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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blog Moving

This is my last post on Blogger. I am moving my blog to WordPress. Along with this move, I have also acquired an ACTUAL domain name. Temporarily, I will be found at In the next few days, I will have and as well.

Please let me know what you think of the new format.

I will keep this site up for a while. Then I will attach a redirect to it so that I do not lose visitors.

Monday, January 26, 2009

HRBT, 3rd Crossing, Still Traffic?

Re: Study: Extra lanes, third crossing will ease region's traffic

Interesting. The HRMPO thinks that an HRBT expansion would not be a help to our transportation. Instead, they believe that a Third Crossing would be a cure-all for our transportation problems. The Peninsula, on the other hand, feels that the HRBT is where we should start if we do anything. Norfolk opposes this plan on the grounds that it would disrupt Ovean View too much. Apparently constantly stopped traffic and the associated pollution is not a large enough impact on OV. I support with ODU's new study. They have decided that even if we built BOTH a 3rd Crossing and an HRBT expansion, the usage at 2030 would only be 8% less than capacity. In other words we can build BOTH and would still need another solution within a few years. I think that this is a pretty good reason to spend extra money on a regional LRT system. If we can throw nearly $7.4 BILLION at roads and STILL need more, then perhaps we don't have a grasp on the correct solution. If we spent $7 billion on LRT we would only need the highways for incoming tourists and commercial traffic. You could build over 180 miles of light rail for $7 billion. I can only hope that our future legislatures can realize this. I say future because I think that our current legislatures have forgotten about us.

Trial not going well for Chesapeake

Re: Detective says Ryan Frederick appeared coherent after arrest (V-P)

If you have been following the Frederick case, I am sure that you have seen by now that it is not exactly going well for Chesapeake prosecutors. So far they have been asked by the judge to stop withholding evidence and witnesses (They failed to produce results from all pre-trial reenactments and they failed to produce the officer that first interviewed Frederick). Today in court, they produced the missing officer, whose testimony conflicted with the Prosecutor's assertions. Chesapeake has really made a mistake with this one. I know that I have blogged on this before, but I really do feel strongly about cases such as this. While it is very tragic when a police officer dies in the line of duty, Chesapeake has botched this. In most cases when a criminal has done something wrong, the Police have a steady case while the criminal tends to change details of their story again and again. In this case, however, it is the Police who have had the ever-changing story and the suspect that has kept his story the same. I hope that the entire truth, whatever it may be, comes out in this trial. I hope that I am wrong. I hope that we find out that Frederick was indeed growing a large quantity of marijuana; it would make it alto less painful for the community. I have a feeling however, that the police are wrong, in which case, I can only hope that the City of Chesapeake decides to revisit some sort of oversight agency.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Jordan Bridge Bus

The City of Chesapeake and HRT are discontinuing the Jordan Bridge bus. They say it is due to low ridership. Was that not obvious before they created it? How many people did they they would ride? The key to a successful route is one that has stops where people are coming from and where people are going. A successful route also has a travel time that is either comparable to driving (if they are trying to capture drivers as users) or have total route times that drop off at the work area before work is supposed to begin. Out of those three basic requirements for a successful route, the Jordan Bridge bus had one. It went to where people wanted to go. Unfortunately, however, it was not where people were coming form. People working at the shipyard did not necessarily all live near the bridge. More likely, they drove out of their way (farther from their house than the alternatives) to the Jordan Bridge because it let off right at their destination and that made it quicker than taking an alternative, even though the alternative may have been closer to their house. Why would they now drive to the Jordan Bridge just so that they can get on a bus, drive back in the direction of their house or much farther away from their house than the alternative driving route, just to get get stuck in the traffic as if they had driven?
If Chesapeake really had wanted this route to work, they would have made a more comprehensive express route, perhaps making stops in areas with larger concentrations of shipyard workers and then going to the shipyard.

