The Tide Light Rail - Norfolk, VA

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lpetrich
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The Tide Light Rail - Norfolk, VA

Post by lpetrich » Fri Aug 26, 2011 7:21 pm

The Tide | Hampton Roads Transit opened last weekend, after some delays.

How significant an opportunity for reducing U.S. construction costs? « The Transport Politic
Norfolk, Virginia celebrates the opening of a relatively cheap new rail corridor. It’s not as out-of-the-ordinary as we might hope, though.

Last weekend, Norfolk’s Tide light rail line opened to big crowds and lots of excitement in a state that has never before seen modern light rail technology in action. But the project was overbudget and the subject of years of controversy. What was once supposed to be a $232 million line had ballooned in cost to $318.5 million and in the process taken down political leaders who had supported it. Perceived mismanagement delayed consideration of extensions into nearby Virginia Beach. And the scheme’s implementation flaws emboldened conservative activists insistant on playing up the poor performance of government.

The irony of the story, it turns out, is that even at its higher-than-expected cost, the Tide’s construction came in at just $43 million a mile, less than any recently completed or under construction light rail system in the United States — even better than Salt Lake City’s just-finished Mid-Jordan and West Valley light rail lines, which cost $50 and $73 million per mile, respectively. It came close in price to the cheapest such project in generally less expensive France, Besançon’s $35 million a mile tramway.
It was relatively cheap because it used city streets and a railroad right-of-way.

Yonah Freemark then continues with an analysis of the consts of various systems, making a nice little graph of costs and line lengths for various modes in recent US systems. Surface lines have a good fit to a line with a slope of $73 million/mile, and he has a lot of data points for that one. Surface-subway ones are at $239 m/mi, though he has only about 3 data points. The upcoming Honolulu project, which will have a lot of elevated trackway, falls on its line, however. Subway systems were the most expensive at $840 m/mi, though their data points have a lot of scatter.

His conclusions:
One must be that construction costs in the U.S. are relatively steady across the country, at least when taking into account differences in grade separation. The other is that if we consider it in the public interest to reduce construction costs because of a declining ability to afford infrastructure, a national solution, rather than a local one, may be necessary.

lpetrich
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Re: The Tide light rail opens in Norfolk, VA

Post by lpetrich » Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:09 pm

Williams column: Praise rolls in for The Tide in Norfolk | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Fares didn't stop The Tide ridership from cresting. Hampton Roads Transit had projected 2,900 average daily boardings. The actual figure between Aug. 29 and Sept. 21 was 5,140, Holden said.
Seems almost like some ridership-prediction models are producing too-small estimates to avoid the embarrassment of too-large estimate.

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Re: The Tide light rail opens in Norfolk, VA

Post by The EGE » Fri Sep 30, 2011 12:16 pm

Well, that's good to hear. That area desperately needs several light rail lines, and they depend on the Tide being a big success.

lpetrich
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Re: The Tide light rail opens in Norfolk, VA

Post by lpetrich » Sun Feb 19, 2012 4:55 am

Six-month-old Norfolk light rail beating expectations | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com
Norfolk's 7.4-mile starter light-rail line, which launched six months ago Sunday, has drawn an average of 4,642 riders on weekdays, 4,850 on Saturdays and 2,099 on Sundays, when trains run fewer hours. About 2,900 weekday riders had been forecast.

Since it opened on Aug. 19, nearly 750,000 trips have been taken on The Tide.

Hampton Roads Transit President and CEO Philip Shucet predicts that The Tide will hit its 20-year projection of 7,200 daily rides within three years.

Patrick Boylan
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Re: The Tide light rail opens in Norfolk, VA

Post by Patrick Boylan » Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:54 am

Usually isn't weekday transit ridership greater than weekend? It's interesting that these Sat figures are greater than weekdays. I did a quick, bleary eyed look at the schedule, http://www.gohrt.com/routes/lightrail-schedule.pdf, weekday rush hours headway's around every 10 minutes, Sat is every 15 minutes most of the day, otherwise every 30 minutes.
So is 4,850 Sat riders a typo?

