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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is it a Hilton? or a Westin? ... Or NOT

It started back in 2004. The City of Norfolk Spent $9.3 million to acquire three properties to make way for the Hilton Conference Center downtown. This was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. Expensive sliced bread. When you add the $7.5 million subsidy, the project would cost $16.8 million in taxpayer dollars. Regardless, the city pushed forward and demolished historic buildings, such as the IKON building and the old Decker Law building. Then we forgot about it. The entire project mysteriously evaporated from the public eye until May of 2008 when, SURPRISE, it is now a Westin. Apparently the much anticipated Hilton project fell through and the city, knowing the citizen would revolt and revive such concepts as tar and feathering, hastily worked on replacing it. On May 27, 2008, They announced the Westin Plan, which apparently was the Hilton plan with the name Westin inserted instead. Now, it is nearly September and there has been no work accomplished. No piling or anything. In fact the old BB&T parking lot is even still there.
ABOVE: December 17, 2007 - BELOW: August 27, 2008
As you can see, with the exception of one more building being demolished last December, there has been absolutely no progress. What's going go Norfolk? Where is this building. It was scheduled to open in 2011 and has already apparently started booking for conferences but they haven't even started running pilings. The Wachovia building was running pilings before they even closed the parking lot!
I will try to find out more if I can. If anyone's got any information, please let me know.

BE THERE! - Open House on Transit

On the back page of the Hampton Roads section today is the "Virginia Beach City Page." In the bottom right corner is an important announcement.

Open House on Mass Transit Options

How do you want to move around the city? By Car? Light rail? Bus?

Please join the City Council and HRT at an open house where we will discuss options for mass transit in Virginia Beach. We'll have information to offer, and we'll be taking comments from the public.

Tuesday, September 16, 7 to 9 PM
Virginia Beach Convention Center
1000 19th Street

NOTE: Best part is that you can ACTUALLY take mass transit to this one, because it is a block from the #20 bus. The #20 route and schedule can be found here.

Virginian Pilot - Fact?

Re: "Norfolk City Council revises ban on public cursing", 20 August 2008

The City Council voted 7-1 on Tuesday to revise an ordinance that made cursing in public a crime. A nearly identical statute in Virginia Beach was ruled unconstitutional nearly two decades ago by the Virginia Court of Appeals."

That is a direct quote from the article. I assume that the writer checked his facts and that the second statement is true. Then I read the editorial in today's paper, "Antiquated profanity law is Norfolk's curse" It briefly compares Norfolk's law to that of Virginia Beach, stating "If Norfolk's ordinance on profanity turned out to be unconstitutional, only the courts could estimate precisely how unconstitutional Virginia Beach's law might be."

Um... I think they already did that. Perhaps the Virginian Pilot writers need to READ THEIR OWN PAPER before they comment on the news!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Say again?

Vista for a view? 26 Aug 2008 - VA Pilot - Pilot Warrior
[Reader Tim Marshall asked
about the trees and brush being cleared in the Interstate 464 median, near Military Highway. “Clearcutting,” he called it.
“If there is a good reason for this, I can reluctantly accept it,” he wrote. “But … I can’t see how there can be any visibility issue at that location. I am at a loss as to understand why they would be un-beautifying the interstate.”
Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Harry Kenyon said the brush is being cleared so the highway department’s traffic cameras have a clear view of the interstate.]

Wait. So VDOT actually believes that it is cheaper and a better idea to clear cut acres of tree than it is to put up a couple more cameras? The average fuel consumption of an excavator is 10.5 gallons an hour. Assuming $4/gallon diesel fuel, that means that one excavator uses $42 an hour. Add in the dump trucks, supervisor vehicles, worker wages, and external costs, and you are spending way over the cost of a new camera an hour.
If this is how it works, then the next time I don't want to drive around the block, I will rent a bulldozer and clear a new road through the middle of the block because it will be easier later to cut through. Its the same type thing. They don't want to go through the process of putting in a new camera so they will just demolish all obstacles to the existing cameras. You gotta wonder though: someone got paid with YOUR tax dollars to develop this plan.

