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The Tide light rail celebrates 10 years in service

It was, and still is, the only light rail transit system in Virginia.

NORFOLK, Va. — The date was August 19, 2011.

Hundreds of people lined up for a chance to ride The Tide for the very first time.

This week marks The Tide’s 10th anniversary.

It was, and still is, the only light rail transit system in Virginia. But it hasn’t been a smooth ride over the last decade.

Early on, it smashed through daily ridership expectations. But that honeymoon period quickly faded.

The numbers haven’t been on a steady decline, but they’ve been stagnant for the last decade, showing no signs of hitting the original prediction of 7,000 daily rides by 2030.

Then, there were the blows to its expansion. In 2018, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) announced the extension to Naval Station Norfolk wouldn’t happen.

Before that, the biggest point of contention involved the proposed extension to Virginia Beach in 2016.

Council members left it up to voters, and the grassroots group No Light Rail Virginia Beach rallied, convincing almost 80% of precincts to shoot it down.

But there is still hope for the transit system.

Leaders are still in the early stages of a potential extension to the east side of the city, and they’re about to embark on an environmental study on those plans to bring light rail to Military Circle.

HRT is hosting a 10-year anniversary party Thursday, Aug. 19. It starts at noon at the Macarthur Square station.