Residents support HRT

Published 10:43 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A handful of bus riders showed up to a public hearing on Tuesday to protest the city getting rid of Hampton Roads Transit as its public transportation service.

After five people spoke on the record, the meeting evolved into a discussion on why the city decided to eliminate the service and how Virginia Regional Transit, the company tasked with taking over Suffolk’s public transit system, will structure the service.

“For the city to take this particular action, I believe, is a disservice to its citizens and its neighbors in the region,” said Mark Geduldig-Yatrofsky, a Portsmouth resident who said he uses HRT occasionally. “Suffolk is moving in the wrong direction.”

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The meeting was held because Suffolk City Council voted to withdraw from membership in HRT during the budget process this spring. The move came only a few weeks after HRT announced the results of an efficiency study recommending elimination of two of Suffolk’s four routes.

“It was a response to the fact we were going down the road of looking at a significant fare increase,” Ray Amoruso, senior vice president for planning and public affairs for HRT, said of the efficiency study.

Amoruso and other HRT officials presided over the meeting. No members of Suffolk City Council attended.

Darrell Feasel and Dave Morgan, regional transit directors for Virginia Regional Transit, came to the meeting to listen to concerns and answer questions.

The new company will be operating the old HRT routes 71 and 74 as they currently are beginning Jan. 3. The company will perform studies to determine the best new route system to implement in the future.

HRT will continue to operate the MAX service to the Magnolia Park and Ride lot. There are no plans to discontinue that service, but HRT will be watching the ridership closely, Amoruso said.

Virginia Regional Transit also will contract with Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia to provide free service to disabled riders within ¾ mile of an established route.

Mary Sykes, who lives in Suffolk and uses HRT buses every day to get to her job in Chesapeake, said the loss of service will hurt her.

“I’m a constant rider of HRT,” she said. “I really need my transportation.”

Geduldig-Yatrofsky said the city is being a bad neighbor by discontinuing the service.

“We need to look at the big picture,” he said. “This time will not last forever.