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The Virginia Beach city Council held the 2009 workshop on August 3rd and 4th. During those conversations, council members identified seven projects that would cost approximately $95 million. Council entertained a suggestion that an increase of two cents on the real estate tax rate would generate money to pay for the debt service on the $95 million bond.
That two cents would generate approximately $11 million which is not nearly enough to pay the debt service on a $95 million bond.
The principle question is: does the Virginia Beach need light rail? To answer that question many other issues must be resolved.
A basic issue concerns the projected population growth over the long-term. When will there be enough users of light rail, that is citizens, to justify the expenses of building and operating a light rail system in Virginia Beach?
For example, the population growth of Virginia Beach is practically on hold. To make matters worse, the city forecast of 2007 stated specifically that high income households were leaving Virginia Beach. Related to the population growth is the growth of employers necessitating an increase in employees. Where will the new employers come from?
In all probability, a carrier will be moved from Norfolk to Jacksonville, possibly with support ships. Questions include: How many military personnel will be moved with the ships and will there be a reduction of civilian jobs related to the ships? How many fewer cars will be on the road as a result of that reduction of Navy and civilian personnel?
How many jobs can be moved closer to where people live? The city of Seattle, Washington performed a study in the year 2002 to identify the length and time of citizens commute. Working in conjunction with local employers, together they developed a plan to relocate some workers closer to their homes to reduce commuting time and distance. Can the same be done in a Hampton Roads area?
What is the applicability telecommuting in the Hampton Roads area? Most military people in Hampton Roads area must go to their stations. But not every office worker must go to an office in downtown Norfolk. Specifically, the plans being developed for the Pembroke area in Virginia Beach could include offices so that people who live in the area can go to the office in the same area rather than have to get on a light rail to get to the same kind of office in Norfolk. Will the Pembroke area have offices available?
Will the analysis of the need for light rail include the available modeling and simulation techniques? Several theoretical models of population, employment and location relative to employees can certainly be developed to determine the demand for transportation.
0 What is the population growth?
0 Where will the employers come from?
0 How many Navy and civilian jobs will be moved?
0 How many cars will no longer be using local highways?
0 Can jobs be moved closer to where people live?
0 Will the Pembroke area redevelopment include offices?
0 What is the applicability of telecommuting to the Hampton Roads area ?
0 Will modeling/simulation techniques be used to evaluate various probabilities?
These are a few of the questions that must be addressed to even consider light rail for Virginia Beach. More to come.