Saturday, February 26, 2011

There's A Reason That Call It Ash Wednesday

This week's bulletin at St. Gregory's Catholic Church includes the Mass times for Ash Wednesday. It will be March 9 this year.

Before 6 P.M. Mass this evening, an elderly couple were looking at the bulletin. The woman told her husband that they should go at Noon on Wednesday. He replied, "It's on a Wednesday?" She calmly said, "It's always on a Wednesday."

Mayor Sessoms Birthday

Through Facebook, I know that next Saturday is the birthday of Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms. That's March 5. You may want to send greetings, if you'd like.

As a Facebook Friend, I'll simply post on his Wall next Saturday.

A Good First Step, But A Second Step Is Needed

Okay, waiting on my two cents worth on Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) efficiencies report? I was there in the board room for the Presentation on Thursday afternoon. What HRT is looking at doing is essentially reducing or eliminating service on the bottom 25% of routes in order to move those funds to the top 25% of routes, with the intent of producing a high service core that would attract more passengers to the system.

What I found most troubling about Thursday's PowerPoint is that it presented the proposal to the TDCHR as nirvana. We can do this, then put off any fare increases for at least three years. That's hardly the case. What the proposal never starts to do is boost the bus routes in the 26th to 50th or 60th percentiles.

In order for mass transit to become a viable option for many here in Hampton Roads, our bus routes need to be corridors where people can live, work, and shop after work. To meet that definition, all routes feasible would have to run daily, a minimum 16 hours a day. As a former professional numbers cruncher, from the beginning I never believed that you could squeeze enough in efficiencies out of the system to avoid a fare increase. As such, I was proven right on Thursday.

Not everywhere a bus rider wants to go is along the top 25% of bus routes. TDCHR policy is to review fares once every two years. The next scheduled review would be in 2012. Therefore, I suggest the following plan:

1. Enact an efficiencies plan

HRT needs to better utilize what resources it has to muster public support for greater mass transit in the region.

2. Implement the plan

That's now scheduled for late 2011.

3. Do the 2012 fare review

With steps 1 and 2 behind you, it should be understood that the 2012 fare review would look at boosting service and ending inequities in the faremedia system that don't promote frequent ridership.

4. Draft a service booster plan based on revenue projections from the fare review

Where would the additional dollars be used? That's the 26th to 50th or 60th percentile routes.

5. Implement the plan

Let additional corridors meet my definition in the 3rd paragraph.

The TDCHR is looking to hold a Retreat later this year. I hope they take this up at the Retreat.

Friday, February 25, 2011

2011 TDCHR Public Comment Periods

In the wake of the troubles at the now-TPO, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) made the decision to provide Public Comment periods at TDCHR meetings at least quarterly, with half annually on each side of the harbor. At first they were buried on the agenda under "Public Participation", where most people didn't even realize exactly what they were. As such, no one ever spoke at them. has posted a list of the Public Comment periods for 2011:

1. March 24 in Norfolk

2. June 23 in Hampton

3. September 22 in Norfolk

4. December 8 in Hampton

All TDCHR meetings are on Thursdays at 1:30 P.M.

You may be interested in that March 24 meeting, as that meeting will be where the draft plan on bus service changes out of the efficiencies report will be unveiled. The hitch is that the normal agenda template would put the Public Comment session prior to the Presentation to the TDCHR on the changes. However, you'll be able to pickup a hard copy of the proposal.

My fellow bus riders, I know you have your issues. Show up at these sessions, and you have the Commission and senior Staff ready to listen to you. Three minutes maximum for comments.

Whatever Happened To Tanya Bullock?

Many of my blog readers probably remember Tanya Bullock, who challenged Barbara Henley for the Princess Anne District seat on the Virginia Beach City Council last year. She's been chosen to fill a Second Congressional District seat on the Republican State Central Committee.

That will give her a postgraduate level political education, and keep her on the top shelf for anything to come.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

TDCHR February 24, 2011

The Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR), the governing board of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), held this afternoon what President Phillip Shucet pledged would be "as light rail-less meeting as we can."