Possible Transportation Assistance

Re: Two Transportation Bills to be Introduced Today - Virginian Pilot - January 23

Good job Del. Alexander (D-Norfolk) and Del. Melvin (D-Portsmouth). Go against the grain and create a proposal that would actually raise money and solve problems. Despite the politically dangerous move of proposing to increase taxes, I think that your constituents, including myself, will be pleased with a decision to actually push for some change. I know that if we had added nearly $0.20 to the gas tax ten years ago, we would have a very nice third crossing as well as almost every other project that we want.
Also, while I enjoy making people pay their fair share for roads (drivers paying gas tax), I enjoy watching the wealthy pay a share more in relation to their income and to what others pay. I know last year I made under $15,000 last year and paid 5.96% taxes. Why am I making less than $15k and paying a greater percentage than those making $300k? I could have saved $30 if my taxes were only 5.75%

Light Rail 'Overruns' and the Pilot

RE: Light Rail costs pile up as more pilings are found in creek - Virginian Pilot - January 23

This is not another cost overrun. This is THE SAME cost overrun as before in different words. The article says, "The additional cost to remove the other 240 pilings has already been factored into light-rail cost overruns." That sentence means that this is not an extra amount to be tacked onto the $288 million figure. This is PART of that figure already. The Virginian-Pilot has realized that they can get a lot of viewers by posting article about light rail, even if they are misleading and negative. Virginia Beach does not have to worry about things like this. 95% of their line is a clear path with no obstructions.
Norfolk is very different than the Beach. The Downtown portion of the city was founded in the late 1600s. In contrast, much of Virginia Beach was not even there until at least the late 1950s. Virginia Beach's right of way for the light rail is an empty, completely straight route. This is why a Virginia Beach LRT project would be cheaper per mile and why the cost would be much more predictable. There are no unforeseen utilities on the line, due in large part to the fact that the rail line was there long before that part of the Beach even thought about utilities. The utilities that do exist are all on drawings because they had to get approval to run under the rail line. All major road crossings would be elevated, but in the Beach they would all be straight. When you build overpasses, the straight ones are always way cheaper than curved ones, because of the costs associated with curved steel beams. Going back to Norfolk on the other hand, you find a much different story. The major overpass is a snaking structure that curves under I-264 and over Brambleton and adjacent roads. Norfolk's segment also include many more crossing than Virginia Beach would have, raising the cost because each crossing needs gates and signals. Norfolk also has a large portion of its rail line at street-level mingling with cars. An at-grade rail line costs much more than a standard line. To further raise the cost, Norfolk's streets are filled with the unexpected. A large portion of utility lines were laid 'as-needed' using no standard practices or drawing that would be needed today. Downtown's streets have been very heavily built up as well. When you break through the asphalt on a normal street, you find dirt and gravel combinations. All utilities are set at a standard depth and can be easily located for marking. In Downtown, however, when you break through the asphalt, you find concrete. Break through the concrete and you find cobble stones. Over half of the streets will have old trolley rails in them, hidden away, unable to be located from above. Under the stone and trolley tracks, you find turn-of-the-century sewer pipes alongside newer pipes, old water mains, electrical conduits, and a multitude of defunct gas lines mixed with active gas lines (All the streets used to be lined with gas lamps). When you get to the water crossings you find a similar story. Although today all they are used for is small personal craft, they were previously used for industrial purposes. After hundreds of year, you would expect some buildup of old pilings. For those of you who don't believe that wooden pilings would last that long let me give you an example. Summers I work up at a Boy Scout camp in Surry, VA on the James River. Just down the river is a place called "Dillar's Wharf." Currently, there are just woods there. In fact, you would not even know it existed until low tide, when hundreds of pilings become exposed. The wharf was burned during the civil war (July 11, 1863) This wharf was around along time prior to the Civil War and here its pilings still stand.
To the Virginian-Pilot: DO NOT post stories that are misleading just to make a buck. You wonder why circulation is down. Perhaps it is because people can get negative anywhere.
To Virginia Beach: Do not worry about the cost increases that Norfolk is facing. I am not quite sure how the same people can tell me not to compare Hampton Roads to Charlotte and then turn around and compare Virginia Beach to Norfolk. They are two different scenarios.
Illustration on the complexity of Old Norfolk
Main St.
Granby St.
Granby St. looking North from Monticello. (Notice the builing that is 4th from the bottom on the left- It is still there, housing the Police Administration. They are alos building an addition on TOP of it.)
Pictures linked from Free Gallery of Norfolk Public Library

