Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More On 2009 NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet

The date of the 2009 Banquet has been changed. Originally scheduled for Sunday, November 1, it is now slated for Friday, October 30 at the Town Center Westin at 6 P.M.

Among awards at the Banquet, Delegate Bob Tata will be recognized.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Poland Moves Towards Castration For Pedophiles

The lower chamber of Poland's parliament on Friday passed a bill that would, in some cases, require chemical castration of pedophiles.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

82% Grasp Land Use

82% of voters understand that Virginia Beach's traditional land use patterns aren't sustainable in the long term. 17% thought they were. As has been said, Virginia Beach was built on cheap land and cheap gas. With both gone, we have to rethink how we do both land planning and transportation.

The new poll question comes out of last week's RAC saga: how many traffic lanes for 32nd Street? Four is infinitely more desirable for traffic flow, while it's argued three would aid urban land redevelopment.

Redskins = Laughingstocks

Your sorry team couldn't even beat the Detroit Lions. Yeah, you lost at Ford Field 19-14. The rest of the teams in the league and their fans are busy laughing at you tonight. For more coverage, try the website of the Detroit Free Press at

My Ravens stomped the Breveland Clowns 34-3.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Southside Draft COA Changes

With the draft Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA) rolled out this week, a look at changes it proposes in South Hampton Roads. Being an expert neither on Peninsula geography nor it's bus routes, I'll let some Peninsula blogger cover them.


Routes 73 & 74 - in the long term, would reduce both to on demand services.


Route 25 - would reroute the portion between the PA Road/S. Plaza Trail/Providence Road intersection and PA Road/Witchduck Road/Kempsville Road intersection. The 25 would use Providence Road (east-west) and Kempsville Road (north-south) to serve the Fairfield area.

Me: this one comes down to a trade-off: are you willing to give up the Baxter Road/PA Road area to get Fairfield? I would, but a transit advocate I spoke to wouldn't.

Route 26 - redraws it as a Pembroke East to Lynnhaven Mall route, via Bow Creek, Rosemont Road, and Bonney Road.

Me: this one has been in the pipes since late Spring. The 26 is the least rode of VB's daily year-round routes.

Route 29 - would be split at Hilltop, with the Mill Dam Road deviation eliminated from the northern portion.

Me: splitting the 29 has appeared in a couple previous regional transit studies. When will it actually be done?

Route 36 - would take the Pembroke East - Amphib base section of Route 1 and add it to the 36.

Birdneck Circulator - a new service. It would go out 24th Street from the Resort Area, up Birdneck Road, west on Laskin, up Republic Road, south on First Colonial, east on I-264, then back up Birdneck and out 24th Street.

Me: the TPO's just-approved Non-Driver Report identifies pockets in this area lacking transit service, which the Circulator seeks to serve.


Routes 9 & 18 - the NSU - Cedar Grove sections would be eliminated. The 18 would then become an every 40 minute service.

Route 4 - straightened somewhat, the portion south of Virginia Beach Boulevard eliminated (plenty of other service in that area), and it becomes a one-way loop.

Route 5 - in the south, it shoots down Tidewater Drive and Little Creek to Evelyn Butts instead of going to Wards Corner.

Route 23 - the segment along Wood Avenue and Front Street is eliminated. In addition, the portion south of Best Square is gone.

Route 15 - the monster of the COA, with the 15 being split. 15a runs Naval Station Norfolk to Amphib base (the 8 is chopped at Evelyn Butts), while 15b is Evelyn Butts to Greenbrier Mall.


Route 41 - extend service to Cavalier Business Park at peak hours.

Route 44 - eliminate the 44C, and extend the full route down Frederick Boulevard to Walmart.

Route 45 - move the outbound section of the 57 between Victory Crossing and Airline Boulevard to the 45.

Route 57 - in addition to the above, extend the route to Greenbrier Mall.


The major surgery was in transit-poor Chesapeake.

