Selecting an established commercial hub is a prime Light Rail station stop



The idea of diverting the LR route from the rail Right of Way to the service access roads at Hilltop came from a resident participant at the Strategic Growth Area public forum. That was only last month. The consultant has already offered alternate routes, how responsive is that? Bravo!

The best thing about the extension of light rail to the Virginia Beach resort area is the development patterns that will be anchored at the selected station stops. To quote an article regarding the settlement pattern improvements resulting from the introduction of the new Metro Light Rail in Phoenix: “…they (station stops) draw development around them and with it people, density, culture and business vibrancy …a place where local color develops and evolves at a greater speed and depth than sleeper communities.”

It seems to me that the benefits of improving neighborhood places (insert Hilltop) to become more “centralized, sustainable, and walkable” is accelerated by choosing it as a light rail station stop. If there is a flaw with the vision of The Tide in Norfolk it is that the choice of station stops outside of the CBD. They are “sleepers”. The neighborhood development opportunities at Newtown Road, for example, are enormous and there is nothing there yet.

I continue to be frustrated with the banter that gets published in the newspaper that reduces the discussion of the extension of light rail to Virginia Beach as a matter of public investment accounting. Pubic policy makers (federal, state and local) are currently accustomed to making decisions to subsidize highways almost exclusively. Those expenditure decisions benefit oil companies, automobile makers, and tunnel contractors, as we are painfully aware. What about us? the citizens of Hampton Roads. What do we want?

I am grateful that we will get our day in the voting booth to voice our choice for an alternative to the proliferation of everything associated with dependence on the private automobile as our only means of transportation. I believe that the citizen’s perspective of the best alternatives for transportation investment in the future is more far-sighted than the transportation establishment. The current policy makers view has resulted in funding a 2.1 billion dollar midtown tunnel project. A better choice would have been to extend a light rail tube into Portsmouth.

Budgeting our precious public funds to extend highways and enlarge tunnels results in more roadways that inevitably become clogged with ever greater numbers of automobiles (contributing to air pollution, traffic congestion, accidents and lost time commuting). These expenditures consume vast amounts of vacant land for more and wider roads, thereby creating the need for further expenditures of tax monies to handle storm water runoff, landscape maintenance and noise separation barriers.

The choice for highway investment promotes wasteful low-density residential developments of architectural monotony, encouraging “look alike” subdivisions of single-family units separated by individual driveways with cars parked in front yards.

The choice for highway investment promotes an automobile oriented shopping centers surrounded by acres and acres of pavement that require a car to reach. It is reported that the capital cost to the local government of a parking space at a shopping center is currently $8,000. What is the public value of that expense?

Light rail is the logical alternative to exclusive investment in providing for the private automobile. It is almost like a prophesy for the future of Hampton Roads that the citizens should be the voice of vision that gives it life.

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  • GREGORY M. FRECH

    Urban Underbelly is a blog that seeks to share the back stories of successes and struggles in achieving the visions of New Urbanism, especially in Hampton Roads, Virginia

    New Urbanism: is a city planning and architecture movement directed at the creation and restoration of vibrant neighborhood places: centralized, sustainable, walkable and socially diverse.
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