The MAX Service Changes

HRT has plans to tweak The MAX. I don’t agree with some of them.

Route 960

Currently, Route 960 operates seasonally, providing all day service from May through September and peak-hour only service from October through April.

The biggest problem with the 960 is its lack of stops. Yes, this is express service, but the problem is the same facing the reversible HOV lanes on Interstate 64 in Norfolk. There is hardly anywhere to get on or get off. For the HOV lanes, you have The Interchange (Interstate 64 / Interstate 264) as well The 564 Split (Interstate 64 / Interstate 564). The 960 faces similar problems in that you can only board and de-board at very limited locations. I would like to propose the following, as part of the startup of Tide Light Rail.

My proposal would be to have the 960 run from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront at 19th Street & Pacific Avenue (U.S. Highway 60) at the existing shelters and continue on to the Newtown Light Rail Station. From there, it would continue up Interstate 64, exiting off at Noreview Ave (VA Route 247) Eastbound and serve Norfolk International Airport.

In addition, there would be Freeway Stations where the bus would exit the interstate, provide a bus stop at the bottom of the ramp, and then immediately return to the interstate. This is an image of the Star Lake Freeway Station in King County, Washington. Not all Interstate 264 interchanges have room for the park & ride lot. The thing that can be provided is a bus stop on the ramp.

The 960 could – as one example – exit 264 at First Colonial Road. When the bus gets to the intersection, there would be a bus stop sign (there is no room for a park & ride lot) either before or after the intersection. This bus stop is within easy walking distance for the two shelters serving the 20 and 29.

In this example, someone lives off of First Colonial Road and works in the Virginia Beach Town Center. The 29 would bring them to the bus shelter in front of Target, where they would get off and walk over to the interstate ramp. Once they get to the ramp, there would be a bus stop or bus shelter where they would wait for the 960 to arrive. The bus does not have to turn onto First Colonial Road in this example (in the image: Sound Transit Route 574 can serve the Star Lake area using the bus stop on the ramp, yet does not have to turn onto South 272nd Street to get to a bus stop), and can proceed right back onto Interstate 264. This style of bus stop works with no modification to the interchange required.

On cloverleaf interchanges, minor modifications would be needed to build a small access road that would allow the bus to go straight across. Since the Route 960 corridor is along the Norfolk-Southern Right of Way and is being eyed as the Virginia Beach extension of Tide Light Rail, this is not a wise investment for the 960 corridor. Freeway Stations are possible at the following interchanges with little to no modification of the road:

Interchange Freeway Station Possible
Witchduck Road Yes
Independence Blvd Not Needed, See Below
Rosemont Rd Yes
Lynnhaven Pkwy Yes
Laskin Rd No
First Colonial Rd Yes
Birdneck Rd No

Another improvement to the 960 would be to add service to the Virginia Beach Town Center. Heading in either direction, the bus would exit 264 at Independence Blvd (VA Route 225) and head Northbound towards Virginia Beach Blvd (U.S. Route 58). Buses would make a clockwise loop as follows: RIGHT Virginia Beach Blvd, RIGHT Constitution Dr, RIGHT Columbus St, LEFT Independence Blvd. Route 960 would serve all existing Route 36 stops. The reason for the Clockwise loop is so that passengers do not have to cross a major street in order to get to the bus. This would be the travel direction for the 960 in both directions.

Question: Who owns the parking garages attached to Dick’s and across the street? Using the bridge to cross Columbus Street, a bus stop could be placed on street level and patrons could use Dick’s garage as a park & ride lot until the Tide station is built at the former Circuit City property. I am well aware that the City of Virginia Beach wishes the Town Center garages not become Park & Ride lots, and feel that this would only be temporary until the Circuit City property is used.