Greenbrier Mall - all 15s would go there, with the transfer center moved there from Robert Hall. Also, a Greenbrier Connector (circulator) bus would be introduced.

Routes 6 & 13 - their through buses from Cedar Grove to Robert Hall now operate on the same half hour. Stagger them, so most people have a bus (either the 6 or 13) in walking distance every 30 minutes. Also, eliminate 13 service south of Chesapeake General Hospital.

Route 58 - instead of fish hooking to Robert Hall, go down Dominion, Grassfield (including Walmart), then turn onto Cedar Road. Serve both TCC Chesapeake and the Chesapeake Municipal Center before ending at Chesapeake General Hospital.

Me: the idea with the 13 is to take it off the Great Bridge drawbridge, which regularly causes the 13 to miss the lineup at Robert Hall. However, I had a HRT Staffer point out to me that the changes mean taking the 58 across two drawbridges.

Draft COA Meetings

Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) held meetings on it's draft Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA) this week, Wednesday in Norfolk and Thursday evening in Hampton. The COA examined existing mainline bus service and suggested where it could be improved. The COA was done by HNTB Corporation, a consultant.

The essential difference between the two meetings was on area of public comment. In Norfolk, people were more interested in establishing improved general service parameters and asking questions about HRT's Transit Riders Advisory Committee (TRAC). In Hampton, feedback largely was giving ideas where individual routes could be made better.

Despite great efforts by HRT to promote the meetings, attendance wasn't very good in numbers. As one Staffer said prior to the Hampton meeting, riders won't say a word until the day changes are actually implemented....then they'll scream. HRT featured the meetings on their website, their Facebook page, posted fliers at bus transfer centers, ran announcements on the buses' ACS systems, etc.

The sideshow of the two days happened in Hampton when a woman as insane as Reid Greenmun showed up late. First she sat down, a minute later stood up, pulled out a piece of paper and announced "I want to give a speech." She then started on about particular Operators and Customer Service personnel, never coming to a conclusion. She thought she could do a better job at running the buses, so twice announced she wanted to be named President of HRT. Finally, she got on top of her table and blathered about the psychological differences between men and women. (Yeah, men don't make fools of themselves in COA meetings....) Order was restored when a HRT Staffer got her out of the room to speak to her individually, allowing the consultants to continue with their Presentation.

Personally, I like the vast majority of the changes proposed in the COA. How many revisions are made before it goes to the TDCHR for approval, and what will they be?

Friday, September 25, 2009

TDCHR September 24, 2009

Thursday the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR) met at Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) headquarters in Hampton. The meeting lasted just over 45 minutes.

The TDCHR unanimously approved the construction of a replacement transfer center at Victory Crossing in Portsmouth. (I'd argue the current TC is the worst transfer center in HRT's network, so the new facility will be greatly appreciated.) Portsmouth envisions a three phase project. Phase II will be parking lots for park-and-ride capability, with Phase III being greater amenities for mass transit passengers.

In FY 2010, the TDCHR is currently $683,907 under Budget. In addition, Norfolk light rail is under it's revised budget of $288 million.

The TDCHR endorsed it's Legislative Agenda for 2010.

Light rail construction in Norfolk is now 50.923% complete.

Commissioners were briefed on the recent mass transit Scoping meetings in Virginia Beach. Also, the Beach's Community Advisory Committee is slated to first meet on October 28. Finally, transit station workshops will be held in mid-November.

In Norfolk, Operations and Maintenance are to be moved out of the 18th Street facility to temporary quarters at the former Ford plant on October 18. Modifications at the plant are 85%-90% complete. The new HRT buildings at 18th Street are due to be completed in the Spring of 2011.

Phase II of the Regional Transit Vision Plan is now underway, with public meetings on it tentatively scheduled for April or May of 2010.

