October 2, 2012

Survey: Va. light rail keeps cars off the road

The Tide light rail is attracting a higher percentage of choice riders than local bus service, with 44% of those surveyed saying they would drive if not for The Tide, according to a customer survey presented to Hampton Roads Transit’s (HRT) governing board.

The survey results underscore light rail transit’s ability to attract customers who have choices in how they commute to work. In Hampton Roads, over 80% of commuters go to work driving alone, a leading factor in regional congestion.

Offering the public mobility options — either through bus, rail, ferry or carpooling — is a primary goal of the transit agency.

“In just over a year, light rail has demonstrated its importance to the commuting public,” said William Harrell, HRT’s president/CEO. “This critical investment in our transportation network will pay dividends for years to come.”

The survey also found that 45% of survey respondents on The Tide are under 30 years old, compared to 34% on the bus system. The higher percentage is partly explained by the GoPass365, a program that encourages the use of mass transit under group rates paid by local universities, colleges or private employers.

Among other key findings:

  • Weekday riders using the using The Tide are primarily going to work or home
  • Saturday riders are more likely to be going shopping or riding recreationally. They also are more likely to be first-time riders
  • Over 30% of all riders board at Newtown Road; and of those riders, 61% live in Virginia Beach
  • Nearly 60% of riders said the most needed improvement to The Tide was to extend it into Virginia Beach

The Tide Origin and Destination Survey offers important insights into the reasons people use light rail, their demographic profile and overall satisfaction. The survey was completed to satisfy the Federal Transit Administration’s requirements for collecting baseline ridership for The Tide.

HRT completed a companion survey of local bus service in the summer of 2011 before the The Tide opened for service. Follow up surveys are required starting in 2013 to assess changes in ridership. HRT also uses these surveys to comply with FTA’s system analysis requirements under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act on Environmental Justice, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

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