A tentative new contract with the union that represents bus operators and mechanics was reached on February 8, and ratified by the union on February 20. While President Shucet has the legal authority to accept and execute the contract without TDCHR approval, he brought it to them before doing so. The new contract runs through June 30, 2014. Among its elements:

1. Scope - train operators and Suffolk bus operators will be brought into the union.

2. Pay - a 1% raise with ratification, 2% 11/1/11 and 11/1/12, and 3% 11/1/13.

3. Pension - the multiplier will increase one-tenth of one percent on 1/1/13 and 1/1/14. That will largely be offset cost-wise by a merging of the Peninsula and Southside pension funds. The separate funds are a remaining legacy of TRT and Pentran, but the merging will still require some rule differences.

4. Health care - essentially the same plan. However, the union will no longer have a veto over changes in providers, but will have representatives on any committee looking at such changes.

At the end of the meeting, the TDCHR unanimously endorsed the contract.

An overview of the efficiencies study was given. A potential $3.5-4.5 million in savings has been identified. In doing so, Staff recommends that the $1.50 farebox fare be maintained until 2014. On the one hand, the top 60% of routes need only 37% of the subsidy payments. On the other hand, the bottom 25% of routes have only a 10% farebox recovery. Staff will bring proposed service changes to the March 24 TDCHR meeting (in Norfolk) that will advocate service reductions or eliminations among the worst-performing routes so that the funds can be used to increase service on the top routes. At the core of the proposals will be a greater offering of 15 minute headways at rush hour. Not only additional hours on the routes offering it now (Routes 1, 15, and 20), but offering it on other routes. The rationale is to provide a core of high-service routes that would entice others to use the bus to commute. In answering Commissioners questions, Staff pointed out the movement of funds couldn't cross city lines. Approval of any such changes is slated for the April TDCHR meeting (in Hampton), with implementation in late 2011.

HRT is $1.428 million under Budget for FY 2011.

Ridership in January was up 4.05% from January, 2010.

The TDCHR ratified a By-Laws change to establish an in-house Counsel and an internal auditor.

Two other areas came up in discussion. First, the idea of HRT having an operating reserve. However, Shucet pointed out such would require a chance in the cost allocation agreement between the seven cities. Second, with all these policy changes, the TDCHR needs to hold a Retreat.

Luis Ramos was recognized for his service as TDCHR Secretary from 2004-2011. He was given a mounted certificate, and the HRT President's Coin.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Random Thoughts February 22, 2011

1. What, if any, challenges do the Democrats mount for General Assembly seats in Virginia Beach this year?

2. If the new tourism tax rebate mechanism becomes law and is used for financing Dome site redevelopment, does The Virginian-Pravda Editorial Board oppose the project on those grounds?

3. Will the Virginia Destroyers actually play this season? If so, how long before the team realizes Sportsplex was a poor choice for home field?

4. How will this year's redistricting of the General Assembly, with additional seats going to Northern Virginia, change the transportation debate in the 2012 session?

5. Who else remembers Will Sessoms' original light rail position in his 2008 Mayoral campaign? He wanted to build it in two phases: Phase I from Newtown Road to Town Center, Phase II from Town Center to the Oceanfront. That was eclipsed by Bob Tata's bill, which bound the process together as a whole.

Should the Alternatives Analysis/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (AA/SDEIS) come back a mixed bag, do we find ourselves dusting off that position?

6. If the Virginia Beach City Council rejects electoral reform (as expected) during this year's City redistricting process, how does that impact the 2012 Council elections?

7. Who imagined that the Arab nations domino game going on would ever happen? Starting in Tunisia?

8. Does it later strike in Saudi Arabia? If so, what's the outcome?

9. How much kicking and screaming from bus riders will there be over the Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) efficiencies report, due to be released at Thursday's TDCHR meeting? Will they remain quiet until it's too late?

10. Will HRT raise fares later in 2011 as a means of improving service further?

11. Will the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) grasp that light rail is their Moby Dick before it's too late?

12. With Tide launch delayed, what does Virginia Beach do with the saved mass transit funds from the postponement of service improvements on Routes 25 and 27?

13. What will it take to kick start Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in the Norfolk Southern Corridor? A Virginia Beach FFGA signing? Further down the line than that?