Mr.T
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Re: The Tide light rail opens in Norfolk, VA

Post by Mr.T » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:40 pm

Patrick Boylan wrote:Usually isn't weekday transit ridership greater than weekend? It's interesting that these Sat figures are greater than weekdays. I did a quick, bleary eyed look at the schedule, http://www.gohrt.com/routes/lightrail-schedule.pdf, weekday rush hours headway's around every 10 minutes, Sat is every 15 minutes most of the day, otherwise every 30 minutes.
So is 4,850 Sat riders a typo?
It is unusual to have more riders on a Saturday. Perhaps this line is good for more than just commuting, but is also well suited for leisure trips. That's just a guess as I'm not sure what recreation destinations are along this line.

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Re: The Tide light rail opens in Norfolk, VA

Post by Patrick Boylan » Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:20 am

I don't know either. I didn't think Norfolk was the recreation center in the area, I thought that was Virginia Beach, and then only in the summer.

electricron
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Re: The Tide light rail opens in Norfolk, VA

Post by electricron » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:56 am

Besides city and county governments employees, the largest employers in the Norfolk area don't sit adjacent to this line. That's probably why weekday ridership is relatively low. If the line was extended all the way to the Beach and to the Navy Base, weekday ridership would rise significantly. But most of the entertainment designations are near the line, except for the Beach, which explains why weekend ridership is relatively high. Remember, this is just an initial startup section of a potentially much longer line. I believe extending this line would see increases in both weekday and weekend ridership.

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Re: The Tide light rail opens in Norfolk, VA

Post by Jeff Smith » Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:26 pm

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/pos ... nia-beach/
Bradley Heard wrote:Just 6 months after opening, Virginia's first light rail transit system, located in Norfolk, is already exceeding ridership expectations. Now it's time for the Commonwealth's largest city, Virginia Beach, to hop aboard and extend the light rail all the way to the Atlantic oceanfront.

Dubbed "The Tide," South Hampton Roads' light rail system made its debut in Norfolk on August 19, 2011. The initial $338 million segment, operated by the regional transit agency, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), is 7.4-miles, has 11 stops, and is currently located only within Norfolk's city limits.
Very nice write-up.
Next stop, Willoughby
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Arlington
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Re: The Tide light rail opens in Norfolk, VA

Post by Arlington » Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:07 am

Bradley Heard wrote:Just 6 months after opening, Virginia's first light rail transit system, located in Norfolk, is already exceeding ridership expectations. Now it's time for the Commonwealth's largest city, Virginia Beach, to hop aboard and extend the light rail all the way to the Atlantic oceanfront.

Dubbed "The Tide," South Hampton Roads' light rail system made its debut in Norfolk on August 19, 2011. The initial $338 million segment, operated by the regional transit agency, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), is 7.4-miles, has 11 stops, and is currently located only within Norfolk's city limits.
Now 8 months after opening, the news gets better still (http://www.gohrt.com/the-tide-1-million ... ht-months/)

1) As they've paid out the final bills on the initial segment, the cost has *fallen* by $20m to around $318m (they don't explain but I assume they had contingency expenses they'd included that they're now not having to pay)

2) Ridership has grown to 4,900 per weekday (the initial "we're beating our forecast" numbers were in the 4,600s vs 2,900 forecast)

This kind of news is the sort that should encourage Virginia Beach voters to endorse an expansion into their city. The (non-binding) referendum is all set for November (http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/virg ... r-1867676/)
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Arlington
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Re: The Tide Light Rail - Norfolk, VA

Post by Arlington » Thu May 24, 2012 5:03 pm

Two interesting stories:

In the VA Beach "Town Center" location, the city is moving to buy a key parcel in the proposed station area: http://hamptonroads.com/2012/05/va-beac ... il-station

Meanwhile, in the belief that transit's gain is every-other-city-employee's loss, the other gov't employee unions are lining up against Light Rail...
http://hamptonroads.com/2012/05/virgini ... light-rail
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Arlington
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Re: The Tide Light Rail - Norfolk, VA

Post by Arlington » Sat Jun 02, 2012 5:06 pm

Residents near the Hilltop area (where the only Trader Joes in Hampton Roads is) want to divert the Virginia Beach Tide extension to serve the center of the Hilltop area. I think this is a good idea, since there's no chance that the Navy would permit development of more than 1 or 2 stories around the currently-proposed location on the CSX right-of-way. Map from the hamptonroads.com site is below, and link to the full story is at bottom. Here's the possible Hilltop routings:

Image

Diverting the Tide northward to Hilltop puts it in a place where vacationers could go to shop and where slightly taller (4 stories?) development would be possible in the long run. It also looks like diverting the Tide onto London Bridge Road saves the cost of a new bridge over the water there (enabling the Tide to cross the water via an existing road bridge)--meaning this route might actually be cheaper.

