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.)