Thursday, August 18, 2011

Suspension Or 2.0

As some of you may know (but most probably don't), I've been hired by Hampton Roads Transit (HRT). Given the conflicts of interest that would present as a blogger, I'm either going to take the blog to suspension or unveil Avenging Archangel 2.0. My conflicts as a HRT employee:

1. Obvious on mass transit writing.

2. Legally, HRT is a corporation held one-seventh by each member city. To blog on local politics would be talking about my employer.

3. HRT has a seat on the TPO.

My duties will begin with light rail launch in the morning, which is why I set this to autopost Thursday evening.

2.0 would be for me to fade into the background, chipping in a post where I can, while giving the front seat to my best friends in the African-American community leadership. I e-mailed them over the weekend, seeking at least two additional posters. (A single poster would always be compared and contrasted with me.) This established platform would continue to advocate for an inclusive Virginia Beach, having a given readership base to build on. I'm not holding my breath on it, as I made similar recruitment pitches in the wake of each of Andrew Jackson's campaigns for the Virginia Beach City Council.

I've been hired to be a Data Collector at HRT, doing manual passenger counts on The Tide. Under Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations, manual counts are mandated during the first year of revenue service. (In addition, there are automated systems just inside the train doors.) Everyone at HRT is cognisant of the fact that there has been much speculation about how many will ride The Tide. Having completed my training, let me make it clear to everyone: given the methodology and redundancies in the system, it would be virtually impossible to fudge The Tide ridership numbers. The FTA will be watching, and - given the history of the project - will certainly check it anything appears off.

There have been talks between HRT executives and I over the past few months about me possibly joining the team. They began recruiting me once they learned that my previous place of employment was probably going to close. As HRT needed to add dependable additional staff for light rail launch, it was fairly obvious where to put me. In the interim, I put one project for this blog on ice: a political satire series. On the 13th of each month, I was going to chronicle the Really Evil Taxpayers Against Rational Decisions (RETARD). In fact, in my desk I have a scratch sheet with topics for nine installments of the RETARDs.

It's been a fun run. I had been considering blogging for months, but was finally pushed when no one covered a citizens meeting held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. My one failure was never attracting additional posters, as I never intended to do this all alone indefinitely. While the number of hits on this site has been relatively low, the point is who reads this blog. I've had a virtual who's who cite it back to me. It's been a niche blog, providing information and insights you can't find anywhere else on the Internet.

For we grassroots inclusionists, both status quoers and the extremist VBTA present serious problems. Those of the status quo are usually more subtle. However, I hope others continue to speak out loudly about what the VBTA's sinister agenda really means for Virginia Beach.

Finally, I'd be remiss not to invite you to come ride light rail on launch weekend - and to become repeat customers. Given that the lion's share of my initial duties will be onboard the trains themselves, part of my training had me out riding The Tide. It has the Wow Factor. The bulk of my fellow Data Collectors aren't mass transit advocates, but simply people looking for good work. However, when we rode as part of our training, they were pulling out their smartphones to take video and photos of the run. They were moved.

It may not be over for me, with either a limited role under 2.0 or coming back full bore here later. (Remember that my initial position with HRT sunsets after one year.) In the meantime, I hope I get interest from others to launch 2.0. Regardless, I plan to keep this blog up, allowing it to serve as an archive of past events. Nakemiin.


Loyal reader said...

Henry - Good luck with your new job. It is a perfect fit. I have enjoyed reading your posts. It is certainly a niche blog but a must read. You are very astute and a great writer. Best of luck in the new position.

Max Shapiro said...

Good luck with your new job, but it seems pretty illogical to hire you to just help with light rail when they should be paying you to blog about all the transit meetings and happenings that no one else covers. I'll definitely miss reading those articles, but it was great while it lasted!

Wally Erb said...

I know that ridership figures are important data in determination of light rail success. However, it should be understood the true ridership figure is subject to cost per ride (iteration). By offering cut rates through package deals to enhance ridership, the cost per ride diminishes. The incentives that HRT has offered has skewed the demand curve.