Long story short: if you’ve been keeping up with The Tide, almost nothing new was presented (we got some goodies like a cup, some outdated brochures (granted, the schedule was just updated so HRT didn’t have time to print new ones, so I’m letting that slide) and basic swag).
The new things presented: Testing will “begin in a few months” (this is Federal Railroad Administration rules: these trains have to be tested and ran for ages and a day before revenue service is allowed to start).
Now, as for why The Tide will never use existing rail tracks in the area (I’m not referring to the right-of-way, but actual tracks): HRT purchased 9 Siemens S70 Light Rail Vehicles, which is what the FRA considers “non-compliant”. Meaning that they are not allowed to share tracks with “compliant” heavy rail trains like freight and Amtrak trains. Some light rail lines like NJ Transit’s River LINE and SDMTS’s San Diego Trolley get around this by having freight only operate at night and light rail trains during the day (here’s how it works on the River LINE)
The fun part: The Tide to 19th & Pacific is under study, Naval Exchange via ODU is up next, and Portsmouth wants Light Rail through the Midtown Tunnel. That is known. Also, the current rail line has always been billed as a Starter Line. It’s the start of something truly amazing.
Let me explain Starter Line: People talk about the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA, commonly “Metro” or “D.C. Metro”) and specifically refer to how the Metrorail (again, commonly just referred to as “Metro” or “D.C. Metro”) take you anywhere in the city. Here’s the thing, and this is a direct quote from Wikipedia: “The system opened March 27, 1976, with 4.6miles (7kilometers) available on the Red Line with five stations from Rhode Island Avenue to Farragut North, all in the District of Columbia.” (source). This is even shorter than the 7 miles that The Tide will be (and Metro started with just 5 stations compared to The Tide’s 11). You have to start somewhere, and this is exactly what Norfolk is doing: Starting.
With that in mind: the biggest complaint I heard was “why doesn’t it go to…” (funny, the Base and ODU were the biggest requests, knowing full well that’s going to be the next study)