NORFOLK, Va. – If you rely on public transportation to get where you need to go, getting around will soon be a lot faster.
Hampton Roads Transit announced Wednesday plans to create the 757 Express, a network of 13 regional, high-frequency bus routes that will offer 15-minute headway service reaching the six cities that the agency serves.
The routes will operate in a consistent manner, with the same span of service for each city. The expanded service will provide timely connections to major activity centers with a frequency not common in today’s local bus transit network, providing a true transit option for commuters.
“The 757 Express will meet the needs of transit commuters across our region,” said William Harrell, President and CEO of HRT. “Customers can expect 757 Express service to start and end at the same time, enjoy service that connects all cities, and with a frequency of service that offers commuters a transit option unique to the region.”
The 757 Express will be deployed in phases, starting with a select number of Peninsula routes, and then will expand to include service on the Southside.
The new service begins deploying in 2022 and will include the so-called “work trip” routes that HRT uses to carry workers to the Newport News shipyards. The plan calls for adding some additional trips to these Peninsula Commuter Routes to better match worker shift times.
The agency’s Metro Area Express, or MAX bus service, which offers regional connectivity via routes along local interstates, will be rebranded to match the 757 Express brand.
In addition to more frequent routes, the agency will implement other improvements throughout the transit network to improve the customer experience, including the eventual replacement of the Evelyn Butts and Robert Hall transfer centers and the installation of hundreds of new shelters.
Expanded service requires more buses, operators and mechanics, and HRT is now working on a recruiting plan to expand its staff and buy more buses. With more equipment, HRT will need a place to maintain and store them during off hours, so the agency also is working to develop a new bus operating division based in Virginia Beach that will operate out of a new facility to replace the cramped, outdated Parks Avenue garage near the Oceanfront.
“Few projects will be as important to the future of local transit as this one will be,” Harrell said. “We are marshalling every available internal resource to see that this project is delivered on time and on budget.”
The Regional service is part of a series of significant upgrades the agency will be undertaking to deliver more of what HRT says the public has been asking for over many years.
HRT soon will formally roll out Real Time bus data for smartphone users, which will allow customers to track where their bus is by using the stop number at their bus stop. After going to GoHRT.com, customers will then type in the bus stop number under the "My Stop" feature and the system will tell you when your bus is scheduled to arrive. This feature takes the guess work out of waiting for a bus, which is a common complaint customers have. All existing bus stop signs carry an identifying number.
In November, HRT will begin deploying Virginia’s first fleet of all-electric, zero-emission buses along Virginia Beach Boulevard's Route 20. The six buses are part of a national effort to learn if the latest technology that makes battery buses possible is appropriate for high-volume routes like Rt. 20, one of Virginia’s more heavily traveled routes.
The 757 Express is made possible by the passage this year of legislation in the Virginia General Assembly that created a funding mechanism outside of the agency’s traditional, municipality-based approach.
On Sept. 18, HRT hosted Gov. Ralph Northam, Senator Louise Lucas, District 18, Portsmouth, Del. Alex Askew, District 85, Virginia Beach, and other Commonwealth and regional leaders for a ceremonial bill signing event at HRT’s Norfolk campus.
For more information on transit services, visit GoHRT.com.