Monday, February 21, 2011

You Don't Care...But Should

Of the few that voted, 75% are optimistic about things in Egypt after Mubarak's ouster, 25% unsure, and 0% pessimistic.

It was a low vote count, but you should care. The government that sits in Cairo controls the Suez Canal, and through it comes the lion's share of Arabian oil coming to the west. Disruption of shipping through the Suez Canal would force tankers around the southern tip of Africa, driving up gasoline prices at the pump.

The new question: do insurance companies care about your health?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Draft 2034 Long Range Plan (LRP)

Under Federal law, every four years the TPO is required to turn out a transportation plan for the region with a twenty year scope. At today's TPO Retreat, the draft projects list was released.


1. Route 460

2. I-64 Peninsula Corridor

3. Patriots' Crossing

4. Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel

5. High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail

6. Virginia Beach Transit Extension


1. Midtown Tunnel/MLK Freeway/Downtown Tunnel, in Portsmouth/Norfolk

2. Dominion Boulevard, in Chesapeake

3. Route 17 (Hampton Highway to Dare Road), in York County

4. Lynnhaven Parkway (Centerville Turnpike to Indian River Road), in Virginia Beach

5. Patriots' Crossing (Craney Island Connector), in Portsmouth

6. Route 58 (Suffolk Bypass to Manning Bridge Road), in Suffolk

7. I-64 (Jefferson Avenue to Fort Eustis Boulevard), in Newport News

8. Lesner Bridge, in Virginia Beach

9. Military Highway (Lowery Road to Robin Hood Road), in Norfolk

10. Route 17 (Dare Road to Denbigh Boulevard), in York County

11. Holland Road (Dam Neck Road to Nimmo Parkway), in Virginia Beach

12. Witchduck Road (I-264 to Virginia Beach Boulevard), in Virginia Beach

13. Laskin Road (Republic Road to Oriole Drive), in Virginia Beach

14. Washington Avenue Bridge Replacement, in Newport News

15. Indian River Road (Lynnhaven Parkway to Elbow Road), in Virginia Beach

16. Laskin Road (Oriole Drive to 30th/31st Street), in Virginia Beach

17. Elbow Road/Dam Neck Road (Indian River Road to Princess Anne Road), in Virginia Beach


1. I-64/I-264 Interchange Phasing, in Norfolk/Virginia Beach

2. I-64 (Fort Eustis Boulevard to Route 199, Exit 242), in Newport News/James City County

3. I-64 Southside Phasing (High Rise Bridge), in Chesapeake

4. I-64 Interchange at Fort Eustis Boulevard, in Newport News


These are fully-funded projects in the queue

1. Gilmerton Bridge, in Chesapeake

2. Portsmouth Boulevard (Joliff Road to Chesapeake city line), in Chesapeake

3. Commander Shepard Boulevard (Big Bethel Road to Magruder Boulevard), in Hampton

4. Saunders Road (Big Bethel Road to Newport News city line), in Hampton

5. Bridge Street Bridge, in Hampton

6. Conventional Passenger Rail Service to Norfolk

7. Huntington Avenue Bridge Replacement (over Northrup Grumman Railroad Spur), in Newport News

8. Fort Eustis Boulevard Bridge Replacements (over CSX Railroad), in Newport News

9. Middle Ground Boulevard (Jefferson Avenue to Warwick Boulevard), in Newport News

10. Fort Eustis Boulevard (Jefferson Avenue to Route 17), in Newport News

11. Hampton Boulevard railroad grade separation, in Norfolk

12. I-64/Norview Avenue interchange, in Norfolk

13. I-564 Intermodal Connector, in Norfolk

14. Wesleyan Drive (Northampton Boulevard to Baker Road), in Norfolk/Virginia Beach

15. Wythe Creek Road (Alphus Street to Hampton city line), in Poquoson

16. Turnpike Road (Portsmouth Boulevard to Constitution Avenue), in Portsmouth

17. Nansemond Parkway (Helen Street to NS Railroad), in Suffolk

18. Birdneck Road (General Booth Boulevard to Southern Boulevard), in Virginia Beach

19. Constitution Drive (Columbus Street to Bonney Road), in Virginia Beach

20. Princess Anne Road & Nimmo Parkway, in Virginia Beach

21. I-264 at London Bridge, in Virginia Beach

22. Witchduck Road (Princess Anne Road to I-264), in Virginia Beach

23. Kempsville Road/Princess Anne Road intersection, in Virginia Beach

24. Nimmo Parkway (Holland Road to General Booth Boulevard), in Virginia Beach

Another VNS Red Herring?

