Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) will try to serve where it can and that the localities will pay for. A stark example of that is taking the bus to the airport. HRT goes nowhere near Norfolk International Airport (ORF), but it does go to Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF).
Being the type who likes to stick my head under the hood and look myself, on Tuesday I took HRT to PHF to check out the service. (That's why I was late with the previous post: I didn't have time Tuesday morning, in a hurry to get out the door.) From where I live in Virginia Beach, it was a five bus ride to PHF. (It would have been four buses had I travelled 90 minutes later, but I wanted to leave early.) It's HRT Route 111 that goes to PHF, an hourly service from Patrick Henry Mall, City Center at Oyster Point, and Thomas Nelson Community College.
The 111 was quite busy west of Patrick Henry Mall. Arriving at PHF, the only stop at the airport terminal is a shelter just before the building. A very good shelter with a wooden floor, but - oddly - no bench in the shelter. (The airport has benches just yards away in front of the terminal itself.) The 111 only services the airport one-way: on the Outbound leg, at about 40 minutes after the hour. Just beyond the airport, the 111 loops back the other way. I was able to make the loop without paying fare twice.
Why not ORF? I'm told that the taxi companies are keeping HRT out. The "compromise' discussed about a year ago was to reroute Route 8 to the intersection of Norview Avenue and Azalea Garden Road. That would be off the airport grounds, and a hopelessly long walk away with baggage to carry. In short, the proposed "compromise" was a sick joke.
Some other notes from Tuesday's trip:
1. More proof of my "Build It And They Will Come" Axiom for transit in the region: 4 of the 5 buses I rode in Newport News were full. This was late morning-early afternoon, the slowest part of the day for transit. (The only light loads were on the 111 beyond Patrick Henry Mall.)
Not coincidentally, Newport News is the 2nd largest local contributor to HRT's Budget. Like in Norfolk (tops), people ride a bus system that is there for them. (FYI, Hampton is 3rd, Virginia Beach 4th.)
2. Another day, another case for light rail through The Third Crossing: coming home, the 61 got delayed in traffic on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. With light rail, we would have been rolling through on the train.
3. ORF brings us back to the paratransit issue. Under Federal guidelines, paratransit provided by HRT's contractor (P&W Transportation) is required only to operate to destinations within a quarter-mile of HRT's bus routes. That means no Handi-Ride service to ORF.
There's a long solution for the handicapped: fly out of PHF. Matter of fact, I saw Handi-Ride at PHF.
4. Finally (but not least), kudos to the three people I dealt with at Patrick Henry Mall on the way home. I had never taken HRT there, while it had been quite some time for the couple I met. A Good Samaritan helped us make a convoluted bus transfer to head back southward.