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.