Route 960 would then come back to Interstate 264 where it would serve the Witchduck Freeway Station, then make the jog over to the Newtown Light Rail Station. The bus would then head back to Interstate 264, then jump onto Westbound Interstate 64 where it would go non-stop to Noreview Ave. The bus would exit eastbound towards the airport and bus stops would be placed at Noreview Ave & Military Hwy. If a passenger so wished, they may transfer to/from the 15 here, but this would not be timed and they would have to cross the intersection (City of Norfolk, could we get crosswalks and pedestrian signals if this change was made?). The 960 would then proceed along Noreview Ave and enter Norfolk International Airport (there could be a stop at Noreview Ave & Azalea Garden Rd to provide transit service where none currently exists).

How many buses do we need for this to work? For service every 60 minutes, two (2) buses would work and the operator would have recovery time at the end of the run. Four (4) buses allow service every 30 minutes and also allow operator recovery time.

Route 962

Route 962 provides bus service during peak weekday hours linking Routes 71, 72, 73, and 74 with the rest of Hampton Roads by way of Chesapeake Square (Route 44), Victory Crossing (Routes 41, 44, 44C*, 45, and 50), and County & Court in Downtown Portsmouth (Routes 41, 45, 47, and 90).

I had a chance to ride the buses in Suffolk not too long after the transition from being operated by the City to being operated by HRT, and I overheard passengers saying they wish they could get to Chesapeake Square or Victory Crossing to do their shopping. With the 962 being extended to the Bus Plaza (a request of myself and others from the initial MAX launch), such a direct connection does now exist.

The problem is the lack of midday service. It does not take all day to do shopping and these passengers would need a ride in one direction (if not both) due to the lack of midday service on this route. The 962 has great potential as a backbone connecting western Hampton Roads if executed properly.

* 44C Riders: Your route will become Route 43 PARKVIEW at the end of May, 2011, providing a routing similar to Route 300 A: County & Court to High & Florida along the old 300 A routing, then continuing to Wal-Mart using existing Route 44C.  There will be no service between Wal-Mart and Victory Crossing (bad idea, HRT!!)

Route 963

Route 963 has two morning and two evening trips. I am unable to try this route for myself as it serves a Military installation. I do recommend this route be eliminated, and existing riders could be transitioned to existing services:

  • Option 1: Existing Bus Service
    • Route 961 connects the Hampton Transportation Center to Wards Corner Transfer Center
    • From there, existing passengers could catch Route 15 to the Naval Base
    • Needing Bellinger Blvd service? Transfer to Route 3 at the Naval Exchange
  • Option 2: Traffix Vanpool
    • Depending on the passenger count, current 963 passengers may be interested in forming a Vanpool through Traffix

Route 967

Route 967 was designed to collect Shipyard workers on the Southside and deliver them to the Newport News Shipyard and bring them home in the evenings. The 967 is highly dependent on the changing shifts of the Shipyard, and it is my opinion that HRT failed to keep up with these changes.

Nevertheless, I’ve used Route 967 on several occasions to bring me home from the Peninsula and find that – if the right tweaks are made – it can work.

First: I use Route 12 (Indian River Rd) from my home near TCC to get to/from Route 967. Originally, I requested Route 12 enter the Indian River Park & Ride, as part of Route 967 launch. Now that I’ve seen the traffic problems caused by the traffic signal at Indian River & Reon, I’m glad HRT did not follow through with that request.

The other biggest problem – and I’ve personally witnessed this every time I was on an afternoon 967 run – is the 15 is usually leaving Greenbrier Mall right as the 967 is pulling in, and every time, someone wanted that 15.

If something can be done about making transfers easier, then the 967 could gain ridership. Work with the City of Virginia Beach to do something about the traffic light at Indian River & Reon so that the 12 isn’t constantly late when coming into the Par & Ride lot. I believe the City of Norfolk has a similar system at Granby St (U. S. 460) and Taussig Blvd to make it easier for buses to exit Wards Corner.

Route 967 UPDATE

I’ve since found out that Route 967’s morning runs are scheduled to be terminated at 7:14 AM.  HRT, do not do this! At least one bus to wait for that inbound 12, which is leaving Kemps River at 7:15 AM.


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