2019 Henrico candidate questionnaire

Below you’ll find the responses from each candidate for Henrico Board of Supervisor that filled out our public transportation candidate questionnaire. Out of the nine candidates running across five districts, we received five responses spanning four districts. Henrico County will vote for Board of Supervisors on November 5th. You can check your voter registration status and register to vote on the Department of Elections website.

If you are a candidate and would like your answers included below, please send an email to info@rvarapidtransit.org as soon as possible!

1. Every public transportation rider begins and ends their trip as a pedestrian. Many roads in Henrico County are unsafe for pedestrians to cross and still have no sidewalks, despite several millions of dollars investment over the last several years. This makes it difficult for residents to take advantage of public transportation or walk to jobs, retail areas, and schools. What will you do to make the streets in your district safe for pedestrians and bus riders?

Delta Bowers (Fairfield): As the Fairfield District Board of Supervisor, I will work with the Board of Supervisors, County Manager, and when necessary, the state, to ensure that the infrastructure of Henrico County is updated to ensure that residents have crosswalks and crosswalk signals on the major streets, roads and intersections in Henrico County, install sidewalks, and support the extension of bus service and bus shelters which will assist residents in their employment efforts and living experience in general.

Marques Jones (Tuckahoe): As a local resident, I have witnessed and personally experienced the difficulties with safe access to public transportation. Simply trying to walk my daughters to school is a challenge. On top of that, talking with constituents has reinforced the current dangers pedestrians and cyclists face on a daily basis, due to the lack of infrastructure. As Supervisor I will work to increase county investment in sidewalks and bike lanes. I will also work to have covered bus stops with benches installed as the current practice of having a poll in the middle of the grass is off-putting to professionals and blatantly unacceptable. The current infrastructure makes it difficult for people to utilize public transit and that needs to be corrected. Lastly, I will work with developers to ensure their plans include sidewalks so that new developments don’t mirror the current dearth of pedestrian infrastructure.

Tyrone Nelson (Varina): I support improving and investing in our infrastructure, including building sidewalks where feasible. I am eager to encourage walkable neighborhoods where residents can also reach amenities such as restaurants and activities on foot. Each year I support the additional investments made through the budget. Two huge sidewalk projects have been completed or are about to start in the past 2 years, Gay Ave. and Beulah Ave.

Pat O’Bannon (Tuckahoe): I will continue to build on the great county-wide progress we’ve already made which includes working together with my fellow board members for a more friendly environment for bicycles and pedestrians. Together, we worked to change an old policy which prevented a lot of sidewalk construction, so now we can (and do!) complete existing partial sidewalks and add new sidewalks along major roadways. Presently, miles of sidewalks are added in the county each year with annually earmarked money, at no additional cost to taxpayers. In the Tuckahoe Magisterial District, I have added more than 5,000 feet of sidewalks (or walking paths) over the past five years.

Dan Schmitt (Brookland): Safety for our residents is always a top priority. This past year, I have been a strong advocate for continued progress in this area by approving the continuation of $2.5 million this fiscal year on improvements on this topic, including sidewalks, multi-use paths, and new, safe, pedestrian crossings. Further, together with my colleagues on the Board, we worked to ensure that an additional 20 miles of sidewalks and/or multi-use paths are planned and funded over the next three years. I will always be a dependable ear and even stronger voice for safety initiatives across Brookland. Among the most dangerous roadways within our district for pedestrians, Broad Street and Staples Mill Road, are state managed roadways. For these roads, I have begun working, and will continue to work, with VDOT directly to pursue similar safety measures for our citizens. I will always be a tireless advocate for Henrico residents who choose to bike, run, or walk to have a safer place to live, work, and play as they enjoy the outdoors in our beautiful county."

2. This past fall, Henrico extended the #19 bus to Short Pump and added nights and weekend service to the #7, #19, and #91 buses. Will you support additional improvements and expansions to Henrico’s portion of the regional transit system? If so, where and how should the County expand public transportation next?

Delta Bowers (Fairfield): Yes. I will work with the Board of Supervisors, County Manager, and the residents in Henrico to determine where the highest demand for job opportunities and other ease of living needs, to determine where the County should expand the regional transit system.