http://hamptonroads.com/2012/05/residen ... il-hilltop
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

electricron
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Re: The Tide Light Rail - Norfolk, VA

Post by electricron » Thu Jun 07, 2012 11:04 am

I can see why leaving the rail corridor nearly 3 miles west of alternate 1 looks promising. Virginia Beach Blvd has lots of existing development, and service lanes (i.e. right-of-way) available for light rail tracks. While the old rail corridor is running straight through basically an empty swamp in this area. I'm not so sure they would use the existing bridges for the light rail along VB Blvd, I would still build new ones for the light rail to maintain dedicated lanes for light rail and automobile traffic.

A rough sketch of how I visualize a VB Blvd light rail layout.
Note: )(=curbs, _=lanes, x=track.
As it is now:
)_ _()_ _()_ _()_ _(

With light rail tracks:
)_ x()_ _ _()_ _ _()x _(
or
)x _()_ _ _()_ _ _()_ x(

As it is now at the bridges:
)_ _()_ _(

With new light rail bridges:
x )_ _()_ _( x

Because I would go ahead and build new light rail bridges anyways, I don't think a reroute would be cheaper. Since the right-of way is already owned by the State or City, it shouldn't be much more expensive either, as far as light rail construction costs goes. Although I would compensate for the lost of two lanes on V.B. Blvd service lanes by adding two lanes to the main lanes, and that would definitely make this rerouting more expensive. But it's only for 3 miles or 4 miles.

I also would stay on VB Blvd all the way to the beachfront if possible, but I understand why the alternate proposals cross back south under the Expressway again, because of all the existing parking available at the potential terminus station site.

Street running is an advantage light rail systems have over commuter rail systems. If there were no considerations of ever leaving the rail corridor, you might as well be building a commuter rail system using DMUs (light or heavy). Of course, that wouldn't allow interlining on the existing Tide light rail tracks. But the trains (light rail or commuter rail) will have slower average speeds running in streets than they would have running in a dedicated rail corridor. Choices and compromises must be made when considering different alternate routes. To gain one advantage, you usually must sacrifice another.

I prefer alternates 1 and 4 for the reasons I've stated earlier. I don't like alternates 2 or 3 mainly because additional right-of-way will be required to maintain the existing number of lanes for auto traffic.

Arlington
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Re: The Tide Light Rail - Norfolk, VA

Post by Arlington » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:24 pm

There's not much news in the article, but it is a great recap of the past, present, and future thinking on Tide Light Rail to VA Beach. This is just an excerpt showing that pro-rail forces seem to have the momentum:
HamptonRoads.com wrote: Much has changed for light rail since '99 referendum

This year, light-rail supporters are upbeat about the Nov. 6 vote. The reason: So much has changed.
...
This time around, it was supporters who pushed to get the issue on the ballot. That was over objections from opponents who said the question should wait until a Hampton Roads Transit study is completed next year. Supporters have powerful allies, including Mayor Will Sessoms and City Manager Jim Spore.

Future city growth plans - known as Strategic Growth Areas - presume light rail connections. Town Center, which didn't exist in 1999, sits as a potential destination between downtown Norfolk and the Oceanfront. The city also now owns the corridor being eyed for light rail. The $40 million abandoned rail line was acquired in 2010.

For advocates, the fundraising woes of 1999 are gone. The political action committee Move Hampton Roads has raised $400,000 to support the referendum, said Aubrey Layne, its chairman. The money is being used for public relations and advertising. The nonprofit Light Rail Now has been working to build community support for two years.
...
Preliminary figures show it would cost $807 million to extend light rail to the Oceanfront, or $254 million to take it a shorter distance to Town Center. A route to the Hilltop area may also be explored.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

electricron
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Re: The Tide Light Rail - Norfolk, VA

Post by electricron » Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:45 pm

Arlington wrote:There's not much news in the article, but it is a great recap of the past, present, and future thinking on Tide Light Rail to VA Beach. This is just an excerpt showing that pro-rail forces seem to have the momentum.
Good news to read that the polls favor light rail in VB. But the VB city council will still have to find local matching money to fund it. The vote in this year's election doesn't address funding, one of the major reasons it's not binding.
Personally, I'd love to see this light rail extension get built, as well as a trolley/streetcar line for the beach.

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