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Transit Decision 2016: Funding for Virginia Beach

Part II: Funding for Virginia Beach

Funding for public transportation is making its way onto American voters’ ballots this Election Day, giving numerous cities across the country the opportunity to invest in the future of their transportation. A $200 Billion total opportunity, to be exact.

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Last week we took a look into the ballot initiatives facing the voters of southeast Michigan — where officials are hoping to implement a more unified approach to regional transportation that would link public transit among counties in the surrounding Detroit area.

In part two of our “Transit Decision 2016” series, we explore the decision facing Virginia Beach, VA, a city that’s hoping to expand its public transit into a system that residents and visitors can utilize for years to come.

Virginia Beach voters will soon be asked the question: Should City Council of Virginia Beach spend local funds to extend Light Rail from Norfolk to Town Center in Virginia Beach?

Virginia Beach officials hope to expand the current Tide Light Rail system in order to add three new at-grade stations at Witchduck, Kellam, and Constitution.

This initiative is only a part of the city’s larger vision for connectivity, convenience, and a thriving regional economy. The city’s Envision 2040 plan lays the groundwork for the city’s goals around overall quality of life in Virginia Beach come 2040 and how certain strategies and policies can help to achieve it. The vision goes into great detail about how the community will look and what residents will experience, including connectivity through the city’s public transit.

However, part of the city’s vision will not be possible without funding for its public transit.

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The total cost estimate of this public transit expansion has yet to be finalized — but the 3.2-mile extension is currently pegged at $310 million, plus $19.8 million for new vehicles. The Commonwealth of Virginia has agreed to chip in $155 million toward the project, however, voters have their concerns. Since the total cost of the project is still not finalized, taxpayers are worried that this could cost more than they are looking to pay.

Even so, Virginia Beach’s City Manager, Dave Hansen, is excited to have a decision on the referendum:

“Now everyone knows what to expect in November. We look forward to seeing the results.”

While increased taxes may be a concern for some, it’s hard to deny the benefit the new project would have for the community. With 65% of all workers in Hampton Roads working in an area outside of where they live, and the Tide carrying more than 4,900 riders per workday, it would expand transportation options and improve the daily lives of many.

Will the City of Virginia Beach have the chance to pursue its vision of a future public transit system? We’ll see on November 8th.

Interested in Virginia Beach’s story and want to hear more about how other cities are trying to move transit funding forward? Stay tuned for part three of our series…