On Sunday Virginia News Source ran a story alleging that Mayor Sessoms was holding secret meetings with members of the Virginia Beach City Council at an Outer Banks home.

I had the opportunity to talk with a couple Councilmen separately today, and neither had been to such a meeting nor had any knowledge of such.

TPO Retreat February 17, 2011

The Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) held it's annual Retreat today.

Most important was that the draft list from the project prioritization list was carried forward by consensus for the 2034 Long Range Plan (LRP). Some concern was raised that it didn't put additional lanes across the harbor. However, it was pointed out that the Patriots' Crossing coupled with excess capacity at the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel would provide additional ability. For the wingnuts (from both sides) who have attacked Governor Bob McDonnell's transportation initiative, let me point out 13 of the 17 Projects for Construction were only on the list due to anticipated funds from the GARVEE bond float. The TPO will act on the draft 2034 LRP list at it's March 17 meeting. A final list is required to be sent to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) by June, in order that VDOT can do the air conformity work on the list.

An analysis from Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center on harbor crossings was presented. 29 different accident scenarios were modeled, and in 90% of them the Patriots' Crossing provided more traffic relief than an expanded Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT). The only scenarios where an expanded HRBT scored higher was when the accident was on or in the periphery of the HRBT. Members of the Hampton Roads Caucus of the General Assembly had requested such a look. With only so many people crossing the harbor daily, they wanted to know which alternative provided better relief elsewhere in the region.

A Presentation on Value Pricing was made by Angela Jacobs. Ms. Jacobs is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) from the Federal Highway Administration. Value Pricing, also known as Congestion Pricing, puts variable levels of tolls on a road depending on time of the day. The idea is to make it cheaper to travel off-peak, while forcing drivers to pay a premium to drive a congested road at rush hour.

High Speed Rail was briefly covered. First, there will be a conference call on March 1 between TPO Staff, Staff from Virginia's Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), and the Federal Railway Administration. The idea is to try to get everyone on the same page about High Speed Rail to Norfolk. Second, DRPT Director Thelma Drake will be at the March TPO meeting to discuss the issue with the TPO Board. Third, we're looking to apply for NEPA money for a Norfolk High Speed Rail alignment in May, 2012.

The Board looked towards budgeting for FY 2012.

Finally, Facilitator Jim Oliver opened a discussion on the TPO's Executive Committee. Oliver noted that two years ago it would have been unimaginable that the region could have come together on a projects list and High Speed Rail. He suggested working through the full Board, as it has helped form consensus. However, some looked towards a future when the TPO and HRPDC will have different Executive Directors and totally separated Staffs. At that time, the Executive Committee will be necessary to cover personnel matters.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

HB 2285

House Bill 2285's Senate Finance Committee substitute passed both the Senate and House of Delegates today in Richmond. The bill would allow certain tourism projects to be rebated 1% of the state Sales Tax generated, as well as 1% local Sales and Use Tax or it's equivalent, as a means of financing up to 20% of the project.

The newspaper story on the bill drew a myriad of negative comments on Pilotonline (including, of course, the VBTA Vice Chairman). Given the ire in some quarters over the bill, I wanted to blog on it.

First of all, the bill states specifically that the rebated revenues are from tax collections from sales on the premises of the new facility. Obviously without the new facility being built, there would be no revenue to rebate. Therefore, it's not taking money away from anything.

The Senate substitute lays out a clear procedure for obtaining such funds. First, the local governing body (in our case, the Virginia Beach City Council) must create a tourism zone, in which tax abatements are possible. Second, the locality must file a Tourism Plan with the Virginia Tourism Authority. The Plan must meet state requirements and include the project seeking funds. Third, the state Comptroller must certify that it is a qualifying project.

