Friday, May 29, 2009

TDCHR May 28, 2009

On Thursday afternoon the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR), the governing body of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), met in HRT's Norfolk office.

The meeting began with a Public Hearing on Routes 960, 963, and the Hampton Community Service. 16 written comments had been submitted prior, while I was the only speaker to address the Commission (on the 960). Planning Staff will review the comments, then bring options to the June meeting of the Operations & Oversight (O & O) Committee. O & O will then choose an option, which will then go to the full TDCHR at their June meeting.

There was a Presentation to the TDCHR on a proposed Fare Policy document. It will now be reviewed, with adoption expected at the June TDCHR meeting. The Fare Policy is simply a set of principles by which HRT will set fares. (No, there is not a fare increase currently on the table.)

The TDCHR approved a $77 million Budget for FY 2010, an 1.08% reduction from the FY 2009 Budget. Speaking of FY 2009, HRT is $1.365 million under Budget even with an additional cut in state operating funds.

The Executive Committee is working on a restructuring of the TDCHR's committee system, which should see a reduction in the number of committees. Their plan will be presented to the June TDCHR meeting.

There was quite a bit on Virginia Beach light rail yesterday:

1. 2 of the 3 main figures involved in the AA/DEIS were present.

2. The project's website is slated to be up in about a week.

3. Tentatively two Scoping public meetings are planned. One would be at Princess Anne High School, the other at the convention center. These meetings will be the public's chance to be heard prior to the study process beginning.

4. The project process from now until the Final Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) is signed is expected to take at least 4 years, maybe slightly longer.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

TPPC May 28, 2009

This morning the Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian Committee (TPPC) of Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) held it's May meeting.

VBWave seasonal trolley service is off to a good start. First, Memorial Day Weekend ridership was up about 2,000 people over 2008. Second, 6 of the trolleys scheduled to be repainted in a blue scheme (similar to the hybrid buses) already have been. (10 total will be repainted.) Third, five new Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) have been installed in the Resort Area.

The City is testing LED lighting for the Oceanfront. LED is being used at 2nd Street on Atlantic Avenue, and along the Boardwalk between 2nd Street and Rudee Inlet. Staff at the Department of Public Works want to see how the units hold up to the salt spray over an extended period.

The Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) reported no significant problems in the Resort Area over the holiday weekend.

Policy on the dedicated trolley lanes on Atlantic Avenue was discussed. Staff was asked to come back with more information in order that the TPPC can recommend possible changes.

The meeting concluded with a discussion on the Residential Parking Permit Program. The TPPC endorsed an administrative change on leased and commercial vehicles receiving RPPP decals, which the full Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) is expected to vote on at it's June 4 meeting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

63% Prefer Ron's Chances

The poll question was which House of Delegates seat is more likely to be a Republican pickup in November, the 21st District or the 83rd? 63% of you prefered Ron Villanueva's shot at beating Bobby Mathieson to Chris Stolle's odds against Joe Bouchard.

I agree. Speaking to a couple Republican insiders in the wake of the November, 2007 election, the conventional wisdom was that Bouchard had won narrowly and that we could easily oust him in 2009. There are a couple flaws in that argument:

1. Bouchard won despite a poor Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort that resulted in lackluster turnout in some Democratic-leaning areas. I don't expect the Dems to make that mistake twice, especially with the statewide slate on the ballot this year.

2. Bouchard impresses people that hear him speak in a forum.

Therefore, I believe the 21st will be the easier fight to win.

The new question: will Virginia Beach raise taxes next year? Virginia News Source recently pushed the line that there is a "massive" tax increase coming. Personally, I think that story is a lie to keep their minions in line, as I can't imagine City Council hiking taxes right before 6 incumbents hit the campaign trail for reelection. What do you think?

Yes, I Have A Sense of Humor

In the mail I received an Invitation to Rosemary Wilson's annual Garden Party fundraiser. Uh...last year I wrote a couple strategy papers for Georgia Allen's challenge of Rosemary. How did I get on the invitation list?

My work schedule next Wednesday would preclude me from going, so it's a non-issue.

Taking on Jaywalkers?

This afternoon there was a section of fence being erected on the median of Virginia Beach Boulevard at Town Center. Granted, it was being put up in a bizarre manner, but is the City going straight at jaywalkers in that dangerous area of road?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pembroke Implementation Plan Meeting at PA High School

Last night at Princess Anne High School there was a meeting on the draft Pembroke Area Implementation Plan. First there was a Presentation on the draft plan, followed up a breakout with Staff and consultants available to answer questions. About 100 residents attended.

The funny thing: no recognizable VBTAers were there.

You have until June 5 to submit comments on the draft plan. More information is available at

Thursday, May 21, 2009

UCAC May 20, 2009

The User Citizen Advisory Committee (UCAC) of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) met on Wednesday evening at HRT headquarters in Hampton. The meeting lasted about 80 minutes.