Who's going to Disney World?

The entire policy against theme parks is ridiculous. First, Chesapeake claimed safety reasons for the rule. Then they tell the parents that the trip needs to be more educational. First off, the way most schools perform with these SubStandards of Learning, the trip is probably already MORE educational than the day at school. Second, how would making it more educational make it safer? Would not a simple waiver form suffice? If every child going on the trip were to have a parent/guardian sign a waiver of liability, who would it hurt? In the unlikely even that someone DID get injured, the Chesapeake Public School system would not be held responsible. This trip is not required, therefore school insurance would not be required if waivers were in hand. Come on Chesapeake, set the standard to bring common sense back to the school administration. Set the precedent for the surrounding area. Be leaders, not sheep.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to School

Its that time of year again. I'm back to school (this time at ODU) and I'm ready to start talking about HRT, Virginia Beach and said parties' bus routes. I am attempting to go the entire semester without paying for parking at ODU. I feel that the $98 semester parking fee is a bit excessive, so I refuse to pay it. So, to get past this I will utilize any legal means to achieve my goal. Step one. Get my FREE bus pass from ODU. Unfortunately, one cannot receive this until precisely one week before class. Pointless, I think, considering all of the due dates prior to the start of the semester. Regardless, I have my bus pass. Monday was my first day of class. It will be held at the VA Beach Higher Education Center, near TCC. My class was from 4:00ish until about 7PM. I looked up the bus routes. Getting there is no problem. Getting home, however, is a different story. My class is over at 7. The last bus pulls out at 6:48. So I can gamble on being let out early and risk being stranded, or I can drive. So I drove. I borrowed a car and drove. Then I had to park. Remember I'm not paying the fee. The meter has a one-hour limit (to discourage their repeated use). So I drive around until I find the closest neighborhood without a parking restriction and I park and walk.
I don't mind walking. I will walk over a mile to avoid paying for parking but the closest bus route to the VBHEC is 4.5 miles away, on VA Beach Blvd (Route #20). Enough is enough. VA Beach has to recognize that people DO ride the bus in the evening. I know that they are starting to look at Light Rail options for the city. I also know that they want Federal money and in order to achieve that money they need to raise the percentage of their population that rides their existing bus routes. In order to do this they need to get it through their minds that people don't just ride TO their destination; they need a way back. And yes, VA Beach, people DO come in from other cities on the bus. That means that they need a way out. Come on, Beach, its time for a change. The congestion is outrageous and there IS NO ALTERNATIVE!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Final Thought on the Jordan Bridge

I have talked to the City of Chesapeake and they have said that they can not keep the bridge open for bicycles. They did, however, tell me that they would consider a water taxi/ferry plan for bicycles and pedestrians. They would also look into creating a park and ride system with a direct route to the shipyard.

Lastly, for those who'd like to know a bit of history about the bridge. It was built in 1928 and cost $1.25 million. It was built by Carl M Jordan, who owned the Jordan Brothers Lumber Co with his brother. They constructed the bridge out of their personal money because the public transportation, the Norfolk County Ferry Service, was to unreliable for their business, which transported uncut lumber to their South Norfolk mill from the Great Dismal Swamp. They set up a non-profit organization to manage the bridge and even ran it until it was completely paid off in 1977. After it was paid for they gave it to Chesapeake... at which point it has become what we have now. Heres an idea. Maybe we could solicit a new company to build a new bridge. This time, however, keep the private commission to run it. (Taken from