Quarterly the Commissioner of Revenue certifies the amount of taxes from said facility. He then transmits such to Richmond, where the state Comptroller then rebates the state share to the business.

Yes, the process is somewhat convoluted, and I never would have wrote a bill looking like that. However, the multiple participants (City Council, state government, and Commissioner of Revenue) should help alleviate concerns by some of government running amuck. There are checks in this process.

What does it mean for Virginia Beach? For starters, the Dome site entertainment venue probably becomes a reality. The holdup has been over covering the funding difference with financial markets tightened. This bill should close the gap. Given that Dome site redevelopment has been the #1 priority of the Resort Area business community since late 2005, there will be plenty of happy campers at the Oceanfront.

Granted, tourism tends to produce lower-paying jobs. However, trying to get out of The Great Recession, tourism is an easier segment to stimulate. Given some work or no work, most people will take the tourism job.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

The extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) has just submitted their annual input on the City Budget. The draft FY 2012 Budget is normally finalized in February. My favorite whipping boys have three points on mass transit, and one of them is actually good.

The first two are bad ideas:

1. Suspend all light rail spending until a light rail referendum question has passed.

Blatantly illegal, per Bob Tata's bill that jump-started the process.

2. Freeze payments to Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) at FY 2011 levels.

Even the VBTA acknowledges that would mean bus service cuts. Absurd when Virginia Beach only has Portsmouth-level service now.

However, I had to smile at the third one: allow Virginia Beach businesses to claim a dollar for dollar credit on their BPOL taxes for commuter checks granted to employees who wish to use mass transit to commute to jobs in Virginia Beach. That should boost bus ridership. (Besides, those who know me well know I think the BPOL is the most ridiculous tax in Virginia.)

My only question would be whether the City of Virginia Beach could do it legally under the Dillon Rule. If not, it belongs in next year's Community Legislative Package.

Unanimous On Crossing

All voters preferred using the multimodal portion of the planned Third Crossing for getting light rail across the harbor to a dedicated rail-only tunnel under the harbor. I agree: not only much cheaper, but it puts light rail right where you'd want the line to land: Newport News' East End.

The new poll question: how do you feel about Egypt's chances moving forward? Ousting l'ancien regime is only half the job. What you do next is at least as important.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another VBTA Hoax

You got to love the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA): their utter lack of honesty is showing everyone what they really are.

Last week, the VBTA released a two page "Statement" (read: rant) on Governor Bob McDonnell's plan to float $4 billion in bond debt to pay for new transportation projects. It masquerades as "conditional support"...until you actually read the details of it. I'm now going to have some fun picking them apart:

1. "The business case analysis relied upon by the Governor to advance the 'new GARVEE bonds' initiative needs to be provided."

So the VBTA says the business case hasn't been made for the plan, yet feigns "conditional support"? Yeah, right.

Remember that the lack of a business case was the same argument John Moss made against light rail during his 2008 Mayoral campaign.

2. "VBTA commends Governor McDonnell for putting together a transportation investment proposal on the table that does not call for new taxes or fees, nor does he call for regional agencies or governments to be established."

"VBTA is not ideologically opposed to adjustments in the gas tax."

So you commend the Governor for putting together a package without a tax increase, while claiming to not be opposed to one? The no tax or fee increase was so important that it was the first sentence of the Statement.

Getting back to #1, wouldn't the gas tax increase they claim not to oppose boost the business case for the plan, by providing a revenue offset for the bonds? (Hehehe....)

3. "Until the maintenance and renovation backlog of Virginia's highways are eliminated, not just reduced, maintenance and renovation of the Commonwealth's existing roadways must be the first and only priority for non-toll generated revenues for transportation investments."

First of all, blatantly illegal. Both Federal and state law prohibit a "roads only" program.

However, read that again. (I missed it at first.) What they're speaking of us building absolutely no new roads, simply overhauling our existing roads. No one in the country has a program that looks anything like that, as its nuts!

4. "Use of 'toll credits' to secure matching Federal funds is a proposal VBTA's conditionally supports. The condition is that tolls on one roadway should not be used to secure federal matching funds for another project. Each toll project should stand on its own merits and not be the source or a recipient of subsidies from other toll projects."

