Happy birthday to Norfolk LRT.

Norfolk LRV 405 rounds the corner at E. Plume Street and Bank Street after departing MacArthur Square Station in this August 2012 photo by friend and fellow railfan Brian Sandberg.

Norfolk, Virginia’s new LRT system began appearing regularly in worldwide search engine hits for this blog well before the system even opened. At long last, some news for you Tide surfers: As it reaches its first anniversary today, the 7.4-mile line continues to show strong ridership.

According to a Hampton Roads Transit statement cited in this Daily Press article, LRT ridership “averages more than 5,000 daily boardings, and The Tide is on track to register its two-millionth customer in November.” Initial projections of 2,900 daily riders “have been consistently smashed by actual ridership,” the paper noted, adding that last Tuesday alone drew more than 6,400 passengers.

Video coverage of Friday’s formal birthday events, which included free rides, can be found at the local NBC affiliate’s website, WAVY.com. Those celebrations stand in contrast to the many controversies which attended The Tide’s birth, in which multiple delays pushed back the line’s opening and the final price tag of $318 million was more than $85 million over budget. I discussed some of this history in a Sept. 18, 2011 post.

LRV 404 cruises along East Plume Street at Commercial Place in this Brian Sandberg photo.

“I’ve been waiting for a long time to say, ‘I told you so,’” ex-councilman Randy Wright told WAVY. “I feel redemption. It took a lot of effort to get it where it is today.”

The real question is where The Tide heads from here. A referendum on extending the line is scheduled in Virginia Beach for November, The Virginian-Pilot newspaper noted in an Aug. 17 editorial that also praises LRT’s success in Norfolk. Of course, not everyone agrees, as the spirited online comments which accompany said editorial reveal. That should make for an interesting referendum campaign.

For more on The Tide, see:

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