

For the third time in about as many months, I had a Hampton Roads Transit bus stop for me when I was neither at a bus stop nor trying to flag it down.

I went to 11 A.M. Mass today; January 1 is the Solemnity of Mary, a holy day only in the United States. (That's another story....) Walking home from Mass I had stopped at the curb, trying to cross Virginia Beach Boulevard. As I waiting for traffic to slacken, the Route 20 heading for the Oceanfront came rolling up. As it approached me, the bus slowed and put on it's signal lights. Realizing the driver was preparing to stop, I waved the bus off. She continued on her route.

Yesterday I was talking about the buses to someone who has never rode. I told him how there's a subculture on the bus; if you look out for the next person, they have your back. I just never grasped the drivers were also involved....