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Citizens in every city deserve access to safe, reliable, and affordable transportation options. The bottom line is that it’s time to embrace a fresh, multi-modal vision for Hampton Roads – starting with better core bus service.

From healthcare to hospitality and tourism, from shipbuilding to retail, from higher education to military and federal facilities – sectors across Hampton Roads need and will benefit from access to better public transportation.

There’s currently 22 percent less spending on public transportation in Hampton Roads – a $19 per capita gap – compared to other mid-sized regions. Local governments are shouldering 45 percent of operating costs.

New transportation funding should be identified, and policy makers should prioritize funding for regionally-significant transit operations, maintaining a state of good repair, and supporting future system expansion as demand increases.

With total annual operating costs of $26.2 million, an initial 10-route Regional Backbone bus network would dramatically increase the number of jobs and people connected with reliable high-frequency service during peak commuting hours. A 13-route Regional Backbone system ($28.5 million annual operating cost) would increase, by 169 percent, the number of people in walking distance to 15-minute service (from 181,121 to 486,855) and provide a 127 percent increase in accessible employment opportunities (from 137,529 to 312,461).

Significant progress is being made on road, bridge, and tunnel improvements. The time has come to shift some attention – and increased funding – to implement a better HRT bus system.