Marques Jones (Tuckahoe): Henrico and the GRTC have made some positive strides over the last few years in expanding and increasing service. However, as a study at VCU showed, while accessibility in general has increased there are low-income households that have seen a decrease in service. We need to work to address these issues and continue to expand and improve the service. My thought is that route 73 needs to have increased service due to the in progress redevelopment of Regency Mall. The incoming increase of population in the area will need the access. I also want to look at extending Route 3 to the Richmond Raceway Complex. It could help decrease congestion in the area on race days and, perhaps more importantly, improve access for stadium workers for all the events at the complex. Lastly, as a broader regional plan, I would like to study expanding route 1 to Virginia Center Commons in conjunction with the redevelopment of that area and J Sargent Reynolds Community College.

Tyrone Nelson (Varina): Yes. I have been the chief advocate on the board for expanded service. The Short Pump extension and the weekends and nights were issues I pushed as a board member. The expansion should be focused ways to get people to jobs. The airport was an excellent [expansion]. I am assuming the VA. Center Commons corridor will be a focus as well.

Pat O’Bannon (Tuckahoe): The regional transit system is imperative to ensure all Henrico residents have access to the best job and financial opportunities, grocery stores, and medical care for their families. That’s why I support improvements to public transit in Henrico. In fact, our county continuously evaluates each route for ridership and access, which can lead to route changes to ensure that ridership needs are addressed. I also support alternative ways for Henrico residents to have proper access to transportation, which is why I developed and spearheaded a low-cost, on-demand, door-to-door taxi service for residents over age 80, wheelchair users, and others who qualify for CARE Service. It has been very well-received by those who qualify.

Dan Schmitt (Brookland): "The route expansions mentioned here have been successful on many fronts. First, of course, for the rider, these expanded routes and hours have enabled more of our residents to conveniently travel to and from work, shopping, recreation, and even directly to the airport! Secondly, these new routes and times have benefited our local businesses enabling them to recruit employees with more convenience to their transportation needs. As a local business owner, with multiple job sites along these regional routes, I know first-hand the benefit to both an employee as well as the employer to make these strong, smart connection points. As our county develops both from a residential and a commercial perspective, I will work to ensure that Henrico’s portion of our regional transit system develops to match the demand of our residents and our businesses."

3. Willow Lawn, Short Pump, Rocketts Landing, and Nine Mile, are all served by quality public transit. These areas are also seeing rapid development. What will you do to continue to encourage and enable new development oriented towards transit that includes sidewalks, a mix of housing, retail and office space, and more compact development adjacent to transit stops in these, and other, transit-served areas?

Delta Bowers (Fairfield): I will work with the Board of Supervisors, the County Manager, developers, and the residents to invest in these communities to ensure a seamless living experience for the residents of Henrico. I will particularly focus on the Fairfield District in which we have a 15.1 % unemployment rate, to revitalize Virginia Center Commons and the Virginia Inn. Far too long, the Fairfield District has been overlooked. The Fairfield District is a prime location for developers and corporations to build and establish a business. The proximity to 95, Route 1, Route 301, 64, and 295, makes the Fairfield District attractive not only to homeowners, but developers and corporations. If corporations establish offices in the Fairfield District, provide jobs to Fairfield District residents, taxes (local, state, and federal dollars) and wages earned can support the infrastructure improvements required to ensure a safe and enjoyable work and living experience.

Marques Jones (Tuckahoe): One of the primary issues I plan to focus on as Supervisor is smart infrastructure growth. Henrico has seen a lot of positive development recently. Short Pump in particular has blossomed as a destination area for businesses, visitors, and families. However, it is in danger of becoming an overcrowded sprawl. For too long, the Board of Supervisors has rubber stamped any development, believing any development to be positive development. I will bring a measured approach to the Board ensuring that future developments are seriously considered and meticulously planned. We need to work with developers and ensure they consider the larger impact of their plans on the existing community. Through this relationship I will ensure they include sidewalks, a mix of housing, retail and office space, and more compact development adjacent to transit stops in these areas. As I mentioned before, I especially want considerations for improved bus stops that include covers and benches.

Tyrone Nelson (Varina): We absolutely need transit oriented development that encourages citizens to walk and/or use convenient public transit to reach restaurants, entertainment, shopping and even work. I will contiue to advocate for mixed us, infill development that prioritizes these goals. Recent projects like Rocketts and Regency are examples.