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jordan Bridge Thoughts

Let’s assume for a moment that the Jordan Bridge is closed. This would leave an estimated 7,000 cars a day to find an alternate route. 4,000 of these are estimated to use the Gilmerton as their backup. In the paper today, they interviewed a man that rode his bike to the shipyard everyday and he commented that he could not easily change his route. This got me thinking. How much does a bike weigh? Not much. With a heavy passenger, the total might be 200 pounds. So why not leave the Jordan open to bicyclists? They don’t weigh much, and if combined with a parking lot on the Chesapeake side of the bridge, it would give the current commuters a simple alternative that would be both environmentally friendly and healthier for them. I ride my bike near daily and utilize public transit when available and I truly feel that, especially with high gas prices, that many people would rather ride their bike for 20 minutes a day than extend their commute by 40 minutes to a hour with traffic. This park-and-bike option, if combined with a park-and-ride option with a shuttle bus could actually be more popular to more people than use the Jordan bridge now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

VA Beach's Pembroke Plan

RE: "Plan would massively expand traffic options" VA Pilot 8/20/08

This plan almost sounds like someone actually thinking. They want to realign their roads to a grid-type system. Included in this is a plan to put part of Independence Blvd underground. I think they should put VA Beach Blvd under with it. It would get traffic backups out of Town Center. They took into account that they can't get federal light rail money until they have a bus system that works. they plan on using the Norfolk Southern right-of-way for a bus rapid transit line while they worked towards light rail. I think that this mass transit option will be very popular especially considering the fact hat they want to cut the width of VA Beach Blvd by half.

Good job on progress, VA Beach. Now all you need to do to finish your downtown is to move the government there. Until then, its just a mixed-use high-rise district, not a downtown.

Jordan Bridge Closing

Yet one more example of what happens when officials spend more time on other things. For example, the development RIGHT down the road, called SoNo (or SoCo, referencing what the City Councils been drinking). Regardless, the article in the Virginian Pilot says that the city will explore the possibility of a park-and-ride lot with an express bus to Norfolk Naval Shipyard. What? Imagine that. Fixing a transportation problem with (gasp) PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION?! Say it ain't so? Maybe once they're done setting that up they may realize that the same concept works for other areas of interest. Dominion Blvd, perhaps. Or all of Great Bridge during rush hour. One can only hope.

Picture: Chesapeake Public Works Dept.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

HRT - Drivers need to pay attention, follow directions

So I arrive at the Cedar Grove lot today at about 3:30 PM to find the #20 running into the #962 MAX. Yes, actually running INTO it. Apparently other buses up further in the line had not pulled up as they should, which left the #962 hanging out in the driveway. This lead the #20 to get the bright idea of going around. She the proceeded to put the rear corner of the #962 into her rear doors.
Consequently, they blocked the entire access to the Cedar Grove Transfer Station. Due to the lack of access all of the other buses reverted to transferring passengers on Salter Street. This wouldn't be so bad, except that there's no place to walk (hills and landscaping) and that they were actually transferring ON Salter St:
Not only was this incredibly dangerous for passengers, but it led to other buses being delayed and broke fire code by blocking the entire street. I think that all the bus drivers should have disposable cameras in their buses. That way, in an accident (whether here or away) they can take pictures and then move out of the way. Both these buses were completely drivable, they just had to wait while the HRT guy came out to take pictures. In the meantime, however, bus traffic was tied up, forcing the passengers into dangerous situations.

Is a picture for an insurance claim worth the life of a passenger?

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm back!

Just to let everyone know: I am back. I have my college stuff squared away for now and I am back to my semi-regular schedule. I will start substitute teaching this fall. That should be fun. Anywho, my first post back is of course about light rail. The day after I came back from camp, I took a drive too look at the light rail segment between NSU and Harbor Park. I was quite pleased to see that most of the elevated portion has been completed near Harbor Park. I am very excited to see this project coming along so nicely. I was intrigued however why there were not more pictures on the ridethetide website. Maybe I will just take my own and post them. Anyway, there is an article on PilotOnline (probably will be in todays paper) about the Ingleside station. Apparently residents are concerned about the new access light rail will create for their relatively cut-off neighborhood. While I am completely for this project, I do understand where they come from, especially, from what I gather from the article, the city has been less than forthcoming with answers for them. I think today, after I sleep and wake up, i will check out this station and let yall know what I think.

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