HRT routes changing

Published 10:43 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Officials from Hampton Roads Transit briefed Suffolk City Council on changes to the routes that the authority will be making soon.

During a work session Wednesday, Ray Amoruso, senior vice president of planning and public affairs for the authority, said the changes were being made to eliminate safety concerns and improve reliability and efficiency. HRT took over the city’s bus service on Feb. 1.

Route 71, for example, currently serves the shopping centers that house Big Lots, Wal-Mart and Farm Fresh on North Main Street. The bus currently turns into the shopping center and goes past the front doors of each of the stores, creating a safety hazard and causing the driver to fall behind schedule, Amoruso said.

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Instead, HRT is proposing to change the routes so that the bus stop is located on the main line – in this case, Main Street. At the Farm Fresh shopping center, the bus would turn into the parking lot but only go part way, traveling along the service road that runs between the Burger King and the parking lot.

The same goes for Routes 72, 73 and 74. On Route 72, the Suffolk West Plaza and Holland Plaza shopping center also would lose building-door pickup, with shoppers having to walk to the street to ride the bus. Also on Route 72, the Lakeside and Riverview neighborhoods would be eliminated from the route, with the bus traveling by on a main road instead of snaking through the neighborhood. Very few residents of those neighborhoods use the bus service, Amoruso said.

On Route 73, the same idea would implemented at the Fresh Pride and Food Lion shopping centers on Constance Road and Portsmouth Boulevard. A Wilson Pines Apartments run-through would be eliminated, with the bus stopping on Washington Street across from the development.

On Route 74, Nansemond Square and Betty Davis apartment residents will have to walk to the main road to catch the bus. A Hollywood Avenue route would be altered so that the bus runs by the Cypress Park pool in the neighborhood, adding extra service to the pool and eliminating the bus having to back up down Hollywood Avenue.

Vice Mayor Curtis Milteer expressed concern about elderly and disabled residents of the apartment complexes having to walk to the bus stop, but Amoruso reminded council members of the HandiRide service that is available for people who are not able to make it to the bus stop.

Councilman Charles Brown also noted that improved efficiency of the bus service will lead to increased use, saying that citizens have to be able to rely on the service to get them where they’re going on time.