2016 Virginia Beach Elections: Arguments in support of and against the light rail advisory referendum


Ed. note — The Independent News asked representatives of both Light Rail Now, Inc., and No Light Rail Virginia Beach to address this important advisory referendum on extending the Tide from Newtown Station to Town Center. This appeared in print on Friday, Oct. 28. The following responses appear in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

‘Should City Council of Virginia Beach spend local funds to extend Light Rail from Norfolk to Town Center in Virginia Beach?’

John Atkinson

of No Light Rail Virginia Beach argues “No”

nolightrailvirginiabeach.com ♦ (757) 927-1133 ♦ On Facebook, @Atkinson4VB 

Below are my reasons for voting NO LIGHT RAIL.

Population Density of Charlotte vs. Virginia Beach: Charlotte is an urban city with 792,862 people living in 297 contiguous scare miles. That’s 2,666 people per sq. mile, and unlimited land for future growth surrounding it. Virginia Beach is a cul-de-sac with 450,000 people living in 497 non-contiguous sq. miles, or 905 people per sq. mile. We are built out. Charlotte’s a major thriving financial center, its population density is 3 times Virginia Beach’s. Light Rail is a product of its growth, not the reason for it. Virginia Beach is a suburban city with low density and excellent roads. Why should we spend $243,000,000.00 on Light Rail?

Utilization: HRT estimates 1,100 daily commuters in 2034. That’s 3/10’s of 1% of our population, but because a small group of people will be dependent upon it to get to work, it will carry a higher budget priority than Public Safety, and Education. Aubrey Lane, Virginia Secretary of Transportation, said “the Tide won’t eliminate congestion and it won’t transport people. Why should we allow ourselves to become financially responsible for others bad decisions? 

 Subsidy: Norfolk pays HRT $9 million annually to keep the Tide running. Virginia Beach will do the same. Dividing $9 million by the 1,100 daily commuters equals an annual subsidy of $8,100 per commuter. Why would we want to attract citizens to our community that require an $8,100 taxpayer subsidy to get to work?

 Strategic Growth Redevelopment Area: Redevelopment of the Cleveland Street, and the I-264 corridor are the targets. They point to the Town Center Urban area as their model. Town Center Condominiums have lost over 40% of their original assessed value.  There is no demand for this type of housing. If attempted, it would disrupt 300 businesses, and probably disperse them from Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach has no where they can relocate to that offers the synergy they currently enjoy on Cleveland St. Why do we want to step back 40 years and destroy 300 businesses located in this city?

 Economic Growth: Dr. James Koch, ODU Economist, says that claims that Light Rail creates economic growth are gross exaggerations. Example: ADP moved 1,700 jobs, averaging $37,000 per year, from New Jersey to Norfolk. The clincher wasn’t Light Rail. It was empty office buildings, cheap labor, and $13,000 in incentives per job.  Virginia Beach doesn’t have large empty office buildings, nor a large pool of cheap labor, and I hope our economic development people are seeking jobs paying a lot more than $37,000 per year. Virginia Beach’s biggest recent economic development is Town Center. It was built without Light Rail. Why does it need it now?

 Cost: The latest cost is now down to $243,000,000.00. Council’s Tide Tax, $45.00 per $250,000 of assessed value, will pay the $9 million per year loss. Why build an expensive toy that only 1,100 citizens will use after 25 years?

 Summary: The Pros claim Light Rail is almost free, would transport 10’s of thousands, eliminate congestion, reduce pollution, redevelop, attract millennials, and create an urban life style.  The only claim they haven’t made is that it will grow hair. IT WONT DO ANY OF THE ABOVE.

Martha McClees

of Virginia Beach CONNEX, the educational arm of Light Rail Now, Inc., argues “Yes”

vbconnex.com ♦ (757) 499-7003 ♦ martha@virginiabeachvision.com ♦ On Twitter, @VBConnex; On Facebook, @VBCONNEX

The answer is a resounding Yes! Here’s why: 

1. Light Rail Will Add More Connections and More Affordable Travel Options: The referendum isn’t about 3.5 miles of track. It’s about connecting Virginia Beach and Norfolk. It’s about continuing to build the planned spine of our region’s 21st century multimodal transportation system, connecting Virginia Beach residents to the airport, ODU, the Naval Base, and beyond with more affordable transportation options. And, it’s about providing essential access to our military bases necessary for defense readiness and the military’s continued investment in our region.

2. Light Rail Will Reduce Traffic Congestion: More affordable transportation options mean fewer cars on the roads. With the light rail extension, Virginia Beach residents will see nearly 3 million trips each year diverted from our I64/I264 roadway corridors onto the light rail system. 

3. Light Rail Will Drive Economic Growth And Bring New Jobs: Light rail is projected to add over $1 billion in business development investment in the Town Center area and create 3,000 new jobs by 2020. 

4. Light Rail Will Reduced Pressure on Residential Real Estate Taxes: New business investment in the Town Center area is projected to increase property tax revenues by $50 million annually. This increase in city tax revenues can be used to increase teacher salaries, to build new schools or improve our stormwater system.

5. Light Rail Will Protect Virginia Beach’s Suburban and Rural Areas: Virginia Beach’s plan is to concentrate future population growth along strategic growth areas that will make up just 2 percent of Virginia Beach’s total land. Directing growth here will take pressure off of over-developing Virginia Beach’s existing suburban and rural areas. 

6. We Can Afford Light Rail Now: There are two costs involved with the light rail extension – capital cost and operating cost. Capital cost: The Commonwealth will pay $155 million of the $243 million capital cost. These are transportation dollars that can only be used for transportation projects. If we vote no, those dollars will go back to Richmond for reallocation elsewhere in the state.  

City Council has already set-aside 1.8-cent of the real estate tax revenues to support its share of all of light rail’s construction, operating and maintenance costs projected through the year 2045. This means the owner of a $300,000 home will pay a total of $54 per year to build and operate light rail.  

7. We Can’t Afford Not To Extend Light Rail: Our region’s economy is still strongly dependent on defense spending. Federal budget reductions have made it ever more apparent that we must diversify our business base. To do so, we must be able to compete with cities that are now investing in light rail to make their localities more appealing to the young people who will fill those new jobs. A former mayor and several national transportation experts attending a recent transit conference in Virginia Beach literally said, “We are building our light rail systems to steal Virginia Beach’s children and grand children.” Not so fast! 

For these reasons and many more, vote “yes” for light rail on November 8. Our future is riding on it. 

© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *