Limit growth of bus routes

Published 6:15 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It doesn’t take long for the average visitor to New York, Chicago or Washington, D.C., to come to the conclusion that public transportation in those cities is a true blessing. There is just about no part of any of those three cities that is not accessible via a short walk and a hop on the bus, train or subway.

As with so many other cases, Suffolk is not New York, it’s not Chicago and it’s not Washington, D.C. In fact, many of the people who live here in Suffolk have chosen this city over those others, and most of them have done so because they seek a different type of life here than they can find in the big city.

Contrary to what many people in the Big Apple might think, Suffolk has much to offer that New York does not — a slower pace, cheaper housing, a lower cost of living in general, friendlier people….

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Of course, there are some trade-offs, and poor public transportation options are among the biggest of those trade-offs. One cannot live in a place as large and rural as Suffolk and expect to be able to walk a couple of blocks to a bus stop or to have ready access by public transportation to every shopping area and amenity one might want to enjoy. Just as folks in New York City understand they’ve traded the quietude of the country for the convenience of city living, most folks who live in a place like Suffolk understand they can’t expect all the conveniences of the big city and all the joys of a mostly rural community at the same time.

This lesson is one that has application in regards to the city’s desire for a wide-ranging system of public transit. In a pilot program, Suffolk instituted two new bus routes in the northern part of the city six months ago, hoping to give residents without easy transportation options a way to get back and forth from the downtown area to the shopping areas in North Suffolk and at Chesapeake Square.

Ridership figures for both routes are questionable. At its peak, the Chesapeake Square route — which also serves as a transfer point from the Virginia Regional Transit system in Suffolk to the Hampton Roads Transit system — garnered fewer than 20 riders a day. The other route caters to about seven riders a day at this point.

Both routes deserve to be trimmed, if not cut out entirely. There is no good reason, for example, to run a bus route 12 times a day if only seven riders take advantage of it. The easy availability might be convenient to the riders, but it’s an unnecessary drain on taxpayers.

Suffolk’s public transportation system should provide basic loops around the core parts of the city, serving the areas with its densest populations. That’s all the city really needs, and that’s all it really can afford. Suffolk has no more need to be Chicago than Chicago needs to be Suffolk.