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Downtown Norfolk Consultant

According to a consultant hired to look at Downtown, Norfolk is in a prime spot to benefit from expanded retail that may come near the end of our current economic climate. They said that Norfolk has many things going for them right now including a good "mix of restaurants, old buildings, cultural amenities, waterfront location, growing residential population, upscale mall and - in 2010 - a new light-rail system." (V-P). Also, according to the same story, these new retail out lets would be unique, independent stores, unlike the large chain stores at malls and places like Town Center.
This is great news. Not only for Norfolk but for the area. An increase in independent shops such as these may pull in more residents from Virginia Beach and Chesapeake that may utilize the future LRT to move around downtown.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reasons & Answers

I apologize for my recent lack of posts. I have been tied up with a project for Scouts and to make matters worse I was in a car accident last week due to a yet-to-be-determined medical reason. I am fine but I have been busy and sore. Despite all of this, I have had no shortage of ideas, I have just been unable to post them. I hope to have more time now that people have to come pick me up instead of me driving all over the place to get them.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

HRT Video

HRT posted the following video on It shows the massive size of the steel girders that will be used to cross Brambleton.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Brambleton to Close for LRT Construction

If you take the route, beware. Brambleton will close at I-264 on January 13th to make way for the Tide overpass. The construction requires use of multiple huge steel girders, some 4 1/2 ft tall and nearly 150 ft long. In fact they will be so large that their route from Pennsylvania will take them down I-664 to I-64 to I-264. They will get off at the Independence exit and get back on I-264, where they will be able to get off at Brambleton.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Public Transportation Statistics

The following statistics are taken from the American Public Transportation Association's passenger demographics report from May 2007. (These statistics may surprise you)

White: 40.6 %
Black: 33.1 %
Hispanic: 14.3 %
Asian: 5.5 %
Multiple/Other: 6.6 %

Male: 45 %
Female: 55 %

Household Income:
under $15,000: 20.1 %
$15,000 - $49,999: 45.6 %
$50,000 - $99,999: 24.8 %
over $100,000: 9.5 %

employed: 72.1 %
student: 10.7 %
unemployed: 6.4 %
retired: 6.7 %
homemaker: 2.0 %
other: 2.2 %

Vehicle Availability:
Yes: 45.4 %
No: 54.6 %

Vehicle Ownership:
no cars: 30.7 %
one car: 29.1 %
two cars: 27.1 %
three or more cars: 13.2 %

Trip purpose:
Work: 59.2 %
School: 10.6 %
Shopping/Dining: 8.5 %
Personal Business: 6.3 %
Social Reasons: 6.8 %
Medical Trips: 3.0 %
Other: 5.7 %

In other words, contrary to popular belief, the majority of public transportation users are not poor minorities or homeless people, but rather hardworking, middle-class people. In fact there are more people that make between $50,000 and $100,000 a year than there are that are at or below the poverty line. They usually own a car but either cannot use it or choose not to use it. Riders are usually going to work as well. Interestingly enough, this does not sound like HRT's demographic, which leads me to believe we are not doing something right. I have requested HRT's demographics and I will compare them when I get them and follow up. In the meantime, everbody should think about these numbers, especially those who oppose public transportation. Mass Transit is not a poor man's game. It is the smart man's game. When the Tide gets extended all the way to the beach, it will cost $1.50 to go the full 21 (+/-) miles. If you use the estimated cost per mile formula that the IRS uses, this same drive would cost between $8 and $12 (includes fuel and wear & tear). Also, during rush hour, the guy driving would be pulling his hair out, spilling his coffee, and shaving a few years off his life each day, while the guy riding the LRT would be relaxing and reading the paper every morning.
Finally, pay close attention to the "Trip Purpose." If 59% of riders ride transit to and from work, I have a question for city leaders. Why is it that our routes don't concentrate on centers of employment. Norfolk Commerce Park only has one bus line (the 15) going to it. Also that same bus is the only regular service bus that stops at Greenbrier. No service is provided to the Airport or its industrial park. Why is it that our centers of employment have the least service. We have plenty of service to recreational centers such as Military Circle, Lynnhaven Mall, or Pembroke Mall. That is alot to serve the mere 8.5% that use the bus to get to the mall. We need to fix this. People don't ride the bus as much as they should because it doesn't suit their needs. If they are using it to get to work, it needs to go to their employer's area. It also needs to run past 6:30 PM. If I work at a job that requires me to stay late, how could I depend on a transportation medium that stops running before I do? Come on City Councils of Hampton Roads. Billions of dollars a year are spent on research and consultant accross the country. It is time to start utilizing that information.

