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 Retreat...at 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.