Transit Tribulations


By Phillip Newswanger


Be prepared. Transit Week is coming.

What does that mean to you?

It means you have a choice of transit options: bus, ferry, light rail. Ride one or ride all of them if you are so inclined.

If you have a boat, ride it to work. Enjoy the freedom of the wind and water. It sounds very nostalgic, riding a bus, ferry, rail car or boat.

But Transit Week means you will probably still drive your car or truck to work. Most Americans, addicted to their cars and trucks, shun public transit, and with gas prices hovering just above the $3.00 mark, many of you will forget public transit, at least until gas prices levitate again and roadsters start complaining that President Obama isn’t doing anything to dampen prices.

Public transit is a sidebar to where the real money is going and how most people really, really travel in this region. Most people will travel by car or truck to live, work and play. Urban vitality is a sham, especially with so many miles of highway construction slated for the future and parking garages about to rise from the soil.

If its vitality you want, just watch the road rage when lanes, bridges and tunnels are partially closed, even for 24-hours.

The powers-to-be and the moneybags in this region are addicted to highway construction and the politicians are addicted to the money construction magnates throw at politicians.

Nowhere in the law that created the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission – an oxymoron if there ever was one – are there references to public transit.

There are three references to the word “rail” in the language of the statute. Two reference the Virginia Dept. of Rail and Public Transportation and the third refers to contracts.

Light rail, commuter rail, ferries, buses – none are mentioned in the legislation.

Yet The Tide, often referred to as a starter line, is stalled.

In Virginia Beach, elected officials dither about a light rail link to the Pembroke section of Virginia Beach, meanwhile resurrecting a quaint and nostalgic trolley system.

Down in happy and boring Chesapeake, happy and boring politicians argue about who is going to pay for a study to study the feasibility of a light rail line from Greenbrier, a suburban shopper’s dream, to Norfolk. The more we talk, the less we get done. And the more we posture and politick.

Instead of doing, we form a committee or a commission, pay a consultant for a plan and a rendering, create a monolithic organization – the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission – trumpeting Vision Statements and Mission Statements.

Later on, this Commission will hire an executive director with a staff, find a corner office for he or she and gives he or she the CEO and President title so he or she can plaster this title on their Linkedin profile.

Accompanying all these perks is a budget – to pay the salaries, pension and health insurance coverage of the executive director and the staff, as well as travel and meals and lodging expenses.

Hampton Roads – its politicians, its elected officials, its moneyed individuals – is afflicted by committees, commissions, bureaucracies and crackpot notions.

Public transit is a closed loop.

Transit Week, an initiative, launched six years ago by the Virginia’s Dept. of Rail and Public Transportation, incites you to leave your car or truck behind and use public transit.

Join the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and transportation partners from across the Commonwealth in celebrating the sixth statewide Try Transit Week from September 15-19, 2014! This is a great time to discover new alternatives to your commute and how to get around while saving time, money and energy.

How noble and yet how futile.

Yet it’s the gesture that counts.

If only those gestures were multiplied.


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