Members were given answers to the questions they had submitted in their City Reports. The City Reports are written reports that UCAC members e-mail into HRT in advance of the meeting, raising questions and concerns with HRT Staff.

HRT Staff briefed members on the ongoing Comprehensive Operations Analysis (next public meetings slated for August), unlit bus numbers on the rear of buses, the UCAC Guidelines (In the process of being revised), and changes to the Peninsula Commuter Service (formerly Work Trips). In addition, UCAC members raised additional oral questions.

MPO May 20, 2009

Yesterday the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the region's Federally-mandated Transportation planning entity, held it's May meeting. As expected, final approval was given to the appropriations given initial approval in April.

However, the big story was the reorganization of the MPO itself. The MPO adopted revised By-Laws and changed it's name to the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), in order to better indicate to the public what it does. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) defining the relationship between the TPO and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) was sent to committee for review.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

HRT Community Meeting

This evening Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) held a Community Meeting in Norfolk to discuss proposed service reductions on MAX Routes 960 and 963.

The 963 had been slated for elimination. However, it now looks like it will be reduced to one trip each way.

The 960 is scheduled to be reduced September - April to weekday rush hour only service. Arguments against such were given tonight; I made several myself. We'll see.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Least Competent Aspiring Criminals

I heard this story while waiting for a bus at the Pembroke East Transfer Center this morning.

A 14 year old in Norfolk went out this weekend to go to a carnival. He was "jacked", with his Air Jordans and some of his money (not all in the same pocket) stolen. He was beaten for it by 2 boys and 2 girls. The Norfolk Police Department found him and took him home.

The hitch? One of the girls goes to the same school with the kid who was attacked, so he easily could identify her, and she now has NPD looking for her.

62% Said Obama Isn't A Socialist

Only 37% thought he was one. Personally, I think Obama is a social democrat, not a socialist. At the heart of socialism is changing the form of ownership of enterprise, and the biggest shift there is a result of the bank bailout by the Bush Administration.

The new question: which Virginia House of Delegates seat is more likely to become Republican again, the 21st District (now held by Bobby Mathieson) or the 83rd District (now held by Joe Bouchard)?

Friday, May 15, 2009

2009 Greek Festival

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on Granby Street in Norfolk is holding their annual Greek Festival this weekend. Things will continue until 10 P.M. tonight, run 11-10 on Saturday, then Noon-6 on Sunday. As always, plenty of food and good music. Church tours today and Saturday are at 1:30 and 6:30.

I went earlier today and enjoyed it more than any previous Festival I've been to. My personal highlight: after having long wanted one, I found an authentic Greek fisherman's hat that fit my big head. Cost me $15, but I love it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

City Hall's Idea of "Public Participation"

The City is holding a program on Sustainable Development Thursday, May 14 at 10 A.M. It will cover the pattern of much of how Virginia Beach is to be developed and redeveloped in the future.

The hitch? The letter for "Public Participation" was e-mailed out by City Hall on Tuesday, May 12 at 1:29 P.M. They expect people to make a weekday morning meeting on under 45 hours notice?

If you look at the e-mail addresses on the mailing (it was open copied), most are land development interests. So the developers can get out of what they were doing for something so crucial to their business, while non-industry residents probably won't be able to make it on such short notice. In turn, the City gets exactly the "public input" they wanted.

It reminds me of the 2007 Community Legislative Package meeting fiasco. Invitation letters to that meeting were snail mailed out so late that many didn't hit mailboxes until after the meeting. In that case, the City held a second meeting with proper notice. Do they do so this time?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Riding HRT In Suffolk

The City of Suffolk had long simply leased buses from Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) and operated it's own four local routes as a separate service. Last year Suffolk studied the matter and determined it was cheaper to have HRT assume direct control. In March HRT took over Routes 71, 72, 73, and 74. Finally accomplishing a "get around to it" project today, I went to Suffolk to check things out for myself.

First there is the issue of getting there. The only bus into and out of Suffolk is Route 962, a MAX route that operates only on weekdays and during rush hour. You transfer from Route 962 to Route 73 at the Magnolia Park and Ride, a facility that underwhelmed me on seeing it for the first time. The four Suffolk local routes meet at the Suffolk Bus Plaza, just a block off the main drag in downtown Suffolk.

Suffolk service is quite different from that elsewhere in Hampton Roads. There are no posted bus stops; you simply flag the bus down along it's route. All four routes are loops. The routes go into shopping centers, apartment complexes, etc. (In the other six cities, the route goes past on the main road with a bus stop there.) Service only operates on weekdays 11 hours a day. All buses are hourly.