Pat O’Bannon (Tuckahoe): A few years ago, Henrico’s Board adopted a new zoning classification known as Urban Mixed Use (UMU). This gives the Board the ability to approve areas for a mix of housing, office space and business, when requested by the landowner. The UMU classification allows for compact development and, thus, makes it easier to navigate in terms of public transit. In fact, the new Regency (formerly Regency Square Mall in the Tuckahoe Magisterial District) was just rezoned for Urban Mixed Use. I am excited about the many areas of progress in our county for the future of Henrico. By the way - Regency has already had bus service for many years. This new zoning should increase the use of that route.

Dan Schmitt (Brookland): A terrific question and one I am keenly focused upon. Among the best opportunities for this in Brookland are seen in both Libbie Mill and the growing Westwood area. Libbie Mill sits just off to the north of Willow Lawn and within a stones throw of Broad Street, with access to the rapid transit network. I have supported the development at Libbie Mill precisely because in includes the items you mention here - exactly the dynamic that our residents are asking for - sidewalks, housing/office/retail mix and a more compact development plan. In addition, this development possesses a jewel within our library system on-site, the Libbie Mill Library, and a beautiful lake with public common area. Just east from Libbie Mill, across Staples Mill Road lies the Westwood area that is primed for a similar type development. This past year, I have already worked to ensure this area is ready for mixed-use development, as we have seen a tremendously exciting project announced by Kinsale Insurance as well as the soon to be opened TopGolf facility. Westwood is twice the size of Scott’s Addition, its neighbor to the east, and I will continue to work toward smart development in this area that meets the exact same conditions as you have mentioned here.

4. This past General Assembly session, Southwest Virginia joined Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia in creating a dedicated funding stream for transportation. Both the Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia regions levy a regional 0.7% sales tax for transportation projects, but only the latter region requires a portion of that revenue be set aside for public transportation services like rail and buses. Would you support a regional funding stream for public transportation in the Richmond region? If so how should the region used this new funding source to invest in public transportation?

Delta Bowers (Fairfield): Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia are thriving metropolitan areas. Although the Richmond Metropolitan Area is on the rise, I would have to conduct a feasibility study to determine if the demand for public transportation could support a regional transportation system.

Marques Jones (Tuckahoe): I want to state in the strongest language possible that I firmly believe in increasing funding for public transportation and infrastructure in the area. As a member of the Board of Supervisors I will work with developers and transit groups to ensure continued progress expanding and improving public transportation in the region. However, I do not feel that this funding should come as an extra burden on the taxpayers – we can’t treat our constituency like an ATM. We need to figure out a way to find the necessary funding within the budget that already exists.

Tyrone Nelson (Varina): I would support a dedicated funding stream for public transportation. We need to increase GRTC bus routes so citizens in all neighborhoods have reasonable access and create a schedule where citizens find the bus a reasonable alternative to cars for work commutes and for pleasure.

Pat O’Bannon (Tuckahoe): As Henrico grows, I am open to the idea of specific revenue-based funding. However, this is not entirely Henrico’s call. The Transportation Planning Organization (the TPO – which is, actually, the area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization/MPO) would need to be the first place to discuss it. A regional revenue-based funding source could possibly be administered through the Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority (RMTA) – which already has taxing and tolling authority. The RMTA’s organizational structure includes the City of Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield. Thus, the decision would need to be made by those jurisdictions, at the least.

Dan Schmitt (Brookland): If this discussion were to occur in the near future in the Richmond region, I would approach it just as I have other major, long-term strategic planning items over the past two decades as a business owner. I would ensure that the discussion being had was based on good, quality data points and that all the appropriate and necessary people were on-hand to fully vet the issue. As a representative of the residents of the Brookland District, and of Henrico County as a whole, it would be incumbent upon me to do just that, and nothing less. In similar fashion, it would also be my responsibility to fully evaluate the benefit to the residents of Henrico County before entering into any regional cooperative that, not only would involve public money, but could include an additional tax of any kind. If Henrico County were to participate, to include funding, for any regional cooperative I would need to be fully confident it best serves the interest of our residents in both a short and long term capacity.