For last, maybe the best news of all: HRT ridership in August, 2009 was up 8.02% over August, 2008. That's despite no appreciable new service, but rather additional passengers on existing service. So much for those "empty buses" Flat Earthers love to whine about....

TPPC September 24, 2009

On Thursday morning the Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian Committee (TPPC) of Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met.

The top issue was 32nd Street. For the Laskin Gateway Project, current draft plans put the road from the Laskin Road veer off to Pacific Avenue at four lanes. Some wanting to further induce urban redevelopment in the Resort Area want three lanes and wider sidewalks. Traffic Engineering wants four lanes, plus Councilman John Uhrin expressed support for it. After a lengthy discussion, it was decided to hold a special meeting in October (since scheduled for the 15th) to cover the matter. CCO RAC representative Henry Ryto requested that the computer traffic simulation models be shown at the meeting.

The Oceanfront had four new VBWave Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) this Summer that take credit cards in addition to cash. However, preliminary figures have cash sales outpacing plastic by about a 3.5 to 1 margin.

The TPPC finally laid an issue to rest, approving new signage for the dedicated bus lanes on Atlantic Avenue. (They look nice!)

The Planning Department's Mark Schnaufer gave an update on the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Study.

Finally, the draft of the new Comprehensive Plan for Virginia Beach should be posted to the City's website during the first week of October.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Community On The 23

One of my axioms is that there is no stronger bond of community in Hampton Roads than on a Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) bus. With the day off today, I followed a regular template: bus into Norfolk, daily Mass at St. Mary's Basilica, lunch, a matinee at MacArthur Center, then back home by bus. This morning I made the leg from Military Circle to Cedar Grove on Route 23. It was case in point:

1. A lady was having trouble trying to get Social Security disability. It turned out that 3 of us were receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), so she got plenty of firsthand advice, stories, etc.

2. A newbie rider didn't know how to get from Cedar Grove into downtown Norfolk. A lady told him: Route 310 (Downtown Shuttle). Since I was taking the 310 downtown, I told him to follow me. Got him on the bus, stop directions, and times for buses home.

Today's movie was I Can Do Bad All By Myself, the best movie by far that I've seen in 2009. First, the funniest scene was where Madea was trying to tell an unchurched 16 year old girl the story of Peter walking out onto the water to Jesus. (She butchered it badly, having Noah sail up in the arch of St. Louis, and even threw Jaws in.) Second, this movie - like many - has outtakes during the closing credits. As great as this movie was, most aren't as good, but stay since they saved the best for last.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Carmageddon Video

This video was put together by Rubin Communications Group for the TPO. It covers the events of July 2, which saw four water crossings in our region shut down at once. It was highlighted by the flooding of the westbound tube on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, but also saw problems at the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel, the James River Bridge, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

TRAC September 16, 2009

In it's July By-Laws revisions, the TDCHR reconstituted it's User Citizen Advisory Committee (UCAC) as the Transit Riders Advisory Committee (TRAC). TRAC is now a subcommittee of the TDCHR's Executive Committee. It held it's first meeting as TRAC last night at HRT's Norfolk offices.

The bulk of the meeting was devoted to reorganization issues. The revised TRAC Guidelines became effective, with the committee reviewing them. Additional time was spent on housekeeping issues.

Out of last night's meeting:

1. Insider cards will be placed on HRT's buses ASAP to aid recruitment. Also, a number of visitors are expected at TRAC meetings in the future with the committee becoming more visible.

2. The changes from the September service board will not take effect until Southside Operations and Maintenance are moved temporarily to the former Ford plant on Indian River Road. That means Southside bus riders won't see an Operator shuffle until mid-October. In addition, the seasonal cuts planned for MAX Route 960 will now not take effect until October 19. (Yeah!)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

TPO September 15, 2009

Earlier today the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) of Hampton Roads met, it's first meeting in two months. (They took August off.)

