Light Rail. Virginia Beach Dodged A Bullet
Feel that cool breeze blowing out of the east? That’s Virginia Beach taxpayers heaving a collective sigh of relief.
Beach voters had the smarts to say no to light rail in 2016, despite relentless pressure to vote yes from The Virginian-Pilot's editorial page, developers and politicians owned by developers.
Of course, the city’s next-door neighbors in Norfolk were never asked if they wanted light rail. They’re stuck with a system that consistently ranks as one of the worst-performing in the US.
Now this: At least one member of Norfolk City Council thinks it would be a swell idea to let more people ride for free to make the line more successful.
I wrote numerous columns two years ago begging voters not to approve a 2.3 mile, $243 million extension of this disaster to the Beach.
When the votes were counted and about 57 percent had said they were against light rail, I thought my days of trying to keep everyone honest about Norfolk’s dismal failure were over.
An Inside Business piece about the plan to let people ride The Tide without paying reported that “about 4,500 people ride The Tide on weekdays.”
No, no, no.
These are misleading figures routinely trumpeted by those trying to boost the popularity of the sad Tide. They crop up in almost every news story. I'm tired of trying to set the record straight.
What may be true is that there are 4,500 TRIPS on any given weekday. Assuming that most folks travel round trip, however, that means just 2,250 passengers actually ride the trains Monday through Friday.
And that's pitiful.
Oh, and please don’t let anyone trot out the tired excuse that the absence of passengers is due to the line being so short. Buffalo’s is even shorter, at 6.4 miles. Yet, according to the American Public Transportation Authority, it carried about 8,400 passengers every weekday last year.
Almost four times as many as Norfolk's Tide.
The Tide has been a loser since it opened - 20 months late and $100 million over budget - in 2011.
Now Norfolk Councilwoman Andria McClellan wants to offer free rides.
Naturally, she has no idea how to pay for this extravagance.
“She said it’s too early to determine exactly who might get a free ride, when they’d be offered or how it’d be paid for,” Inside Business wrote of McClellan’s plan.
Why am I not surprised? It’s this sort of squishy thinking that saddled Norfolk taxpayers with this rolling money pit from the start.
Congratulations, Virginia Beach. Your taxpayers are spectators, not unwilling passengers, on this train to nowhere.