After watching over the Virginia Beach Treasury for more than 30 years and not liking the course we were on, John Atkinson decided it was time to act.
Remembering the problems and outrageous cost overruns of the Norfolk starter line which finally opened a year late and 100 million dollars over budget, in 2015 he ran an ad in the Virginia Beach Beacon that raised concerns about extending light rail into Virginia Beach. From the overwhelming response he received by phone, E-mail and personal visits, he chose a course of action.
In 2015, he began “NO LIGHT RAIL IN VIRGINIA BEACH” as a Political Action Committee with the primary goal of putting a clear, well defined voter referendum question on the November 2016 ballot:
“Should City Council of Virginia Beach spend local funds to extend Light Rail from Norfolk to Town Center in Virginia Beach.“
Almost immediately light rail supporters were outraged over the very idea of another ballot measure that sought to overturn the 2012 ballot. Light Rail supporters again organized to thwart the petition drive to gather the required signatures in order to place a new question on the 2016 ballot, actually showing up at the polling locations to discourage people from signing the petition for another vote.
An appeal to Virginia Beach City Council to have our referendum question added to the November ballot bore no fruit, we continued working to insure our success.
After hundreds of people that braved the elements and were confronted by our opponents in their efforts to gather enough signatures, our volunteers succeeded. The last hurtle of having a Judge in a court of law ruling that yes, enough signatures were gathered, so the measure was placed on the November 2016 ballot.
Who is supporting light rail
We support transparency in government as well as in elections. Candidates, Political Action Committees as well as Single-Issue Referendum Committees are all subject to many of the same requirements and the voters on whose shoulders these issues are decide have the right to know.
Won't light rail reduce traffic?
Even Aubrey Layne, Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Virginia is on-record as stating that The Tide won’t ease traffic congestion.
Light Rail also won’t help at many of our critical traffic choke-points today and any help it might offer is many years in the future.
But the State is giving us the money, right?
The Norfolk section of the Tide Light Rail was $106 million dollars over budget and completed a year behind schedule.
A cost overrun of any kind could add millions in additional burden to taxpayers.
Won't Light Rail help people get around faster?
Riders are also constricted by Hampton Roads Transit schedules. People who get off of work late at night or have to be to their jobs early in the morning wouldn’t fit into HRT’s schedule. For the restaurant or bar patrons that are headed home after midnight, the last train leaves at 12:45 AM, while many restaurants and bars close well-after that.
Isn't Light Rail going to increase development?
Even if Light Rail does spur economic development along the line, by creating more urbanization and density, you also create more traffic and more demands on public services like police, fire, EMS and schools. There is no written guarantee that Light Rail or the increased development could support higher population density or boost tax revenue.
I've heard Light Rail will help people who can't afford a car
Just as it is contended that Light Rail would spur economic growth and development, that might also make the land nearby more valuable. This would lead to increased tax assessments and more paid to the city in real estate taxes, but those costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher rents and higher taxes on their homes. This has been shown to push out people of more modest means, actually driving them farther away from public transportation resources and replacing them with residents that can afford the higher rents and fees.
If I never ride Light Rail, it won't cost me anything, right?
The Hampton Roads Tide has been reported to be the second-highest taxpayer-subsidized Light Rail system in America. Taxpayers pick up over $5.50 of the real cost for each and every passenger that uses Light Rail. Virginia Beach taxpayers have already been paying higher property taxes due to Light Rail and we don’t even have one foot of track to show for it. Already, Light Rail has cost our city over $16 million dollars that will never be used to fund a teachers pay, fill a pothole, built a road anyone can use at any time or repair a burned-out traffic light.