There was the Presentation of a report on Non-Driver Opportunities, which looked at the matching of work, shopping, and rental housing. Virginia Beach scored surprisingly high given what little mass transit it has. Of course, Norfolk and Portsmouth did very well.

The TPO discussed new categories and criteria for the prioritization of Transportation projects. The matter passed after an attempt by Newport News Mayor Joe Frank to inject geographical diversity failed. Both Newport News and Williamsburg voted "No" on the unamended measure, but Hampton voted "Yes".

Doug Smith of Portsmouth, Chairman of the TPO's Nominating Committee, was charged with coming up with candidates for the pending Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). TAC will be a group of citizens to advise the TPO.

Joel Rubin presented a five minute video prepared by his firm on the July 2 meltdown of our harbor crossings, featuring the flooding of the westbound tube of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. It will be sent to local government television stations for airing, and it is planned to be put on the TPO's website.

There has been formed a Virginia Association of MPOs. The TPO discussed being involved and what that would require.

The meeting ended with the issue of Higher Speed Rail (HSR) coming up. First, the TPO wants to underline with Federal officials the importance of Hampton Roads being included. Second, the TPO will hold a special session on the subject once the groundwork can be laid.

63% Support Obamacare

Yes, I'm stunned. 63% of poll voters supported President Obama's health care initiative, while 36% are opposed.

Me? Having been on Medicare for 15 years, I know very well first-hand that the Federal government can't start to run a health care program correctly.

The new poll question is from the previous story: are Virginia Beach's land uses in recent history sustainable in the long term? The City and land planning professionals believe "No", and the City began to move away from them with the current Comprehensive Plan (adopted in December, 2003). With a new draft Comp Plan due out soon, we'll probably see a further move away from them.

However, some argue that people moved here to live in a suburb, not an area with urban pockets. I've even heard a couple community activists speak of a "maximum population", implying that they want to cap growth at some point.

Then there's the extreme fringe, personified by VBTA Vice Chairman/Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun. He's claimed that Karl Marx was the father of modern urban planning, inferring that "urban = Marxist".

Sustainable Design Project

Virginia Beach's Sustainable Design Project is holding meetings this week. It's done by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) through a grant, then supplemented by private sponsors. The Project is to look at land use and design issues in Virginia Beach from the perspective of outside professionals looking in, who don't have a dog in the fight and can lend ideas from around the country.


Monday night was the first meeting, held at the convention center.

It started with the introduction of the team AIA has assembled to look at Virginia Beach. They are volunteers who have expertise in a particular field. So they can't profit from their own work, all are required to refuse work in Virginia Beach based on the Project findings for two years after.

That was followed by an open microphone session at which residents could bring up issues of concern for them.


Tuesday morning saw a work session at the 31st Street Hilton. There were four groups, each covering a different area of the project: Sustainable and Green Economic Development and Energy, Transportation and Complete Streets, Local Agriculture and Seafood, and Urban Design and Village Centers.

On Monday night I had been tagged (surprise, surprise) for the Transportation group. Our Facilitator was Keith Wilson of Santa Fe's MPO. Keith is a native of Scotland who worked in Massachusetts before recently moving on to New Mexico. In our group there were a few with Transportation backgrounds, a couple land planners, and a well-known community activist. Like all other groups, we spent two hours offering and discussing ideas.

The AIA volunteers are to develop recommendations based on our input and what they've seen in Virginia Beach.


Tonight will be a Presentation on their findings to the public at the convention center. Since I'll be in Norfolk at another meeting (which I'll blog on later), I won't be there.

However, in a few weeks I'm supposed to receive an electronic copy of the AIA Report. If interesting, I'll blog on it then.

Monday, September 14, 2009

HRT Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA) Meetings

Finally. Public meetings on Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) draft Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA) will be held next week.

Norfolk - Wednesday, September 23 from 5-7 P.M.

Hampton - Thursday, September 24 from 6-8 P.M.

