Transit stakeholders, officials, and advocates for a regional transit network in Hampton Roads met in Richmond on February 3, 2022, for the first Hampton Roads Transit Advocacy Day at the General Assembly. The Advocacy Day event was one of the first initiatives of the Regional Transit Advisory Panel (RTAP).
The RTAP, composed of representatives of major business and industry groups, employers, shopping destinations, institutions of higher education, military installations, hospitals and health care centers, community stakeholders, and public transit entities in the Hampton Roads region, is tasked with supplying ongoing advice to the regional planning process for a multimodal regional public transit network in Hampton Roads. The Hampton Roads Transit Advocacy Day is one of the Key Recommendations identified by RTAP to move the 757 toward an effective, well-resourced and reliable regional transit system.
Established by the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO), as directed by General Assembly legislation in 2020, the RTAP helps direct the development of an accessible and reliable regional transit network in the Hampton Roads region. The 2020 legislation also created the Hampton Roads Regional Transit Fund, the first dedicated source of transit funding for the Hampton Roads region.
The day started with a morning meeting with the Hampton Roads Caucus, the region’s General Assembly members. The discussion began with the importance of a regional transit system for economic growth and development in the Region. Bryan Stephens, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber, kicked off the discussion and conveyed the business community’s support and belief in a transit network.
“A robust and efficient multimodal transportation system is imperative to our business community and the quality of life of our citizens,” said Stephens. “Proactive planning and sufficient, sustainable funding is required to ensure it’s a reality.”
Norfolk Councilmember and Chair of the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads, Hampton Roads Transit’s governing body, Andria McClellan pointed out how important a dedicated funding source for the 757’s transit network is to the State and the entire nation.
“It is imperative that we have a dedicated source of regional transit funding so that Hampton Roads can thrive and support the entire commonwealth and the nation,” said McClellan.
“Ensuring a reliable, frequent public transit service is critical to the economy and safety of Hampton Roads and the entire commonwealth. Hampton Roads Transit serves a population of 1.4 million, including some of the state’s largest employers, including Newport News Shipbuilding, the Port of Virginia, and the largest concentration of military and federal facilities in the country, said McClellan.
After the Caucus meeting, the RTAP members met with legislators to discuss the RTAP’s recommendations and the overall importance of dedicated funding for a regional transit network in Hampton Roads.
Following these individual meetings, the RTAP members walked to the Capitol for some photos to memorialize this first Hampton Roads Transit Advocacy Day. The day concluded with the RTAP and other community stakeholders being introduced on the floors of both the House and Senate.
Community partner, Gil Bland, President & CEO of The Urban League of Hampton Roads, said his organization supports making the new regional transit system a reality.
"The Urban League of Hampton Roads and its volunteer affiliates support the expansion of equitable, affordable, and accessible transit for all people throughout Hampton Roads, especially those in marginalized and under-resourced communities. We look forward to working with RTAP and our legislators to making fast, accessible transit a reality for all of our residents,” said Bland.
Sarah Jane Kirkland, RTAP member and President & CEO of the CIVIC Leadership Institute summed up the importance of the day’s activities and efforts.
“For our region and ultimately our great Commonwealth to remain competitive, a comprehensive transportation system is needed, and sustainable funding is critical. Access to public transportation provides the citizens of our region with increased employment opportunities, creating a positive impact on talent retention and talent attraction, and provides a better quality of life for all residents of Hampton Roads.”