February 2014 Update on HRT’s LRT Extension Studies

The existing Tide LRT Line in Norfolk, VA travels from the Eastern Virginia Medical Center to Newtown Rd. Two studies are currently in progress to extend both termini. Photo taken by HARTride 2012. April, 2013.
The existing Tide LRT Line in Norfolk, VA travels from the Eastern Virginia Medical Center to Newtown Rd. Two studies are currently in progress to extend both termini. Photo taken by HARTride 2012. April, 2013.

It’s been a while since I wrote about two ongoing studies to extend Norfolk, VA’s light rail line. Much has progressed during the past few months on both studies, but a long road still lies before Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) in terms of finalizing routes for both extensions, putting together the final costs for each project, and building and maintaining public and political support.

Naval Station Norfolk Extension

Let’s first begin with the light rail (LRT) extension towards Naval Station Norfolk, which was launched nearly a year ago. This extension would bring the current Tide LRT Line roughly 7.6 miles from its current western terminus at the Eastern Virginia Medical Center to the Naval base, considered to be the largest U.S. Naval base in the world. Six different alignments have proposed by HRT and a series of public hearings are scheduled this week to garner public input. Now, these routes are only preliminary and several reports suggest that major flaws such as right-of-way issues have not been screened out as of yet. HRT stressed that they hope to have a clearer picture by the summer.

The three public hearings that will be held this week are listed below, with one of them to be held this evening, Monday, February 24.

  • Monday, February 24: At Granby High School, 7101 Granby St., Norfolk, VA. Free parking is available at the school’s parking lot. HRT customers can use Route 1 to attend the hearing.
  • Tuesday, February 25: At Old Dominion University’s Ted Constant Convocation Center, 4320 Hampton Blvd, Norfolk, VA. Free parking is available at the 43rd St. parking deck. HRT customers can use Routes 2, 4, and 16 to attend the hearing.
  • Wednesday, February 26: At the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, 235 E. Main St., Norfolk, VA. Parking is available in the Main Street and Waterside parking decks. HRT customers can use Routes 6, 8, 45, 960, and 961, as well as The Tide LRT Line to attend the hearing.

Sources: Railway Age, HRT.

Virginia Beach Extension

Many questions remain about the proposed LRT extension to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. In January, HRT released its projected cost for the Hilltop/Laskin Rd alignment, which came in at about $1.3 billion. Although this alignment is projected to see weekday boardings of at least 8,845 customers per day, compared to only 5,295 customers if the alignment using an abandoned Norfolk Southern freight rail corridor was used, the cost of using the Laskin Rd alignment would be much higher than NS route, which that estimate came in at just over $1 billion back in late 2013. The Laskin Rd alignment would also require that new infrastructure be built along several roadways, just like the LRT segment through Downtown Norfolk.

Regardless of which alignment is chosen (either of the two above, or a shorter option to truncate at Rosemont Rd), the Virginia Beach LRT extension faces a massive cost and significant political barriers. To make matters more complicated for HRT and the city of Virginia Beach, several private sector proposals were presented in 2013 that touted a much lower cost of construction and operation, and a sooner opening date. No one knows at this point as to which alignment will ultimately be selected, or who would be selected to build and operate the extension.

Source: Virginian Pilot.

HART MetroRapid – Part 3

Greetings everyone!

Just a quick update on the construction of HART’s MetroRapid line. Roughly a dozen shelters have been set up along the route, and all 14 Gillig Low Floor buses to be used on the line have been delivered to HART. However, it is my understanding that there have been some delays with construction of shelters and concrete landing pads. From what I’ve been told by HART staff, utility poles have impacted construction of concrete landing pads and thus have had to be relocated. Other than that, things appear to be going as planned.

A couple weeks ago, HART announced that MetroRapid will likely go into service during its June service cycle. HART currently evaluates its transit services and makes changes as needed three times a year: March, June, and November. Although there was no reason mentioned for the setback, I suspect that it is nothing major. Many project completion dates are adjusted for a variety of reasons, including those that are beyond one’s control. With that said, I hope to report back soon with some photos of shelters that have been constructed. Perhaps at some point, I’ll be able to encounter one of the green/white buses in testing mode along the Nebraska Ave or Fletcher Ave corridors.

Have a great week!

HARTride 2012

Merry Christmas & the Year-End Transit Roundup!

Hi everyone!

I know that I’ve been lagging behind on posting as of late. I’ve been trying to get into a regular schedule, but November and December have been much busier than I thought. Holiday event planning is definitely no easy task, and I’ve been having to help my family out with several different events that took place during the past couple months. Add to that; my computer problems during August and September, and my hiatus from earlier in the year. I know that in the end, I probably let down some of my viewers, and I sincerely apologize for that. I hope that with the new year, I can finally devote some time to make some major updates.

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I would like to wish you, and your family a very Merry Christmas! I certainly hope that you are able to enjoy this wonderful day, no matter where you are located!

With all this said, I would like to take some time to reflect back on some of the major transit-related developments that occurred in 2012. I have grouped everything by month, and color coded each event as they pertain to the particular focus region that I cover in my blog.

