Sunday, May 18, 2008

V-P And Transit In Virginia Beach

The Virginian-Pravda's editorial board largely got it right this morning. Being The V-P they did get a few things wrong, which I'll cover.

For starters, the first step for improving mass transit service should be adding evening and Sunday service to the outlying year-round bus routes. Other than Route 20 (Virginia Beach Blvd.), the year-round bus routes in Virginia Beach only operate 13 hours per day (6 A.M.- 7 P.M.), six days per week (no Sunday service). It would only cost about $750,000, a small sum in a nearly $1.8 billion City Budget. It's a monument to the Virginia Beach City Council's misplaced priorities that it hasn't already been done.

That brings me back to Virginia Beach Boulevard and the Route 20:

1. Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) 2030 Plan does call for every 15 minute service all day on Route 20.

2. Personally, I believe Virginia Beach should wait and see what Route 960 (the new MAX route) does before seriously considering every 15 minute service.

3. Route 20 does already run every 15 minutes at rush hour, though only between Newtown Road and Pembroke East.

4. Light rail is the obvious solution to Route 20's woes, as the line would roughly parallel the 20.

A couple things about the 20 from experience as a rider:

1. It gets crowded after 3 P.M. through rush hour.

2. Taking it home from RAC meetings, the 20 can't make the Oceanfront to Pembroke East segment in the scheduled 37 minutes at rush hour. (That's part of why light rail, not more buses on the 20, is the long-term solution.) The 20 that leaves 19th & Pacific at 5:07 even has trouble making it to Pembroke East by 6 P.M.

As for City Council waffling on the bus shelter issue at their Retreat on Monday, I sent them a follow-up e-mail. HRT has a criteria for what stops get shelters, but there's a way of prioritizing those.

I've heard talk among civic league representatives with the CCO about connecting middle-class subdivisions into mass transit. However, we can improve bus service on existing routes while figuring out exactly how we'd do that. (Yes, I have some ideas.)

The lack of bus service in Virginia Beach has made for some interesting conspiracy theories. First, City Council doesn't provide it (and other services) to try to keep the poor from moving to Virginia Beach. Second, it's a ploy to keep minority youth out of Virginia Beach after dark. (Heard that one repeated by an African-American male on a bus coming home from Norfolk on April 25.)

As it's Sunday, HR Transit Idea's Michael Ragsdale can't get a bus out of his neighborhood. Check out his blog later for him weighing in on this issue.


Michael Ragsdale said...

All I ask for is 10:45 PM at night. That would be the last trip on either end for all routes out of TCC. Except for Route 33 since it serves the Oceanfront which should run a bit later (11:45 PM?)

Henry, what can $750,000 buy (in terms of hours and Sundays)?

Michael Ragsdale said...

Conspiracy Theories: even bus drives spread these

Avenging Archangel said...


If you do the math based on the City's Budget CD, a 20% boost of year-round service should cost about $750,000. Place the hours as you wish.


1. Extend the 33 & 36 to 10:45.

The later 33 makes little sense as the last 20 leaves 19th & Pacific at 11:37 - where a 10:45 33 could meet it.

2. Extend the 29 to 9:45.

Gets it past Lynnhaven Mall closing hours.

3. Extend the 25 if Norfolk will agree.

They should, as it would feed the Newtown Road LRT Station.

Remember that the City would also like a Town Center - Newtown Road shuttle out of those hours, so we can't eat them all up extending existing routes.

Michael Ragsdale said...

I'm working on a timetable for select VB routes (yes Chesapeake, including the 12 - it's time for you to care). When I suggested an 11:45 PM departure for Route 33, that was including one extra Route 20 trip at 12:37 AM (yes I know that won't be at Cedar Grove until 2:15 AM or so). If that 20 trip can't be done, then no 11:45 #33. There should be a 20 in the Oceanfront area at that time of the morning (that deadheads today). Still, with the 20, let's see what the 960 does. Look for a solution to the 960 Silverleaf dilemma in my Newtown-Town Center shuttle (not the greatest, but it's something).

Anonymous said...


What $750,000 of spending do you propose the city cut to cover the cost of more bus service?


Avenging Archangel said...


First of all, disingenous in that you never specify how you'll pay for your Property Tax cuts.

However, I have a few ideas:

1. Human Services admin - former Director Terry Jenkins padded admin.

2. Start charging insurance companies for ambulance service - you then shift the money from EMS after you've imposed the user fee.

3. Scrub the museums budget - I trust Director Lynn Clements as far as I can throw a tank.

Avenging Archangel said...

Let me elaborate on EMS. The Firemens union estimates the City misses out on about $6 million (if I remember) per year by not charging for ambulance service - as Norfolk and Chesapeake do.

If you used the user fee to cover EMS expenses, you could then shift General Fund money going to EMS to cover bus service. Given the amount, you could improve EMS and bus service at the same time.

Anonymous said...

So you want to charge people to use the ambulance and then redirect the funds collected by the EMS service providers to pay for buses?


So, instead of passing the cost on to those that use the new bus service you want to target seriously ill people and their families?