I had heard some bad things about Suffolk service, but was pleasantly surprised. In a sane world, bus service would be daily and 18 hours per day. In an ideal world, the looped routes would be straightened and replaced with more and more frequent routes. However, given political and financial realities, with a little tweaking Suffolk bus service wouldn't be that bad.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Islamification Of Europe

The following video has been posted by about four different people on YouTube. While I don't agree with it's alarmist tone (if the change is so inevitable, what could be done about it?), it provides plenty of food for thought. Such changing demographics have obvious long-term policy implications.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

It's A Tie

The vote on whether Laskin Road or Seaboard Road should take priority ended in a dead heat.

The new question: Is President Obama A Socialist? The term gets thrown at him regularly by critics. What do you believe?

RAC May 7, 2009

This afternoon Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) held it's May meeting.

It was announced that funds have been found to complete the repainting of the Resort Area trolleys. To underline that the remaining trolleys and the new hybrid buses serve the same purpose, the trolleys are being repainted in a blue color scheme similar to the hybrids. In addition, the sites have been prepared for the 5 new Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) being brought to the Resort Area.

Enhancements for Beach Street were discussed. Banners and additional signage will be used to create a sense of arrival in the Resort Area.

The Gift of Tourism Campaign continues, with funds in the pending FY 2010 Budget to operate it during the next fiscal year. Updated economic impact figures should be online by July, as well as an improved Contact Us section so residents can e-mail in questions on Resort policy.

Two meetings will be held in May on the annual influx of international students. Next week will be a meeting geared towards prospective employers; at the end of the month, an orientation meeting for those students who have arrived. The meetings will be cosponsored by the Virginia Beach Hotel/Motel Association, the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association, and the Resort Retailers Association.

Finally, there was a Presentation by a representative from the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium on harnessing offshore wind for energy. VCERC's website is at

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Young Earth Creationists

It's become a running joke with us at work: there's a museum that claims the Earth is only about 4,000 years old and that people and dinosaurs lived together in the Garden of Eden.

Slides from the museum are online at

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Urbanization In Virginia Beach

On another site today, Reid Greenmun delivered another of his periodic attacks against urbanization. The Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) has done it previously before City Council. My point: urbanization is a process already underway that the Virginia Beach City Council couldn't put the brakes on tomorrow even if they wanted to.

If you think urbanization can be legally stopped, read the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code. A number of areas in Virginia Beach are already zoned in a manner that would allow for urban redevelopment by right: the Strategic Growth Areas, the Resort Area, and the western portion of the Shore Drive Corridor. You can't go back and downzone the areas now: Loudoun County tried to downzone to slow growth and were nailed in court.

Demographic urbanization is also underway. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, fewer Whites lived in Virginia Beach in 2007 than in 1990. What population growth we've had for about a generation has been entirely minority.

Why bring up the matter if race? When some say they are "anti-urban", in many circles that's taken as "anti-minority". That's especially true of the VBTA. First, the VBTA has never had a minority member on it's Board of Directors. Second, when running for Mayor last year, John Moss didn't even go to a candidate interview with the African-American Political Action Committee (AAPAC). Knowing African-American turnout on November 4 would account for about 30% of voters, Moss & Robert Dean blew off the African-American community leadership. (The slight was noted.) Third, when the VBTA attacks a process they should know can't be stopped, it smells of playing the race card to scare people.

Urbanization in Virginia Beach is underway and the City doesn't have the legal means to stop it even if they wanted to. Therefore, the question is whether or not we want to urbanize is moot. The real issue is how do we manage the process.

Sound Off On Route 960

Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) has proposed dropping MAX Route 960 to Route 962-level service September-April. You'll have two chances to sound off on this change.

1. There will be a Community Meeting on Tuesday, May 19 at 6 P.M. at HRT's Norfolk office on Monticello Avenue.

2. The TDCHR Public Hearing will be Thursday, May 28 at 1:30 P.M. in the same location.

In addition, comments for the Public Hearing may be e-mailed to HRT up to 5 P.M. on Friday, May 22.

IMO, the fundamental problem with the 960 is that the route's misdrawn. Virtually everyone who spoke up at the outset of MAX service said the 960 needed to go to Virginia Beach's Town Center. In addition, the first draft of the route had a stop at Virginia Beach's convention center. Add those stops and see if we can't get the 960's ridership to improve.

MAX service is being paid for by a three year CMAQ grant. As the initial grant had the 960 at more frequent service (3 times per hour peak, 2 times per hour off-peak), HRT should still have the money to fix this and get it right.

Given that the then-Strategic Planning Manager who screwed up the 960 is no longer at HRT, there's no need for the agency to run from the mistake. Admit it as the guy to blame is gone.

Slice some off a turd and what you have left is still a turd. Taking frequencies off the 960 doesn't fix the route; only correcting the original misdrawing does.