Monday, July 28, 2008

Lousy V-P Editorial On Light Rail for Virginia Beach

Sunday's lead by The Virginian-Pravda was an editorial calling for the Virginia Beach City Council to rescind the 1999 Resolution withdrawing from light rail.

The "logic" is like Hugo Chavez's argument that his election as President of Venezuela "justified" his attempted coup d'etat as an army officer. No, the 1999 proposal was over $69 million per mile. The national benchmark for light rail is $40 million per mile. Given the outrageous cost, it's unlikely we could have received Federal funding for something that looked like that.

There have been a number of changes since 1999 that now make a strong case for light rail: Town Center has been built, downtown Norfolk rejuvenated, gasoline prices have more than doubled, the Strategic Growth Areas (SGAs) along the Norfolk Southern Corridor have been added to Virginia Beach's Comprehensive Plan, greenfields for development have dwindled, urban redevelopment is planned for the Resort Area, etc. In addition, Norfolk has a Federally-funded Starter Line (who thought that would happen?) and Portsmouth is planning for light rail through the proposed second tube for the Midtown Tunnel. None of that existed in 1999, when Virginia Beach voters rightfully killed an out-of-control plan.

If you read the comments section of the story, you'll see remarks by Deaniacs demanding a referendum:

1. It has little to do with light rail and nothing to do with the consent of the governed. It's about resuscitating the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA), which is on life support. The VBTA was only able to muster Moss and Shuler as Council candidates, and killing light rail is the only issue looming that could revive the cult. Therefore, they can't say "light rail" without using the word "referendum".

2. The VBTA's own "Transportation Plan" from earlier this year covers light rail, setting a referendum threshold for any Transportation project at $2 billion. Since light rail for Virginia Beach would be about one-quarter of that, by their own parameter it doesn't require a referendum.

Maybe they should read their own documents before making stupid statements....


Peter A. Stinson said...

What can you tell us about the Portsmouth portion of the light rail. Aside from the Midtown Tunnel crossing, has there been any talk about where the line would go? Is there anything online that shows the possible plans?

Anonymous said...

Peter, the HRPDC website contains all of the plans for our region's light rail lines.


Avenging Archangel said...

What's been talked about so far.

Remember that the MPO has just begun a regional mass transit study, so we could see something quite different in the Spring.

Anonymous said...

As Peter's questions indicate, most people in the region have a more constructive and hopeful vision of the future of our region than that promulgated by the VBTA. But even VBTA has a right to its opinions, no matter how marginal they may be. The trouble I have with them is their habit of picking and chosing facts to fit their perspective rather than considering all points of view. Until they do this, they will have little credibility.

The MPO is in the process of reviewing its entire way of conducting business. The federal audit faulted, among other things, its casual attitude about public participation. A new director is in place and things that seemed immovable in the past are now being moved. Projects that weren't on the table are on the table. The public will have more opportunity to have input than before. It won't happen overnight. But it promises to happen, which is far more than you could say in the past.