Public Transit

Public transit refers to the services that transport groups of people along designated routes. These services are generally made up of bus and train routes, but the Hampton Roads region also has two major airports.

Why is This Important?

When properly established and managed, effective public transit services can provide a cost-effective and reliable alternative to driving. Public transit has the potential to reduce the number of people using personal vehicles as their primary source of transportation, thereby helping to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce commute times and some types of environmental pollution.

How is Hampton Roads Doing?

Between 2010 and 2011, Hampton Roads Transit saw little increase in public transit passenger trips. Just 1.87 percent of workers in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC metropolitan statistical area (MSA) relied on public transportation in 2011 to travel from home to work and the percentage of those using automobiles (including trucks and vans) also stayed about the same. However, those who reported using taxicabs, motorcycles and other means dropped 1.8 percentage points from 2010 to 2011, while those walking to work increased from 1.4 percent in 2010 to 2.5 percent in 2011.

Commute to Work, By MSA, 2011
  Total Commuters Car, Truck or Van (%) Public Transportation (Excluding Taxi) (%) Taxicab, Motorcycle, Bicycle, or Other Means (%) Walk (%)
Virginia 3,598,077 92.95 3.17 1.39 2.49
USA 132,167,080 90.01 5.26 1.80 2.93
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 739,038 93.98 1.87 1.63 2.52
Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC 818,752 95.11 2.39 1.06 1.44
Jacksonville, FL 583,669 95.47 1.62 1.65 1.26
Raleigh-Cary, NC 506,624 95.51 1.23 1.77 1.48
Savannah, GA NA NA NA NA NA
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV -- Leading VA MSA 2,992,102 79.95 15.38 1.50 3.17

The first leg of a light rail system known as The Tide has transported over 1 million passengers since its completion in August 2011. The loop runs through 11 stations along a 7.4-mile stretch from the Eastern Virginia Medical Center through Norfolk along the Norfolk Southern right-of-way. Hampton Roads Transit hopes to use the project as the first link in a more reliable and accessible transit system between residential, educational and employment centers in the Norfolk area, which had seen declining public ridership over the past few years.

To facilitate long distance travel, the Hampton Roads region has two airports: Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport and Norfolk International Airport (the larger of the two). The number of passengers flying from or to the Norfolk airport dropped again, from 3.3 million in 2010 to 3.2 million in 2011; its peak year was 2005, with 3.9 million passengers. However, the amount of cargo transported through Norfolk International increased from 63.2 million pounds in 2010 to 64.4 million pounds in 2011, an increase of almost two percent.

Norfolk International Airport
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Passengers (in millions) 3.5 3.4 3.8 3.9 3.7 3.7 3.5 3.4 3.3 3.2
Pounds of cargo (in millions) 72.4 71.2 70.3 70.0 69.0 70.0 64.1 59.2 63.2 64.4

What Influences Public Transit Use?

Accessibility and reliability are among the most prevalent concerns for public transit users. Commuters are much more likely to trade in their car keys for a fare card when they do not have to go too far out of their way to pick up a ride. Similarly, it is important that public transit users feel confident that their ride will get them to their destination on time.

Page last modified August 01, 2013

Data Definitions and Sources

Hampton Roads Transit

American Public Transportation Association

Commute Mode and Time - U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey

Norfolk Airport Authority

See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Hampton Roads Performs.

At a Glance: Public Transit

Performance: Maintaining

Highlight: Public transit use remained steady in 2011, with less than 2 percent of workers in the metro area using public transportation for their daily commute.

light rail
Regional Programs & Initiatives

Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) was formed in 1999 with the merger of the Peninsula and Southside transit organizations, the first such merger in the country. Their starter line of light rail, The Tide, offers the community greater mobility and transportation choices. The Tide train is the first of its kind in Virginia.

Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia is a regional nonprofit in South Hampton Roads that provides transportation coordination for area residents age 60 and over and adults with disabilities. Call SSSEVA's Transportation Department at (757) 461-9481.

Williamsburg Area Transport (WAT) provides bus service to citizens of the upper peninsula not reached by HRT and includes transportation service for the disabled.