The Tide

The Tide connects downtown Norfolk to Fort Norfolk on the west and to the boundary with Virginia Beach on the east
The Tide connects downtown Norfolk to Fort Norfolk on the west and to the boundary with Virginia Beach on the east
Source: Hampton Roads Transit, The Tide

The Tide is a transit system in Norfolk. On an average work day, 4,500 passengers use it.1

Plans to extend it to Virginia Beach, to Town Center and perhaps the resort area on the Oceanfront, were fundamental to efforts to implement "smart growth" principles and steer new development in Virginia Beach to areas near light rail transit stations.

Virginia Beach's voters refused to support the project in 1999. The proposal was revived, but in another local referendum in 2016 voters again rejected the expansion of light rail east of Norfolk.

Virginia Beach had spent $40 million to purchase the old Norfolk and Virginia Beach Railroad right-of-way from the Norfolk Southern, which stopped freight service on that track in 2002. The state had contributed half the cost to support expansion of The Tide. The city had to repay that $20 million to the state in 2017, so it ended up buying an expensive right-of-way for perhaps just a bike/pedestrian trail east of the Newtown statin of The Tide.2

Current Tide expansion plans are all within the boundaries of Norfolk. Transit planners view Naval Station Norfolk as the next endpoint destination, now that Virginia Beach's Town Center is no longer possible.

Hampton Roads Transit considered building a connection from downtown through Old Dominion University to the base. Afting determining that no route on the wet side of town would be cst-effective enough to qualify for Federal Transportatin Administration grants, it shifted focus to a possible extension up Military Avenue.3

There was one last gasp of effort from Virginia Beach to build The Tide. In the city's 2018 bid to attract Amazon's second headquarters, it cited the potential to provide light rail to the proffered site at Town Center. Presumably, city officials anticipated a shift in public opinion and endorsement of extending The Tide if that was required to attract HQ2 of Amazon.4


Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Southern Railroad

Streetcars and Light Rail in Virginia

Virginia Beach



1. "Norfolk's light rail hits 10 million rides after nearly 7 years," The Virginian-Pilot, June 1, 2018, (last checked November 24, 2018)
2. "Light rail in Virginia Beach failed. Here's what happens next," The Virginian-Pilot, November 9, 2016,; "Life after light rail: Virginia Beach owes the Commonwealth $20 million," WAVY, January 23, 2017,; "Virginia Beach City Council votes to pay back $20 million loan for light rail," The Virginian-Pilot, March 21, 2017, (last checked December 3, 2018)
3. "HRT isn't building light rail on west side of Norfolk, but looking at Military Highway," The Virginian-Pilot, April 15, 2018, (last checked November 24, 2018)
4. "Virginia Beach proposed light rail extension if Amazon picked Town Center for its 2nd location," The Virginian-Pilot, December 10, 2018, (last checked December 12, 2018)

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