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Virginia Beach’s ‘car-tastrophic’ transportation system needs to change

An HRT bus stops along its route on Upton Drive in Virginia Beach on April 2, 2024. There are currently 21 active HRT bus routes throughout Virginia Beach.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic and car-dependent infrastructure plague Virginia Beach.

The city’s inefficient transportation system combined with the unwalkable nature of Virginia Beach leaves residents with only two options: get a car or get out.

A robust public transportation system would give people more options when commuting and would alleviate traffic congestion. Moreover, it would be especially beneficial to younger teens or others who cannot drive as they may not have another viable form of transportation.

Even those with cars face issues in Virginia Beach’s current transportation system, with the average Hampton Roads commuter losing 41 hours annually due to congestion, according to a September 2023 report by TRIP, a non-profit transportation research organization.

Despite the obvious benefits and current problems, the city’s current commitment to improving transportation falls far behind what would be expected from the largest city in the state, and adequate funding has never been put towards public transit. 

In its most recent annual report from 2022, the Federal Transit Administration ranked Hampton Roads 30 out of the 41 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. for public transit spending.

Surely, a large, developing city like Virginia Beach would at least be one of the best in Hampton Roads, though, right? Wrong.

Virginia Beach is ranked fifth in public transportation spending per capita out of the seven major cities serviced by the region’s public transportation system, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), according to HRT’s fiscal year 2022 operating budget.

While some city officials have advocated for more public transportation spending, others have actively fought against bringing more public transportation to Virginia Beach.

Former Virginia Beach City Treasurer John Atkinson, for example, spearheaded efforts to stop Norfolk’s light rail system, the Tide, from expanding into the city in 2016.

He argued that money for the project could be better spent elsewhere and that expanding the light rail wouldn’t alleviate traffic as was hoped, according to WTKR.

“The city of Virginia Beach offers something to those willing to pay for it,” said Atkinson in an interview with The Virginian-Pilot. “Those that want a freebie (of subsidized public transportation) can move to Norfolk.”

That was back in 2016, but the city’s attitude toward public transportation has largely remained the same. 

Yes, the Tide isn’t the best light rail system in the world, bus routes in Virginia Beach are inefficient and ridership is low across the board, but these are all reasons why efforts need to be made by the city to do something about it. If the city cites the system’s current condition as its reason for not investing in public transit, then it is doing a blatant disservice to the entire Virginia Beach community. 

For those who don’t want to move to Norfolk just to get from point A to B without a car, there are still ways to get public transportation on the city’s agenda.

The City Council will hold two public hearings on the proposed agenda for 2024-2025 on April 17 and April 23 where residents can voice concerns and give feedback; more information is available on the city of Virginia Beach’s website, virginiabeach.gov.

Those wishing to give online input can do so by visiting SpeakUpVB.com through April 24.

Without enough pressure, the city will continue to disregard public transportation despite the benefits it would bring to the city. Vocal and active support will help make sure Virginia Beach becomes a leader, not a lagger when it comes to public transportation.

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About the Contributor
Austin Stegerwald
Austin Stegerwald, Staff Writer
Austin Stegerwald is a sophomore in his first year as a journalist for The Current. He enjoys playing soccer for Ocean Lakes and Beach FC, participating in school clubs and listening to music.

Comments (3)

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  • S

    Sue Cole-GreaneyApr 18, 2024 at 10:48 am

    Austin, this is a great article. A serious problem in many populas areas. I have been in Virginia Beach and know, first hand, how much traffic there is. To get from one side of the city to the other, it seems to take forever. When you are vacationing as well as trying to get to work, it is very frustrating.
    Keep up the good writing.

    Reply
  • K

    Kurt gerlitzApr 18, 2024 at 7:55 am

    Sounds great Austin!

    Reply
  • R

    RogerApr 17, 2024 at 9:52 pm

    Yes, for the vast area of this city, more reliable public transportation is a must. The city is growing but the transp. system is not. Less traffic is a necessity in VA Beach & more pub. transp options aren’t even on the horizon.
    In a city this size, the transp system is
    antiquated. This Governor should take that into account! VA Beach really needs to keep up with the times. With so much traffic & traffic problems, usable, easily accesible public transportation is a must. To hault light rail like they did was just another step backwards.

    Reply