Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Light rail in Hampton Roads

News yesterday that the feds have come through with some more cash for the light rail starter line in Norfolk. From Debbie Messina at the The Virginian-Pilot: Feds say they'll keep closing gap in funding for light rail:
Federal officials announced on Monday that they will do all they can to make up for a shortfall in money previously pledged for the city's light rail starter line that is now under construction.

Federal Transit Administrator James S. Simpson awarded the city $18.9 million toward the $128 million the government promised for the project.
I know there's a lot of disagreement about the light rail; just check out the comments on the Ms. Messina's article. I know the cost is huge, but the question I ask is what is the cost of not doing something.

I travel a bit with my job. Cleveland: airport to downtown by light rail. Saint Louis: ditto. Washington DC: I'll not stay at a hotel that's not within walking distance of a Metro stop.

If we're going to be a livable community, we must do something about the traffic. Buses are one thing, but light rail (or something similar) can actually make a difference.

I've been thinking into the future. What do we want the rail system to look like in Hampton Roads. Here's my first thought:

View Larger Map

I've tried here to include hospitals, government centers, and large retail locations.

Public transportation pundit Michael Ragsdale commented on my idea saying it wasn't "half bad." He also suggested there aren't enough people in North Carolina for the line to head that far south. I disagree; two thoughts. First, I'll go all cliche. If you built it, they will come. Second, I see the rail as a way to get workers to work; there are plenty of people making the drive up from Moyock, South Mills, and Elizabeth City already. It's only going to get worse.

I believe rail ought to connect people from where they live to where they work and where they spend money and where they get entertained. And, the rail ought to connect to other modes of transportation such as airports and inter-city rail lines.

Your thoughts?


  1. Look at San Diego/Southern Cal. They use a combined approach, buses, bikes, trolleys, light rail and Amtrak - all cooperate to cover the public transportation needs for a very big swath of geography. It can work...

    Expensive to institute? Necessary! What is the cost of necessity? Don't know, but $4.00 per gallon gas will be here within the month; imagine $6.00 per gallon and traffic within a year or two... ;( What cost? MM

  2. While I do agree that rail is our future, and yes I think it would be great to catch a train to Elizabeth City (where my cousin lives), I honestly don't think there's enough people to justify. Perhaps an express bus connection.

    Henry, your thoughts?

  3. I'm standing firm with the long-term vision.

    I like Mike's comment: integrated public transportation.