New poll suggests Va. Beach residents support expanding light rail


by Mike Gooding, 13News

Posted on October 17, 2012 at 4:50 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 18 at 5:33 AM

Is light rail too expensive?

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Would light rail expansion relieve congestion?

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If the light rail referendum were held today how would you vote?

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Is light rail a smart move for the future?

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VIRGINIA BEACH-- Virginia Beach residents appear ready to Ride the Tide. 

A new poll indicates Virginia Beach residents would support extending light rail to the Beach.

The poll was conducted Oct. 2 through 8 by 13News, Christopher Newport University and The Virginian-Pilot.

The results are based on 766 telephone interviews in the Second District with people who said they were registered and “very likely” to vote.

For this question, results are based only on answers from 471 Virginia Beach residents who were polled.

Residents were asked, "If the light rail referendum were held today, how would you vote?"

Of the 471 respondents, 68 percent said yes, 29 percent said no, with 8 percent undecided.

The 7.4 mile starter line in Norfolk called the Tide recently surpassed its one-year anniversary.

Hampton Roads Transit said more than 1.6 million passenger trips have been taken aboard the passenger train since it began.

HRT projects than number will pass the 2 million mark in November.

This summer, regular Tide rider Alexis Rawls of Norfolk told 13News she hopes the Tide is expanded beyond its current end point at Newtown Road.

“It needs to be expanded because it’ll make it easier for people to go to work, people like me, to go back and forth to the beach,” she said.

Jimmy Kellam with the political action committee/advocacy group Light Rail Now told 13News, “It’s green, it’s reliable and it’s cost effective. It’s not cheap but it’s cost effective in the long run.”

The cost to expand the Tide to the Oceanfront is estimated to be $807 million, which has some people concerned.

Bill Bailey with the Virginia Beach Professional Firefighters Association told 13News, “Where is that money coming from and how is it going to be raised? They keep saying it’s going to be federal spending, it’ll be state money. But the reality is the state and the feds are not really in a position to provide that funding.”

Virginia Beach resident Waverly Woods said, “We’re adamantly against it because it’s just flat-out not affordable.”

Former Virginia Beach City Councilman Robert Dean said he’s concerned about the pro-light rail PAC.

“You have to be very skeptical and cautious of this particular PAC because it’s going to be very secretive on why it’s being formed and it’s going to shove false information down the throats of the unsuspecting taxpayers and voters in Virginia Beach,” Dean said.

Despite such objections, the poll indicates people seem comfortable with light rail.

The poll asked if light rail will relieve congestion. Sixty percent said yes, 33 percent said no. Seven percent said they don’t know.

Respondents were then asked, "Is light rail a smart move for the future?"

Most support the move, with 66 percent saying yes, 25 percent saying no and nine percent saying they didn't’t know.

The one area of the poll where respondent expressed concern involved the cost. When asked, "Is light rail is too expensive," 44 percent said yes, 36 percent said no and 20 percent said they don’t know.

The poll indicates strong support for continuing to study expanding light rail.

Pollster Quentin Kidd of CNU noted that much has changed since 1999, when Virginia Beach residents last voted on light rail, and they rejected it, 56 to 44 percent.

“Ten years ago it was a theoretical question and today it’s a practical question, “ Kidd said.

“They can see light rail in Norfolk, they see what it does, they can see what it can do for them. I also think ten years ago, traffic wasn’t as bad as it is today. And so we've got ten more years of congestion, ten years of more traffic problems, ten years of nothing happening when it comes to resolving the issue and so Virginia Beach voters, like voters in Norfolk, see light rail as some progressive solution to a problem that doesn’t seem to be getting solved in any other way.”

The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent.