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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Life in Hampton Roads, Part IV: Tolls, Tunnels, Texting and Light Rail

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Hampton Roads residents reported declines in their commute times and increased support for light rail expansion in Old Dominion University's seventh annual Life in Hampton Roads (LIHR) survey.

"From 2012 to 2014, average commute times hovered around 24 minutes, then decreased to an average commute time of 20 minutes in 2015 and decreased even further to 18.1 minutes in 2016, the lowest reported commute time of the last five years," said Randy Gainey, faculty director of the Social Science Research Center. Gainey and Tancy Vandecar-Burdin, associate director of the center, coordinated the study.

Even so, local residents reported avoiding travel between communities in the region. In the past month, 45.5 percent of residents said they avoided visiting a business in a neighboring city because of concerns about traffic congestion.

An additional 34.5 percent of respondents said they avoided visiting a business in a neighboring city in the past month because of tolls on bridges or tunnels. Only 17.6 percent said they traverse a toll bridge or tunnel to commute to work or school.

On the subject of light rail, more than half said they would like to see light rail expanded to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront (58.5 percent). Nearly half - or 48.4 percent -- said they would like to see light rail expanded to Virginia Beach Town Center, 47.8 percent to the Norfolk International Airport and 46.0 percent to Naval Station Norfolk.

The percentage of respondents supporting light rail expansion to all locations increased between 2014 and 2016. This question was not asked in the 2015 Life in Hampton Roads survey. Only 13 percent of 2016 respondents reported that they did not want light rail expanded.

Another series of questions gauged respondents' impressions of motorists with whom they share the road.

Most respondents said that within the past week, they had seen someone who was texting and driving and also going over the speed limit (73.1 percent), going well under the speed limit (62.2 percent), changing lanes inappropriately or swerving (72.2 percent), and not immediately moving after a traffic light turned green (72.3 percent).

Almost two-thirds of respondents reported that they were irritated by drivers who were texting while driving.

The LIHR survey includes responses gathered from 962 Hampton Roads residents via landline and cell phone. The report is made up of six sections. Survey sections that have been released can be accessed by clicking the corresponding link.

Monday, Sept. 26 - Quality of life

Tuesday, Sept. 27 - Crime and police

Wednesday, Sept. 28 - Health and education

Thursday, Sept. 29 - Transportation

Friday, Sept. 30 - Sea level rise and flooding

Monday, Oct. 3 - Presidential politics

The Life in Hampton Roads survey receives support from the Old Dominion Office of Research and the College of Arts and Letters. The entire report will be available after Oct. 3 on the Social Science Research Center website.

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