As has been widely noted, such an approach would lay waste to any attempt to toll water crossings. Toll the Midtown Tunnel alone, and people would go to the Downtown Tunnel. Toll The Third Crossing alone, and the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel would get even worse.

5. "New construction projects, like the Third Crossing, that deliver direct value/benefits to specific parties, like the Virginia Port Authority, should derive revenue streams to finance their respective construction from the entities increased revenue streams, made possible by a given project - Third Crossing to increase port cargo volume."

VBTA Chairman of No Transportation Reid Greenmun obviously wrote this: I've seen him make this argument before. The problem with it is that it assumes that the Port would be the sole beneficiary of The Third Crossing and thus should bear 100% of the costs. Damn silly.

6. "VBTA does not support spending a nickle of the proposed $4 billion transportation initiative on new light rail construction or the operation and maintenance of any existing or future light rail projects."

I'm surprised, shocked, stunned, etc.

Seriously, that they put that as the start of the second paragraph speaks volumes of their blind rage at light rail.

The really comical part: there are no "existing" light rail lines in revenue service in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

7. "Any, and all funding collected by the levy of taxes and fees, no matter its nature or the governmental entity within Commonwealth that may levy a tax or fee, on any motorized vehicle using paved surfaces in the Commonwealth or on drivers to include fines for traffic infractions shall only be expended to perform maintenance or finance new construction of paved surfaces used by automobiles, motorcycles and trucks."

First, out west of The Golden Crescent, Virginia has plenty of unpaved local roads. The Statement refers specifically to "paved surfaces." Second, it's shows the VBTA's anti-mass transit bias in that they don't list buses among the vehicles mentioned at the end.

8. "VBTA does not support transportation projects where the direct users cannot finance the construction and operations cost. If subsidized public transit projects are pursued, VBTA does not support using taxes and fees levied on motorized vehicles and drivers to provide that subsidy."

First of all, that would mean zero transportation projects would be built, because none of them pay for themselves.

In the paragraph prior to this one, the VBTA calls for mass transit to be paid for out of the General Fund. Federal law requires a dedicated fund.

9. "VBTA for a decade has advocated a constitutional 'lock box' to protect the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank."

Uh...the VBTA wasn't founded until 2002.

The bottom line: the VBTA's "conditional support" is a hoax. No rational legislative body would put the conditions on the package that the VBTA wants. It's simply a ruse to try to pretend to support a transportation solution while opposing everything on the table.

It reminds me of 2009, when the VBTA released a Statement during the drafting of the Pembroke Area Implementation Plan that wasn't a rejection of the Plan per se, but wanted a bunch of garbage that you'd never do in urban planning.

Finally, do those buffoons actually bother to read their Statements before releasing them?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Initial Rosemont SGA Meeting

Last night was the initial meeting on the Rosemont Strategic Growth Area (SGA). Initially scheduled for Thalia Elementary School, it had to be moved to the SGA Office at Town Center due to school being closed because of weather.

There is a consortium developing the plan, led by Urban Design Associates (UDA) of Pittsburgh. It was UDA that also did the Burton Station SGA and Newtown SGA plans. (In fact, a couple UDA staffers recognized me from the Newtown meetings.)

Things started with opening remarks by Councilman Jim Wood. Jim pointed out that while most of the Rosemont SGA falls in Lynnhaven District, none of the Lynnhaven SGA does. (Hey, Jim, it's redistricting year, so....) There was then a presentation that largely had two parts: overall SGA policy, and specifics of Rosemont. After that, chart paper was brought out and we listed strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement in the Rosemont SGA.

Finally, we did a dots on the map exercise. Each person got three dots of each color, and put them on strengths (green), weaknesses (red), and opportunities for improvement (Carolina blue). I had a chance to look at all four maps, and there were some points of consensus:

1. The Collins Square and Loehmann's Plaza Shopping Centers are strengths.

2. The Great American Outlet Mall and Birchwood Mall Shopping Center are weaknesses. All the better given that they cover a large area of land adjacent to the proposed light rail station.

