Today was the second day - and first weekday - of the new Cedar Grove DTC, on the periphery of downtown Norfolk. I went into Norfolk to catch the 2:10 matinee of Drillbit Taylor (not bad), lunch, and a visit to the Kirn Library. Some notes:
I arrived on Route 20 about 11:45 A.M. Surprisingly the bus went past the Salter Street turnoff from Virginia Beach Boulevard, making a loop of the block before coming in. (Apparently all buses are making a clockwise loop of the block.)
After getting off, I took a quick look at things. There are six shelters, with the buses being funneled between posts along one end of the parking lot. On the far side there were 5 Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) employees looking on. I recognized the ranking one in the group and walked over to say hello. I was told things were "going better than expected." I pointed out that the posts entering the lot were too close, with two buses unable to pass, making a choke point. She agreed.
The Route 23 goes down Princess Anne Road (on the north edge of Cedar Grove), and hadn't gone downtown. However, I spotted the 11:50 A.M. 23 in the conga line at Cedar Grove. That's a plus for me, making it easier to go from downtown to Walmart at Janaf (310 to 23).
The "I wish I had a camcorder" moment: at one point there were 11 forty-foot buses lined up at Cedar Grove. A sight to see.
I caught Route 310 into downtown just before Noon. There were 20 passengers, the driver, and a HRT Staffer on board. The HRT Staffer was both doing head counts and assisting with customer problems. There was some confusion by riders as to exactly where the bus stopped downtown. We learned it was essentially the former downtown loop minus the Charlotte Street stops.
On the 310 leaving downtown around 4:30, I drew the same bus, driver, and Staffer. We had 31 passengers going to Cedar Grove. When I said it would take a week for everyone to adjust, the lady beside me retorted, "Two weeks". The driver wanted combat pay for the 310.
With it being rush hour, the Staffers at Cedar Grove were on the same side of the conga line as the passengers, working both the drivers and riders.
My bus (Route 20) was a mess worthy of a major airport. We boarded. A Supervisor told the driver to circle around and come up in the rear of the conga line. As we reentered, curses went up in the back of the bus. We boarded more people. We were then told to hold on Salter Street until time to leave.
The problem is that buses have time built into the schedule for the downtown loop. Now that buses from the east and north are holding at Cedar Grove, they have 12-15 minutes to kill. It really gets wacky on Route 20, which has an additional 15 minute cushion downtown at rush hour.
There are some obvious points from today's observations:
1. Reschedule the buses going to Cedar Grove to shrink the cushion. If done properly, money can be saved and on-time performance helped at the same time.
2. Widen the posts entering to allow one bus to pass another.
3. Bring in portajohns. Please.
4. In hindsight, the free shuttle (Route 310) makes more sense than extending the NET (Route 17) out. The small buses on the 17 couldn't handle the loads the 310 was carrying.
The bottom line: Cedar Grove can work, but needs some tweaking.