Why Light Rail?

​​​​Look at the big picture — for Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads.

​This is a smart move for financial reasons

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Now Hiring callout bubbleOur regional economy is heavily dependent on the Department of Defense and must find a way to diversify. 

What does this have to do with light rail? Well, time and again, light rail has proven to be powerful in its capacity to guide future development. The permanence and capacity of a light rail corridor attracts companies and new development. By connecting urban centers like downtown Norfolk and Virginia Beach Town Center to other key destinat​​ions such as Navy installations, the airport, universities and the resort we make the line a more attractive and useful way to navigate the city and the region and a backbone for concentrated growth. 

Reducing the tax burden on citizens

In almost every city where light rail is built or expanded, the quality and permanence of light rail leads to much more redevelopment near the light rail stations. New offices, shops, restaurants, apartments and condos spring up along the line, raising property values of surrounding commercial and residential developments. These new businesses not only create jobs for residents, but increase tax revenues that support city services for everyone — schools, public safety, parks and libraries.

Growing our economy and adding businesses helps shift some of the tax burden from homeowners and spreads it among businesses as well. Today, homeowners pay 83.2 percent of real estate taxes. Extending light rail to Town Center would generate millions of dollars in new city taxes — real estate, business and others — over the next 30 years. 

In other cities, development along light rail lines has actually generated more money in taxes than it cost to build the line in the first place. 

Attracting young, educated professionals

Every city wants to attract young, educated professionals. Why? Because they are the new backbone of the economy. For the first time ever, in 2015, millennials are the largest generation in the workplace. Having a talented young workforce lets cities attract big businesses and the jobs that come with them. 

But there is stiff competition to attract this young pool of workers. Virginia Beach schools graduate some of the best and brightest students in the country who then go on to some of the nation's top universities. We want them to return to Virginia Beach, rather than move to cities like Austin, Denver and Seattle.

What do young, educated millennials look for in a city? Jobs that pay well, entertainment… and good public transportation. Research from U.S. PIRG and the American Public Transportation Association shows that millennials drive less and take transit more than other generations. A recent study in Hampton Roads came to the same conclusion.

Research from the Rockefeller Foundation and Transpiration for America also found that millennials also prefer to live in cities with more transit options — including driving, biking, walking, buses and light rail.

Growing tourism-based revenue

Transit map of Eastern VirginiaTourism contributes $1.4 billion dollars to our city’s economy, supports 12,500 jobs and generates $115 million in state and local tax revenue. This keeps Virginia Beach citizens’ taxes and fees lower than any other city in the region.  

plan is currently in development to run high-speed rail, like that found throughout Europe and Japan, down the congested U.S. eastern corridor. There is also potential for a higher-speed transit spur of that line to run through Richmond and terminate at Harbor Park. Imagine the potential lost revenue if people getting off the train at Harbor Park have no easy way to travel to Virginia Beach.

Smart growth means expanding up, not out

Town CenterVirginia Beach is expected to grow by more than 61,000 residents over the next 25 years. In anticipation of this growth, the city has designated eight areas where high-density, mixed-used developments can be built. Six of these Strategic Growth Areas are along the proposed light rail line.

This smart growth preserves existing suburban neighborhoods and is an efficient use of land, resources and tax dollars. By building greater density in areas that are already developed, we save money by using existing utility lines and other infrastructure, preserve open spaces, and minimize impacts on existing neighborhoods. 

The Earth will thank us

Impervious surfaces like roads and parking lots that don’t allow water to be absorbed into the ground are a major contributor to stormwater runoff, water pollution and flooding.

With a capacity greater than 16 lanes of free-flowing traffic, a light rail network will give citizens and visitors options for getting around without a car. That helps reduce the need for roadway expansions, prevent the additional stormwater runoff they'd create and keeps down vehicle emissions. 

When traffic is bad, it’s nice to have an alternative

In 2011, people in Virginia Beach spent more than 40 hours — nearly two days —sitting in traffic. No, light rail won’t reduce congestion, but it will help keep it from getting worse. And, when traffic is heavy, it offers commuters an alternative to sitting in gridlock. 

Backups hinder Navy operations

Navy pilot and familyMilitary personnel and their families number about 300,000 in Hampton Roads or about 20 percent of the region's 1.6 million population. According to findings by the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO)​, regional traffic congestion is also hampering the military's effectiveness and mobility.

A 2011 report​ indicates that about 125,000 Navy personnel travel on the area's roads daily. Military officials told the HRTPO that congestion hurts their ability to maintain military personnel and attract additional workers — affecting both daily commutes and travel between installations during business hours.

The HRTPO surveyed nearly 11,000 military personnel in 2012 about challenges they face on their daily commutes and found that their average travel time to work (37.9 minutes) is 50 percent longer than the nationwide average of 25.3 minutes and 60 percent longer than the average morning commute for the region (23.7 minutes).

However, 40 percent of respondents said that enhanced transit services with options on their military base would encourage them to consider an alternative mode of transportation. And, 60 percent said that they would be most interested in using rail transportation.​