The Tide Light Rail Line

Welcome to The Tide! Photo taken by HARTride 2012 - April, 2013.
Welcome to The Tide! Photo taken by HARTride 2012 – April, 2013.

Page updated on 2/27/14.

Overview

The Tide is the first light rail line to be constructed in the state of Virginia. It offers service from the southern fringe of downtown Norfolk to eastern fringe of the city (at Newtown Rd) and provides direct connections to 20 local bus routes and three express bus routes from the station platforms. In addition; park-n-ride lots are provided at four of the line’s eleven stations to allow commuters and visitors to easily travel to and from downtown Norfolk.

Conception

Plans to bring light rail to Hampton Roads originated during the 1990s as area interstates became inundated with heavy traffic, especially during rush hours. In 1999, Virginia Beach presented a transit referendum to help fund a light rail line that would utilize an abandoned Norfolk Southern freight rail line between Norfolk and the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. However, voters struck down the referendum and the city passed a resolution to not be involved with the planning of light rail for ten years. From that point onward, the city of Norfolk decided to continue plans for a light rail line without Virginia Beach’s involvement.

The current line

The Tide opened to passengers on August 19, 2011 and spans 7.4 miles from the Eastern Virginia Medical Center (EVMC) to Newtown Road, near the Norfolk/Virginia Beach city limits. Most of the line, though built on newly-laid track, follows the abandoned Norfolk Southern freight rail line and closely parallels Interstate 264. All of the rail viaducts were built from the ground-up and the portion of the line west of Harbor Park Stadium was built on entirely new right-of-way. The downtown Norfolk section (between Botetourt St and Park Ave) meanders through city streets and as a result, trains must follow traffic signals to allow vehicular traffic to flow smoothly. When all of the traffic signals turn red, and all vehicular traffic has stopped, the train will be allowed to continue its journey. The entire length of the line (with the exception of the EVMC and Newtown Rd stations) is double-tracked.

Stations

The Tide consists of eleven stations, with four of them having park-n-ride lots by which commuters and visitors can park for free and hop aboard the train to downtown Norfolk. The station names chosen relate to either the roadway by which the station sits at, or a nearby landmark. This naming convention sits in line with what most rail systems throughout the world use.

Norfolk LRT Parisian Style Map

Paris Metro style map of the Tide with connecting bus routes.

  • Eastern Virginia Medical Center (EVMC)/Fort Norfolk
  • York St/Freemason
  • Montecello
  • MacArthur Square
  • Civic Plaza
  • Harbor Park
  • Norfolk State University (NSU)
  • Ballentine/Broad Creek
  • Ingleside Rd
  • Military Hwy
  • Newtown Rd

All of the station platforms include traditional style shelters, ticket vending machines, and information boards (containing transit maps, information, and feeder bus schedules). Four stations (Monticello, Civic Plaza, Harbor Park, and NSU) are island platforms, while the rest comprise of two outer platforms (one on each side of the track).

Rolling Stock

The Tide utilizes nine Siemens S70 LRV trains. These trains are very similar to trains currently used on the LYNX Blue Line LRT in Charlotte, NC.

An eastbound train waits for the traffic signal to change. Photo taken by HARTride 2012. April, 2013.
Train #405 in downtown Norfolk. Photo taken by HARTride 2012. April, 2013.

Proposed extensions

Since the line’s opening, several extensions have been proposed:

  • At the line’s western end, an extension towards Naval Station Norfolk
  • At the line’s eastern end, an extension towards the Virginia Beach Oceanfront
  • Spur lines going into Portsmouth and Chesapeake
  • A possible spur going into Hampton and Newport News

The project currently getting the most attention is the eastern extension towards the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. This plan calls for the current line to utilize the remainder of the old Norfolk Southern freight rail line and terminate at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic coastline. There are currently ongoing studies to examine the feasibility of the extension and an Alternative Analysis study is currently underway to further look into the possibility of either extending the Tide, or to utilize Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to link the Oceanfront.

In November, 2012, voters of Virginia Beach were presented with another transit referendum (similar to the one that failed in 1999). This one would allow for further financing and development of the LRT extension towards the Oceanfront. The referendum passed by a roughly 62/37 margin.

The western-end extension towards Naval Station Norfolk is also getting quite a bit of attention, and a feasibility study was launched in early April of 2013. If built, this extension would serve Old Dominion University and terminate somewhere within Naval Station Norfolk. The ongoing feasibility study will last about 15 months at a cost of $1.8 million, according to an article from the Virginian Pilot.

The spur line proposals all have been under consideration for some time, but no detailed studies have been conducted as of yet.

Practical Information – As of April, 2013

OPERATING SCHEDULE – As of April, 2013

  • The Tide operates on varying frequencies throughout the day.
    • On Monday through Thursday, the line operates from 6am to 11pm, with 10 to 15 minute frequency from 6am until 10pm. After 10pm, trains run every 30 minutes until the end of service. On Fridays, there is an additional hour of service between 11pm and 12 midnight with 30 minute frequency.
    • On Saturdays, the line operates from 6am to 12 midnight, with 15 minute frequency between 9am and 9:30pm and 30 minute frequency at all other times.
    • On Sundays, the line operates from about 11am until 9pm, with 15 minute frequency all day.
  • Click here to view detailed timetables.

FARE STRUCTURE – As of April, 2013

Light Rail fares are the same as that of the HRT bus system:

  • SINGLE RIDE FARE
    • Regular Fare: $1.50
    • Reduced (Youth): $1.00*
    • Reduced (Seniors/Disabled): $0.75*
    • Children under 38″ tall may ride free with a paying adult
  • GO PASSES
    • 1-day GO Pass: $3.50
      • Reduced: $1.75*
    • 1-day GO Pass (5-pack): $16.50
      • Reduced: $8.75*
    • 7-day GO Pass: $17.00
    • 30-day GO Pass: $50.00
      • Reduced: $35.00*

*ID is required to qualify for reduced fares.

Gallery

For more information, please visit the Hampton Roads Transit website.

More to come soon!

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