BLUE: Tampa Bay (HART, PSTA, MCAT, SCAT, PCPT, Hernando THEbus, Citrus County Transportation)

GREEN: Orlando Area (LYNX, SunRail)

RED: Hampton Roads, VA (HRT)

TEAL: New York City, NY (NYCMTA)

PURPLE: Paris, France (RATP, STIF, SNCF)

Read more

HART Roundup for August 7, 2012

Greetings everyone,

After celebrating my graduation from the University of South Florida over the weekend; I am pleased to bring you my next transit posting. Besides the ongoing preparation for the upcoming Republican National Convention at the end of August, HART has been finalizing which service changes to make for the upcoming evaluation cycle in November, and whether to increase fares. After many public hearings and input, the decision has been made. I will tell you in just a moment what exactly will be occurring in November.

Before I go into detail regarding the upcoming service and fare changes; I want to report that HART’s Bus Rapid Transit project; known as MetroRapid broke ground on Monday, August 6, 2012. The project is aimed at alleviating congestion along Nebraska Ave, which is HART’s busiest bus corridor. Nowadays, many buses along Route 2 run at full capacity, which means people have to sometimes wait for the next bus because the one they try to board is too full. The new system will allow sleek, modern buses (including the possibility of articulated buses) to run at specific intervals and between specifically spaced stations. Transit Signal Prioritization will also be utilized along the corridor, which allows green lights to be lengthened (and red lights shortened) at intersections.

The first phase of MetroRapid, which will travel along Nebraska and Fletcher Avenues, is slated to become operational by Summer, 2013. For more information about MetroRapid, click here.

Now, let’s take a look at what HART decided to do for November…

Read more

New bus route & transit center coming to Citrus County

It is not common right now for me to report on a transit happening in our northern counties (Pasco, Hernando, or Citrus). However, there was a story on Bay News 9 today that prompted me to make this post.

Now despite the three counties mentioned above being much more rural than Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, all three of them have their own public transit systems. Pasco County operates PCPT or Pasco County Public Transportation, Hernando County runs the Hernando Express Bus or THEbus, and in Citrus County, they operate Citrus County Transportation Services.

Going into Citrus County, the public transit district is very small because the county is largely rural and only encompasses a few small municipalities. However, getting those who may not have their own transportation from point A to point B is crucial. So the county operates a flex van service, similar to HARTflex in Tampa, and one fixed-route bus service called the “Orange Line”.

Today’s news story discusses about plans to add a second fixed bus route by October, as well as construction of a new transit center that should be finished by year’s end. Both of these improvements will provide Citrus County residents with more transit options, even though funding is becoming more and more scarce.

To view the full article, click here.

HART’s 10-year vision

HART is planning many things that will change the face of mass transit in Hillsborough County during the next ten years. According to an article published by the Tampa Tribune, here is what’s in store, despite dwindling sources of funding and state-mandated budget cuts and property tax reductions.

Among major service enhancements, 53 buses and 113 paratransit vans could be replaced with newer models. This includes the eventual replacement of the 900 and 2000 series Gillig Low Floor buses, which HART purchased back in 1999 and 2000. The replacement of the Gillig Phantom (700 series) buses will begin within the next couple of months, being replaced with the new Gillig Low Floor (2900 series) fleet of buses. HART CEO, David Armijo announced shortly after his arrival in late 2007 that he would like to see the current bus fleet increased beyond the current 200 units.

By mid-2010, Routes 2, 33, 36, and 83 will all be restructured, enhancing services in North Tampa. This includes the merger of Routes 33 and 83 into one Route 33 that would serve Fletcher Ave and the University North area, the extension and restructuring of Route 36 to the future St. Joseph’s Hosptial North on Van Dyke Road and possible addition of OWL services, and reallignment of Route 2 to allow better operation of service that will soon be taken over by MetroRapid, HART’s new Bus Rapid Transit System.

Also by mid-2010, Route 30 service will be split into two routes to better serve TIA and the Northwest Transfer Center with Downtown Tampa. Perhaps we’ll see 30A and 30B as part of this. Voters may be presented with a 1-cent sales tax hike proposal to fund mass transit in the fall.

By 2011, WestShore and Downtown Tampa services will be further enhanced via local impact fees.

MetroRapid Green Line from the USF area to Downtown Tampa is expected to be online by 2012. The east-west route will then follow in 2013 or 2014.

Finally, by 2020, HART’s first Light Rail line is expected to open.

Public hearings will be held Aug. 19 at the University Area Transit Center, 13110 N. 27th St., and Aug. 26 at the Marion Transit Center, 1211 N. Marion St. Both sessions are from 3 to 6 p.m.

You may also post your comments at http://www.gohart.org

PSTA website improvements/HART projects update

During the past couple of weeks, quite a bit has happened transit-wise in Tampa Bay.

First, the big news. Several HART projects are one step closer to becoming reality.
*TECOline Streetcar Extension: HART has awarded a contractor (Kimmins Contracting Corp) to design and build the extension from the Dick Greco Plaza to Whiting Street.
*TIA Intermodal Facility Approved: The HART Board of Directors approved a plan for an intermodal facility to be constructed on the premises of Tampa International Airport this past week. The facility will allow seamless integration and transfer for current and future HART & PSTA bus routes, as well as a future connection to Tampa’s proposed light rail system.

Now, to the minor notes. PSTA has improved its website with an interface for the Google Maps Transit Planner, located on the homepage. This recent addition now adds PSTA to the list of available transit agencies by which people can plan out their trips through select metropolitan areas via public transit. HART joined the mix in 2007.

During the next several weeks and months, you will be able to interact with Google Maps in Pinellas County in the same fashion as you would in Hillsborough County. When you zoom the map to street level, you will be able to view departure times for each bus stop in the PSTA system.