Both meetings will be held at HRT offices. The COA is a look at existing service and how it can be improved. It is not about introducing new service.

For HRT's habitual critics, the e-mail on the meetings was sent to me at 2:33 A.M. this morning. That's right: despite having to be in at her office first thing this morning, the Staffer was up in the middle of the night trying to get work done. So much for HRT administration being "bloated"....

Sunday, September 13, 2009

VBTES Scoping Meetings

This past Wednesday and Thursday evenings were the Scoping meetings for the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Study (VBTES). Yes, that's a few days ago. I've been very busy. However, on Facebook I was asked about the meetings, so I thought I'd share my observations.


There was the meeting at Pathetically Anal High School. (I live in Bayside's zone, so I had to get the jab in.) The hardest part was getting in the building. Arriving early, most of the doors were locked. However, a Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) employee inside recognized me and came out to get me.

The PA High School auditorium was very good for the Presentations, but not for the static displays. There were displays in the front of the auditorium, the rear of the auditorium, and outside in the corridor.

Three Presentations were given: by Virginia Beach City Councilman and TDCHR Chairman Jim Wood, HRT President Michael Townes, and HDR Vice President David Vozzolo. Prior to coming to HDR (the consultant doing the AA/SDEIS), Vozzolo ran the New Starts Program for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). We couldn't have more knowledgeable working for us.

However, the interesting thing about the crowd - and again on Thursday night - was that very few recognizable activists were there. The vast majority of attendees were ordinary citizens coming out to learn about Virginia Beach's mass transit options.

The VBTES begins with an Alternatives Analysis (AA). Four scenarios will be looked out: No Build, Enhanced Bus, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and Light Rail Transit (LRT). Once an alternative is chosen, a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Study (SDEIS) will commence.

I had to leave during Vozzolo's Presentation in order to make it to the CCO meeting. However, I'm told that as Vozzolo was finishing, a LRT opponent charged the podium and tried to grab the microphone.


On Thursday morning I was mortified to read Virginia News Source (VNS) and see that they were encouraging light rail opponents to disrupt Thursday evening's meeting. Between that and the microphone incident, four VBPD officers were detailed for security.

Once again, a crowd of over 100. The intriguing thing: no one I knew from the Resort Area business community came to the meeting at the convention center, despite it being promoted at RAC and RAC committee meetings.

There were no recognizable VBTAers on Wednesday night, but a few on Thursday. Reid Greenmun was there ahead of time and sat in the front row. Robert Dean arrived a half hour in, while John Moss showed up after the Presentations. A couple things about the former two:

1. Robert Dean was reading an old CACI paper. It brought to mind the quote, "Why are generals always fighting the last war?" If Dean and his sycophants weren't so busy refighting yesteryear's battles, maybe they would have a clue as to where Virginia Beach and the region are going.

2. As I was passing the one static display, Reid Greenmun was complaining about economic development being a criteria in the Alternatives Analysis (AA). First, it's a Federal requirement. (The FTA, not the VBTA, writes the rules.) Second, does it kill Reid that light rail scores highest of any of the alternatives as an economic development tool? Third, so much for the VBTA pretending to support jobs creation.

I just want the VBTA to complain about "exclusion" again: Greenmun got plenty of time with Townes, Vozzolo, the engineer at the Alternatives Analysis (AA) static display, etc.

Most of all, I'm grateful that most residents I got a chance to talk to realize the need for mass transit and rail. With public support, I hope we can get this done.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

CCO Overhauls By-Laws

The Council of Civic Organization (CCO), Virginia Beach's civic league federation, this evening made major revisions to it's By-Laws and Standing Rules.

The vote culminates a process that began last Fall as an effort to rewrite arcane language in the By-Laws. Before it was over, there were major shifts in form and some changes in substance. A few reforms of note:

1. Terms for Officers are now two years long, rather than the previous one year. (Directors had been two years and stay that way.) Some Officers are now elected annually, with the posts split between odd and even numbered years.

