On Thursday evening Empower Hampton Roads (EHR) held a "People's Hearing" on Transportation, largely focusing on mass transit. The event was part of a week-long grassroots training process, held at Hampton University (HU).
As anyone who has been to an EHR program knows, they roughly follow the template of a religious service. (Fitting in that EHR is church-based.) It had roughly two elements added.
First, testimonials from those who ride the bus were read. It was capped off by a woman from Tidewater Gardens in Norfolk giving her personal story.
Second, representatives from the TPO and HRT were asked to stand and commit to working with EHR. They agreed.
Simply making it into the meeting was an adventure. The e-mail I was sent had it in the "Hampton University Student Auditorium". (Know how many auditoriums are on the HU campus?) Finally, I flagged down a HU Police officer who knew where the meeting had been moved to and gave me directions. (Right, left, right, left, through the black-colored gate, then the 8 story building in front of you.)
While I was having trouble finding it, I called the EHR contact whose cell phone number was on the e-mail. She assumed I had driven to the mass transit meeting (brilliant!), and had drove in through the main gate on the west side of the campus. No, the bus stop serving HU is on the northern periphery of campus.
EHR is well-intentioned and energetic, but uneducated on mass transit issues. They can be a big boost if they get the facts and prioritize.
The e-mail for the meeting raises the issues of additional frequencies, more hours of service, more routes, and more shelters. At the same time, they attack Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) already artificially low $1.50 fare as "cost prohibitive", and on Thursday evening cheered the decision to delay a fare increase. Someone please buy them a calculator!
Two things for EHR:
1. Prioritize what you want. To do everything on that list tomorrow would probably mean tripling HRT's Budget. With the $1.50 fare, you can't maintain existing service, yet alone the improvements you want.
2. You're barking up the wrong tree. HRT isn't the problem here. The issue is getting the 7 City Councils to fund additional service. Show up each Spring at the cities' budget hearings with that kind of energy and commitment and you'll make some headway.