Friday, December 12, 2008

HRT COA Meetings

The last two weeks Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) has been holding public meetings to get input from bus riders on it's ongoing Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA). I attended 3 of the 4 meetings this week.

Virginia Beach (Monday)

After trouble getting into Princess Anne High School and the right room, this turned out to be the most cordial.

HRT is now looking at it's bus stops, looking to space them about a quarter of a mile apart to reduce frequent stopping. One gentleman spoke up against such a long walk.

Virginia Beach's MAX Route, Route 960, initially had equal ridership with the vaunted Route 961 (Southside - Peninsula link), but about 50 more frequencies. The frequencies were reduced in September to put the two roughly in line.

Routes 26 & 29 will look very different within a year. Route 33 is planned to be restructured to help on-time performance.

A Senior services representative was there who gave a couple numbers on the region:

1. 1 in 5 Seniors don't drive.

2. 1 in 7 persons is disabled.

That makes for a waiting mass transit market.

Travis Campbell of Virginia Beach's Planning Department, who also serves as the Beach's alternate HRT Commissioner, came and took notes.

Hampton (Wednesday)

A pleasant surprise: only token congestion on the HRBT riding Route 961 across.

In the meeting before the meeting, I was hit with two telling facts:

1. Newport News' economic development committee has been told how two major corporations looked at coming to Hampton Roads in 2008, only to jilt us over inadequate mass transit.

2. Williamsburg projects that it will need 50,000 additional workers within a decade. It's going to need mass transit from the seven cities to bring up many of them.

The feature of the meeting was representatives of the Virginia Defense League showing up, calling for training of bus drivers in dealing with passengers legally carrying arms. They spoke of an incident in Norfolk where a man reportedly was denied transport even though his gun was legal. One identified himself as being from Virginia Beach...and a John Moss voter. (I rolled my eyes: you can't even get away from the VBTAers in Hampton.)

Finally, WiFi service on the MAX will begin it's test phase in January.

Norfolk (Thursday)

Despite heavy rain, it had the highest attendance of the three. The crowd was lively: scheduled for 90 minutes, hearing all the comments actually took 135 minutes.

I had to laugh when the first topic up was toilets. I've tried making the case for toilets at Transfer Centers with HRT before; now they had an entire room of passengers demanding them. HRT Staff noted that the request had been heard in 4 of the 7 meetings.

About 20 minutes were spent on that mess known as the Cedar Grove Transfer Center.

Before I could say it, a Nauticus employee across the table asked for the Azalea Garden/Robinhood diversion to be eliminated from Route 15 to enhance on-time performance of the habitually late 15. That very same move had been the number one Norfolk issue on my previously-prepared Norfolk submission.

A few issues on making transfers were raised. Many were unhappy with Route 310 (Downtown Shuttle).

Mark Schnaufer of Virginia Beach's Planning Department was present.


While attendance wasn't as good as hoped, HRT got many quality comments which should help churn out a COA that will substantially improve bus service in Hampton Roads.

The COA recommendations are tentatively slated to be presented in a pair (one Southside, one Peninsula) of public meetings the second week of February.

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