Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Progressive Light Rail City

Coming soon to greater Norfolk, Virginia

The Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) is a region of Virginia in the US that encompasses Norfolk, Virginia Beach and several other communities. Despite the region servicing a population of only 1.3 million people, this progressive region is investing US$ 288M to extend light rail transit some 7.4 miles. That is $31M per mile compared to building roads in this area that would cost $100M per mile. The system is projected to carry 12,000 riders daily.

Norfolk like several US cities provides free bus service in their downtown core. Portland, OR provides free streetcars in their downtown core. Norfolk's system will include double-tracking as you can see in this great simulation video here.

Like most US cities, the HRT project team has done their homework. We have stated the benefits of LRT many, many times, but look at these impressive numbers and data from HRT here. These are just a few, but make sure to check them all out from the like previously provided:

Reduces Traffic Congestion. Light rail can move as many people as four to six lanes of interstate highway.

  • Positive Economic Impact. A report commissioned by the Federal Transit Administration to understand the economic impact of public transportation found that there was a significant positive economic impact on jobs and business revenues. The study found that in the year following the transit investment, 314 jobs are created for each $10 million invested in transit capital funding. In addition, transit operations spending provides for a direct infusion to the local economy with more than 570 jobs created for each $10 million invested in the short term.
  • Business Attractor. Almost half of the nation's Fortune 500 companies, representing over $2 trillion in annual revenues, are headquartered in America's transit-intensive metropolitan areas.
  • Business Sales Gains. Businesses would realize a gain in sales of three times the public sector investment in transit capital - a $10 million investment results in a $30 million gain in sales. Regarding transit operations spending, businesses would see a $32 million increase in business sales for each $10 million in transit operations spending.
  • Economic Development Generator. Rail lines are fixed, high-value assets. Developers are more comfortable investing capital into a system that will continue. Since 1977, when the first Metrorail station opened in Virginia, Metrorail has generated substantial economic benefits for the Commonwealth. By 2010, Metrorail will generate: $2.1 billion in additional Commonwealth revenues and net revenues of $1.2 billion (in excess of the Commonwealth contributions to Metrorail).
I must say that with a few rare exceptions, the USA is far more progressive with creating eye appeal for their infrastructure such as bridges, transit stations, etc. Instead of advertising only (like the Greater Vancouver SkyTrain), the USA uses impressive Art-in-Transit programs to beautify their systems. Check that out here.

Yes, Transit Oriented Development (TOD) has been planned for (see above and below). Of course TOD is planned! You can check this and much more out on the project website. Just click the navigation bars on the left of this page here and you will find lots of goodies.

Here is the kicker for us south of Fraser folks that think transit systems can take forever to build. The final project design for HRT was completed in 2007 and civil works began in 2008. The system is scheduled to open in 2010!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Our Provincial government likes to pretend such systems couldn't be built here in similar time or with a similar budget. They even commission business cases full of invalid assumptions and outright lies that "prove" their position.

Sadly the main opposition party has a history of doing exactly the same thing.