2. Three categories of associate membership were added: individuals, business, and community groups. Each category gets two voting representatives and two alternates (like a single civic league) with members of each category having to caucus to choose their representatives.

3. The Executive Committee is renamed the Board of Directors. No more than one associate member may serve as a Director at a given time, while associate members are prohibited from serving as Officers.

While I was originally opposed to adding associate memberships, I came to realize that they would probably block the CCO from adopting positions that sound like they were written by the VBTA. In fact, opposition was spearheaded by a longtime Deaniac. Still, the changes passed by more than a 3:1 margin.

Articles on the changes have been published in each of the last three editions of the CCO's newsletter.

Pierce Homer At The CBDA

On Tuesday Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer was the speaker at the September luncheon of the Central Business District Association (CBDA). He talked about Transportation, and the picture was very bleak.

First, tax collections dedicated to Transportation are down 22.7%. Second, within two years Virginia will face having to forego Federal matching funds and/or reducing roads maintenance further. Third, by FY 2011 the state allocation of urban roads money to Virginia Beach will be zeroed out.

However, the bombshell was on Higher Speed Rail (HSR). When questioned by former City Councilman Billy Harrison on the issue, Secretary Homer gave an answer that inferred that he prefers HSR going to the Peninsula before South Hampton Roads. Homer cited the amount of freight traffic projected along the rail line in The 460 Corridor, and thought that and HSR wouldn't mix well.

Just another reason to vote for Bob McDonnell for Governor: letting Dem holdovers make the decision on HSR means it goes to Newport News before Norfolk.

Monday, September 7, 2009

81% Wouldn't Buy A Vick Jersey

81% of voters wouldn't buy a number 7 Philadelphia Eagles jersey, while 18% would.

The new question: do you support Obamacare?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Beat Yale!

On my way to today's RAC meeting, I stopped at Long John Silver's for lunch. There an older gentleman was wearing a crimson t-shirt that read "HAHVAHD".

RAC September 3, 2009

This afternoon Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) held an uneventful (read: boring) September meeting.

A Nominating Committee has been formed to select a new Chair and Vice Chair for 2010. Both Ken Taylor (Chair) and Gerrie King West (Vice Chair) have served three years in their posts, the maximum under the RAC Charter. That means entirely new Officers for 2010.

Plans are soon to be submitted to turn 17th Street (between Atlantic and Pacific Avenues) into a historic area. Plan/Design Review Committee (PDRC) Chairman Billy Almond said the proposal "looks really cool."

The Oceanfront Enhancement Committee (OEC) covered the issue of the behavior of homeless people in the Resort Area. The meeting was attended by Staff from agencies who deal with the homeless. The OEC hopes to draft a comprehensive plan on the issue.

The annual report for the Tourism Growth Investment Fund (TGIF) is due October 15. The RAC will review it at the November meeting.

It is hoped to have a Presentation on the City's Legislative Package at the October RAC meeting, with attention to items that impact the Resort Area.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Can't Write Jokes This Good

A mother in Poland has sued an Egyptian hotel the family stayed at while on vacation, claiming her 13 year old daughter got pregnant in the water of the hotel's pool. She claims her daughter didn't spend time with guys there, that there were sperm in the pool's water that impregnated her daughter.

The blurb on the story is here:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September 1 In History

September 1 is a big day for we history buffs.

Most people would recognize the date as the 70th anniversary of Hitler's invasion of Poland. That was the beginning of total war in Europe for World War II.

However, we real history students get that today is the 40th anniversary of the coup in Libya that brought Muammar Qaddaffi to power. He was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Signal Corps when he and his fellow conspirators struck on September 1, 1969. He and his fellow officers were so obscure that American intelligence had no idea who they were, thus Washington was in the dark about their intentions.

Last week I tried to find some neutral video on YouTube for the occasion, but couldn't.