Four Years Later: Norfolk light rail ridership declines

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Norfolk, Va. - August 19th marks four years since the Norfolk Tide light rail started rolling through Norfolk.

People lined up in 2011 to be the first to hop on and take the 7.4-mile ride.

Since then, there has been a ton of talk about expanding the service into other parts of the region.

Mostly, it’s just been talk and debate; but back in May, Virginia Beach City Council took a big step forward to bring light rail into the resort city.

The City Council approved spending $20 million on more design plans for the light rail and picked Virginia Beach Town Center as its destination.

A final vote is still needed, but that won’t happen until next year.

The Tide currently runs from the Eastern Virginia Medical Center complex east through downtown Norfolk and ends at Newtown Road at the border of Virginia Beach.

The Tide enjoyed early success, with 6.2 million people boarding over the course of four years, but the number of riders has been declining.

Hampton Roads Transit Spokesman Tom Holden says that fluctuation is common.

"They've come down somewhat but they will go back up, and I'm confident that they will," says Holden.

But even if the numbers go up, there's the issue of cost.

According to a Brookings Institute  Report released in June, the Tide loses more money per rider than any other Metropolitan rail line in the country.

Even still year after year, the idea of expanding it continues to be debated.

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