Gas too expensive? Try Mass Transit.

May 24, 2008 by

hampton_roads_tranistWith gasoline being so expensive I thought that I would look into the feasibility of using mass transit. Since I have recently retired I thought it would be nice if I could get around town without having to drive myself. The only mass transit we have in our area (Hampton Roads, Virginia) is Hampton Roads Transit. HRT consists mainly of buses. There is a ferry service across the Elizabeth river from Portsmouth to Norfolk and HRT is building a light rail route which has yet to be completed. So buses are the main means of conveyance in the Hampton Roads area. There is a nifty tool on the HRT web site that utilizes Google Maps to calculate the bus routes for travel to any destination. So I put my home address in the box and chose Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach as my destination. The route calculated by Google Maps showed that I would have to take three different buses, transferring from one to the other. A cost analysis told me that it would cost me $3.00 vs $14.50 for driving. Quite a savings in gas I thought.

But when I looked at the duration of the trip I was astounded to see that it would take me 3 hours and 51 minutes  to reach my destination, one way. Whoa nelly! To go 28 miles one way would take me almost 4 hours! That is a total of 8 hours just to go to Atlantic Ave and then immediately turn around and go back. If I planned on staying around for a couple of hours I could count on getting back home after dark, if at all. Apparently the buses stop a couple dozen times along the route to pickup and drop off passengers. If I drove instead of took the bus it would cost me $11.50 more but would only take about 44 minutes according to Google Maps. So basically mass transit around here is a wash unless you have all day to get there or are only going a short distance. In other words HRT is completely useless to me. I find it amazing that a large metropolitan area such as Hampton Roads has such a woefully inadequate regional transit system. Hopefully the impetus of rising gasoline prices will spur renewed interest in regional transit.

With the price of gasoline climbing steadily and no other viable option for travel other than driving yourself or taking a cab, I have a great idea. The State of Virginia and the cities of Hampton Roads should convert at least one lane of every major highway in the area into a bike lane. I know I could pedal 28 miles in less than two hours and save myself $14.50. That could pay for a couple of tubes of Bengay with money to spare. It would also be great exercise and greatly reduce pollution. It would be a great way to get around the area during favorable weather. So unless regional transit vastly improves in this area or the price of gasoline drops dramatically I will be dusting off my bike and petitioning my local senators and congressmen to increase the bike lanes in Hampton Roads dramatically.

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