3. The Virginia Beach Boulevard/Rosemont Road/Bonney Road/I-264 intersection is a mess.

Fun fact: over 80% of the Rosemont SGA is covered by impermeable surfaces. Ideal for urban redevelopment.

My big idea of the night: revisiting the "defined nightclub district" issue. I was looking at putting it where the Birchwood Mall Shopping Center is now. It would be in walking distance of the light rail station, giving it train access from throughout the region. (In outlying years, you may be drinking toasts to me for trying to keep that idea alive.)

UDA will be back for public meetings March 15-17. They'll review our input and have proposed concepts based on it. It's hoped to have the Rosemont plan complete early this Summer.

HRPTA Light Rail Forum

On Wednesday morning there was a light rail forum at the MacArthur Memorial Auditorium in downtown Norfolk. The event was presented by the Hampton Roads Public Transportation Alliance (HRPTA). Randy Wright is the current HRPTA President. Speaking were Councilperson Pat Woodbury of Newport News, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) President Phillip Shucet, and Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim.

Also there were Mayor Kenny Wright of Portsmouth and Jeanne Evans. While Evans was there as representative of Senator Jim Webb's office, later in the week she was named Executive Director of Virginia Beach's Central Business District Association (CBDA).

In addition, five came from the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA): Robert Dean, Reid Greenmun, Ben Krause, and two Kool-Aid chuggers I couldn't identify. Always self-important, they sat in the front row by the speaker's podium. The best part: Reid Greenmun bought a Light Rail Now t-shirt. Next time LRT opponents whine about who is financing LRN, simply point out Greenmun is, too.

Shucet covered two central themes. First, what is going on with construction of The Tide. Second, to be a mass transit advocate means advocating for much more than light rail.

Fraim stated that the two primary lessons from Starter Line construction were the need to better monitor spending, and better coordination with state and Federal governments.

Since Ben Krause has already tried to misconstrue Fraim's comments on Norfolk's rationale for light rail, I'll devote more time to them than I originally planned. Norfolk has an economy of $13.9 billion, even larger than Virginia Beach's $10.4 billion. 91k commute to jobs in Norfolk from elsewhere in the region, 82% by Single-Occupancy Vehicle (SOV). 60k of those commuters are from Virginia Beach. (30k from Norfolk commute to work elsewhere in the region.) Especially with Norfolk a relatively small land mass, moving those workers is a major concern for Norfolk economically. Some of those jobs could go elsewhere if the transportation issues aren't tackled. That's why light rail is paramount, and the Virginia Beach extension (given the number of workers) is huge.

The jaw-dropper of the morning: Reid Greenmun has joined the Hampton Roads Public Transportation Alliance (HRPTA)! Greenmun joining the HRPTA is one of the most shamelessly brazen things I've heard of in my life! What part of "Public Transportation" doesn't he understand? He's on record repeatedly calling for it's abolition.

(Memo to the Virginia Beach City Council: you actually want to put light rail to referendum and give people like that center stage for such antics? You can't be serious!)

HRT Staff taped the forum, planning to later put it on their YouTube channel. (Two hours ago it still hadn't been posted.)

2010 Census: We Told You So

The release of the initial numbers from the 2010 Census paints a picture some of us figured out a decade ago: Virginia Beach is becoming more racially diverse. In fact, fewer Whites lives in Virginia Beach in 2010 than in 1990. What population growth we've had for the past generation has been entirely minority.

In the past decade, we went from being 19.0% African-American to 19.6%, and from 5.0% Asian-American to 6.3%. The big boom: our Hispanic community jumped from 4.2% to 6.6%.

I stated a decade ago that it was a natural leveling effect. It never made sense that Virginia Beach was only 21% minority (1990 Census) next to cities with much larger percentiles.

Of course, the fun part will be how the Municipal Center tries to come to grips with the changing realities on the ground.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Unarmed, Peaceful Protester Shot In Alexandria

Watch this video closely. You'll see a lone peaceful protester, shouting, walk to the end of the street. After words are exchanged with the police, he turns to walk away...and the police shoot him.

That's the reality that has drove Egyptians into the streets.

