Making New Connections and Strengthening Current Ones: HRT Supports Transit Advocacy Day 

By : Royall Brown

On Monday, January 22, Hampton Roads Transit participated in the Virginia Transit Association’s annual Transit Advocacy Day. HRT representatives met with Virginia legislators to advocate for continued support of public transportation.  

HRT Representatives meet with legislators on Transit Advocacy Day, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Richmond, VA.

What is Transit Advocacy Day? 

Each year, representatives from transit agencies from across the Commonwealth travel to Richmond to connect with legislators and others in the industry. Hosted by the Virginia Transit Association (VTA), this day allows transit advocates and representatives the opportunity to talk one-on-one with elected officials in their service area, advocating and educating them on how public transportation positively impacts the people they serve. 

What Happens at Transit Advocacy Day? 

Here’s what happened at this year’s Transit Advocacy Day: 

  • Legislator Meetings: HRT staff met with representatives from across Hampton Roads, including Del. Phil Hernandez (Norfolk), Sen. Aaron Rouse (Virginia Beach), Del. Cliff Hayes (Chesapeake/Portsmouth), Del. A.C. Cordoza (Hampton), and many others. The goal of these brief meetings was to educate legislators on how transit impacts their communities. Additionally, elected officials can learn about the importance of a regional transit system to connect commuters to major employment destinations. 
  • Legislative Session: One of the most exciting parts of Transit Advocacy Day includes attending the day’s legislative session. HRT’s representatives attended the day’s Senate session, receiving a special welcome from Lt. Governor Winsome Sears. 
  • Reception: The final event of Transit Advocacy Day was the reception at Main Street Station. This event allowed attendees to network with other transit agencies from across the Commonwealth and speak with additional elected officials who attended. 
HRT representatives attend the VTA’s annual Transit Advocacy Day in Richmond, VA.

What Priorities Took Focus at Transit Advocacy Day? 

While HRT did not have any bills circulating in the General Assembly, there were a couple of bills that, if passed, would have diverted funding away from transit and to unrelated projects. The main priority for HRT while in Richmond was to protect that funding by reminding legislators how important transit is to their communities. “I enjoyed meeting with the various state legislators from Hampton Roads and explaining the positive impact HRT services have on their constituents,” said Caleb Smith, Military Outreach Liaison with TRAFFIX, HRT’s commuter solutions program. 

How Does State-Level Funding Impact Hampton Roads Transit? 

Hampton Roads Transit is one of the few transit agencies that receives a significant portion of its funding from its member cities. Here are some ways that state-level funding positively impacts Hampton Roads Transit: 

  1. Service Improvements: With state funding, HRT can provide service improvements, including increased frequencies, improved span of service and expanded service area  
  2. Bridging funding gaps: HRT was one of many transit agencies to receive federal funds to make up for the decrease in ridership brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as that federal funding ends, the Commonwealth will play a pivotal role in bridging the gap while ridership returns to pre-pandemic levels.  

Ending on a Good Note 

The 2024 Transit Advocacy Day was an opportunity for HRT to share the story and vision of public transportation in our region.  More staff and Commissioners from HRT were present at the event than ever before, enabling the agency to further amplify and reinforce our message. Through this opportunity, HRT hopes to continue building support for public transportation for years to come.  

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