Hampton Roads Transit is partnering with Naval Station Norfolk to bring back Base Express, a free public transit service available exclusively to those traveling around the base after a 15-year hiatus.
Beginning Sunday, Base Express will connect personnel including service members, contractors, civilians and visitors to ship docks, the aquatics center and the Commissary and Navy Exchange via two routes.
Although variations of free transit services have been offered on a basis dating back to 1997, the last time Hampton Roads Transit provided Naval Station Norfolk with free transit service was in November 2007. previous routes have been discontinued due to lack of funding.
The new routes will be paid for with a $2.3 million grant from the Virginia Department of Railroads and Public Transportation for the next three years. After that, the cost will be integrated into the Express network 757 HRT launched in October.
Now that we have stable funding, we are able to bring this service back to basics, said HRT spokesperson Alexis Majied.
The blue route will operate from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will begin at the Gilbert and First Avenue bus stop, with stops along Virginia Avenue, the docks and Towway Drive at 15-minute intervals.
The Gold Road will run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Service will begin at the HRT bus stop at the Navy Exchange. It will run along portions of Maryland Avenue, Dillingham Boulevard and Gilbert Street at 30-minute intervals.
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Circulators provide what transit officials call last-mile accessibility for employees who want to get to base by conventional means, or who park in the interchange area outside the gate but then have to walk to their destination, Majied said.
Representatives from Hampton Roads Transit, Naval Station Norfolk and the Department of Rail and Public Transport gathered near the Navy Exchange Complex on Friday to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the return of free public transit to the base.
The vastness of the base has long been a challenge for the personnel who work there and who have to travel from place to place. These routes will provide connections and amenities that will help them on a daily basis, HRT President William Harrell said.
A simulation of the service began on November 15 to train drivers and allow for necessary route and schedule adjustments. Base commuters were allowed to try out the service during the two-week trial.
More than 100 customers rode during that time and indicated they were happy with the new service, saying it was much needed, Majied said.
She said HRT expects an average of 250 weekday rides by 2025, which is 65,000 rides per year.
Caitlyn Burchett, [email protected]
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