Friday, February 4, 2011

FY 2012 Budget Schedule

The City of Virginia Beach has released it's tentative FY 2012 Budget process schedule:

1. March 15 - the School Board passes it's spending plan

2. March 29 - the City Manager presents his draft Budget to City Council

3. April 6 - an Open House for the public at the convention center

4. April 21 - Budget Public Hearing at Green Run High School

5. April 26 - Budget Public Hearing in the Council Chamber

6. May 3 - Council Workshop to do Budget Reconciliation

7. May 10 - Council enacts the FY 2012 Budget

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gift Of Tourism 1.5

The City of Virginia Beach has launched Gift of Tourism 1.5. The website is at

Deadlock On Pensions

The previous poll question was on what pension system should City employees have? 50% liked Defined Benefit plans, which we currently have. 44% want to move to pensions similar to a 401 (k) plan, with 6% wanting a Defined Contribution system.

At the 2034 LRP meeting last night, I was offered a ride home, but turned it down. First, I wanted to observe night bus operations. Second, I know "the meeting after the meeting" can sometimes be very interesting. It was. A mid-level transportation official and I got in a discussion about the options for bringing light rail across the harbor. It has been long assumed that The Third Crossing's multimodal component would be the light rail route. However, Phase II of the Regional Transit Vision Plan is based on it not being there, with light rail needing a dedicated rail-only tunnel under the harbor.

That's the new poll question: which way would you go? You can explain under Comments.

Airborne Brownie

Occasionally I bring you humorous things I see. (It's my blog, so I can post what I want.) This morning I was sitting in the bus shelter, waiting on the bus to come. I heard a noise, and then there was a brown splat on the concrete pad of the shelter. I couldn't make out what it was, and certainly didn't want to touch it.

A couple minutes later I heard rattling on the shelter roof. I looked up just in time to see a bird push a brownie off the roof onto the pad. It was a smashed brownie in a clear wrapper. Apparently someone had dropped it, and the bird had found a great feast.

Obviously the bird didn't eat it with me standing there. I considered throwing it into the adjacent parking lot for the bird. I decided to leave it be. If the bird was that hungry, he knew exactly where to find it once I got on the bus.

Playing 47 Questions

On Wednesday evening there was the first public meeting on the region's 2034 Long Range Plan (LRP) for transportation. The meeting was held at the Regional Building in Chesapeake.

The LRP is a Federally-mandated plan that looks at our region's transportation needs at a 20 year horizon, with the Plan having to be updated every 4 years. Projects must be in the LRP to be eligible for Federal funding.

Things began with an open forum, where citizens could read documents, view charts, and ask questions of staff. (It was the first time I had seen the full list of projects from the prioritization tool.) There then was a Presentation on the LRP. That was followed by a question and answer session. It was a robust portion, with 47 questions asked. (Staff noted all 47 questions.) Finally, things ended with another open forum.

While there was a nice contingent from Light Rail Now, zero members of the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance showed up. (They either were asleep at the wheel again or don't give a damn about our transportation network. Maybe both.) The heartening thing was the number of citizens who showed up who normally don't attend such meetings. They simply are fed up with our transportation problems not being tackled, and want to get involved.

Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) Executive Director Dwight Farmer stated that the 2034 LRP will be the focal point of the TPO's February 17 Retreat.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Post 1,010

I wanted to do this at Post 1,000, but I was busy with the City Council Retreat. (Post 1,000 was 2011 City Council Policy Agenda.) In marking hitting four figures in blog posts, I thought I'd give you something you can't see. Blogger can't display the number of posts by label to the public. Therefore, at this milestone I give you the Top 10:

1. Virginia Beach City Council - 426

2. HRT - 397

3. VBTA - 217

4. Virginia state government - 160

5. Hampton Roads - 156

6. Messnerism-Greenmunism - 139

7. RAC - 126

8. Polls - 108

9. Business - 102

10. Norfolk City Council - 72

A couple of them, and the numbers involved, surprised me.

I've tried to recruit additional posters for this blog on a couple occasions. Most recent was among those who had done work for Andrew Jackson's City Council campaign last year. I never intended to do this alone in the long run.

Despite taking the periodic nasty attack over the blog (inevitably, from VBTAers), the lion's share of feedback I get is positive. I'll try to keep it up.