Commonwealth Transportation Board Meeting

Earlier, I attended the Commonwealth Transportation Board's meeting at the Regional Boardroom in Chesapeake. I was surprised, actually, because there was alot of regional support for expanding mass transportation. Not just from citizens, but from our elected representatives. Newport News Mayor Frank, the TDCHR, Norfolk Mayor's office representative Ann Odell, and Virginia Beach's Assistant City Manager Hanson all spoke in some capacity to support increased public transportation. I was slightly dissappointed however, that Chesapeake's speaker did not mention public transportation. They may not know this themselves, but there is a large quantity of Chesapeake residents that are itching to use public transportation. Unfortunately, there is none available. According to the APTA, the demographics of American transit riders more closely fits those of Chesapeake than those of Norfolk. More about that in my next post. This goes for Virginia Beach as well. Mr. Hanson spent nearly 10 minutes talking. Of that, less that 60 seconds was devoted to public transportation. Overall, I hope that the CTB decides to cut money from other road projects and not from public transportation.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Jordan Bridge Toll

Lets get this straight. The HRMPO is questioning how the company that proposes to build a new Jordan Bridge plans to make money. They wonder if cars will even use it if is tolled at $2 a car. Why is this an issue. The current municipally controlled Jordan Bridge is closed. That means zero cars are using it. This company wants to build a new bridge at zero cost to anyone but themselves. They (and their investors) are obviously certain that they can turn a profit. Who is the HRMPO to question that? Even if ONE car drives across their bridge daily, it would be an improvement over zero. They also do not need a toll cap. They will set the tolls at the perfect rate. Too low and heavy traffic will negate the convenience of the bridge. Too high and cars will use alternate routes, cutting into their profits. Let them build the bridge. Do not restrict them. No government around can build a new one. If the bridge loses money and the company pulls out what happens? They wouldn't spend the money to tear it down. They would hand it over to the region. In other words, if it is successful, we win and if it fails, we win. Build the bridge.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Regionalism it is

For the past year, I have run a poll on the side of my blog. Finally, the results are in:
The question: Would you support a unified Hampton Roads?
The Results:
-As a single city - 50%
-As a collective government (i.e. NYC) - 28%
-A region with collective services only - 6%
-I would not support a unified city - 14%
Therefore, some manner of regionalism beats none at all 84% to 14% (discrepancy is the result of rounding). 78% support a strong form of regionalism. I also have a feeling that this number would increase once the Tide is completed and people start to get on board with easy transit.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Tide Cost May Rise Again

In case you hadn't heard, it has been proposed to move the Military Highway Station of the Tide to the East side of Military Highway versus its current location on the West side. The current location would be an ideal spot to serve the commercial park on Corporate Blvd. It would, however, not be a very good location for future development. The proposed location would be on the side with a group of warehouses, which would hold much more potential for redevelopment.
While this would be an excellent idea, the city needs to make sure that if they move this station, they provide a very well lit, safe station and area to walk to the west side commercial park. In the future, a relocated station would serve very well. Until that side is redeveloped, however, it will make for a dreary stop, surrounded by warehouses that are usually dark at night and weekends.

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