Oh - you are trageting insurance companies. So, your proposal is only change those that use an ambulance that have paid for insurance? I see.

Those that don't pay for insurance get a free ride - because - why?

Well, to your credit at least you did put a few items on the table. Good deal.

Take $750K out of human services each year - to pay for more buses? What specific human services do you suggest should be cut?

While you state the HS budget was "padded", does that mean that $750K is sitting in a bank account, unused - each year?


Avenging Archangel said...


Take remedial reading comprehension: I want to use the General Fund money now going to EMS, a department that can get even more through a user fee that our neighboring cities are charging.

As for DHS, Jenkins hiked admin by over one-third. Don't tell me there was a need for that.


1. In 2004 you authored a Property Tax Resolution that would have cost $55 million, then you thought it was someone else's job to figure out who paid for it.

2. In 2008 I propose $750,000 - but you think I have to pinpoint?

Typical VBTA hypocrite!

Anonymous said...

Just thought i'd share some related interesting news with y'all:

Article 6: MTS Launches First-Ever ISE-Powered CNG Hybrid-Electric Bus
On April 10, 2008, Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) launched the first commercial bus with a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) hybrid-electric drive system (CNG Hybrid Drive System). ISE Corp. (ISE) developed and supplied the CNG Hybrid Drive System, a variant of ISE's successful line of ThunderVolt hybrid drive systems. ISE also integrated the CNG Hybrid Drive System into a standard 40-foot transit bus that was supplied by MTS.

Funding for the program was provided by grants from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), San Diego Air Pollution Control District (APCD) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). North Island Credit Union participated in the program by providing a unique bus wrap to call attention to the environmentally friendly and technologically advanced bus.

The $1 million CNG hybrid prototype bus will cut significant emissions from the already clean-burning CNG buses in the MTS fleet, providing more power and a quieter ride.

"This new technology is important to California transit agencies that have invested heavily in CNG infrastructure and are seeking even more efficient power drives," said San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who also represents San Diego on the boards of directors of MTS, APCD and CARB. "The CNG-electric hybrid technology represents the next step forward in our commitment to a healthier environment."

The CNG hybrid bus will travel all over the MTS network, providing commuters the opportunity to experience the new technology.

The CNG Hybrid Drive System is expected to provide the following environmental benefits:

Significantly greater fuel economy than standard CNG
Reduced NOx emission over standard CNG
Reduced CO2 emissions
Reduced brake wear and brake maintenance
Operate quieter than standard CNG buses
"MTS is committed to providing clean, safe, reliable and environmentally friendly transportation," said Paul Jablonski, CEO of MTS. "We have been in the process of retiring our old diesel buses and replacing them with cleaner and more efficient technologies since 1997. We have already replaced almost 75 percent of our fleet with CNG buses and will complete the conversion over the next five to six years."

The CNG Hybrid Drive System is based on ISE's proven ThunderVolt gasoline hybrid drive systems and features a Cummins ISB Gas Plus engine, a Siemens 165kW electrical generator, two Siemens duo inverters, two Siemens 85kW drive motors and Cobasys-developed NiMH batteries. MTS provided a New Flyer bus for the program and New Flyer assisted ISE in the modification of the bus chassis.

"ISE is excited to take part in this program to help further improve the environmental impacts of public transit in San Diego," said Gary Willms, ISE vice president of Business Development. "Our hybrid system has provided measureable benefits in other California cities, throughout the United States and Canada. We look forward to do the same for San Diego. Our next step is to assist MTS in the testing and evaluation of the CNG Hybrid Drive System performance compared to conventional CNG buses."

San Diego's North Island Credit Union, which is developing a new LEED-certified, environmentally friendly headquarters, was selected by MTS to provide a unique bus wrap for the CNG hybrid bus. The credit union is known for its corporate brand, which includes an iconic illustration of San Diego County's greatest landmarks. Called "Island Paradise," the signature artwork is a perfect fit to highlight the CNG hybrid bus.

"North Island Credit Union employees and members are committed to caring for the environment in San Diego," said Geri Dillingham, executive vice president and chief operating officer of North Island Credit Union. "We are proud to lend our signature artwork to call attention to this technologically advanced and environmentally friendly bus."

The addition of the new CNG hybrid bus to the MTS fleet comes in conjunction with the recently authorized MTS purchase of up to twenty, 35-foot gasoline hybrid buses for delivery this fall, and up to 250, 40-foot conventional CNG powered buses or gasoline hybrid powered buses over the next five years. The new order of buses will be the biggest procurement order in the history of MTS.

Currently MTS maintains and operates 476 buses of which 75 percent are CNG. The new CNG hybrid bus and the new bus procurement will align MTS with its stated goal of converting its entire fleet to CNG or hybrid technology within the next six years.

For a look at MTS' new CNG hybrid-electric bus, follow this link:


Avenging Archangel said...

Tomorrow afternoon at 2 we have the rollout ceremony for Virginia Beach's hybrid buses, at 31st Street.

With the region heading for air quality non-attainment, hybrid buses and (yes) light rail hold the promise of transportation with little emissions, running on electric.