This week in transit: GRTC looking for Fulton feedback

TAKE ACTION

On February 20th from 7:00–8:00 PM, GRTC will host a public meeting at the Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton to “solicit feedback from Greater Fulton residents, businesses and riders about bus routes serving this area.” This meeting will take place about a month after the two 15-minute routes connecting folks living in Fulton to the Pulse had their frequencies halved. If those changes impacted your commute, this would be the time and place to share those concerns with GRTC. Also, if your favorite Fulton bus stop needs benches, lights, a trash can, or a concrete pad you can and should bring those issues up at this meeting as well.

Also! Don’t forget about Chesterfield’s Route 1 public transportation survey! If you live, work, play, worship, or learn on the corridor please fill out this survey—and send it to other folks who do as well. It’s far past time Route 1 had dedicated, fixed-route public transportation service provided by GRTC!

AROUND THE REGION

GRTC will celebrate Black History month by continuing its tradition of honoring local Black history-makers. You can check out this year’s honorees over on the GRTC website.

The Nation has a long piece about how bad bus service and extreme commutes impact people’s lives in the Washington D.C. region. You should read through this piece with an eye toward Richmond, because, at least on a smaller scale, you can find most of the concerns raised right here in town. For example, this sentence but sub in Chesterfield and Henrico: “A lot of these workers in low-wage jobs—they either have to [move] to Prince George’s County, Maryland, or Alexandria, Virginia, and the transportation network has not changed to meet the changing demand”

ELSEWHERE

The link between the increase in use of transportation network companies (TNC), like Uber and Lyft, and the decrease in ridership of public transportation is complex but probably not positive. That said, pilot partnerships between ridesharing companies and public transit agencies, like this one in Los Angeles, can be interesting. Key points from this particular pilot: Trips must begin or end at one of three rail stations, the TNC involved (Via) avoids trips with a single passenger, and riders that are registered with the existing low-income fare program can ride for free.

Atlanta just hosted the Super Bowl and, as a result, marked record highs in transit ridership before and after The Big Game. The flexibility with which MARTA responded to the changing transit needs—running 24-hour rail service and adding trains—is impressive.

Streetsblog looks into how Seattle is putting pedestrians first when designing safe street crossings—something you’d think would be the default but, unfortunately, is not.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: Bring fixed-route bus service to Route 1 in Chesterfield County

BEEB5E9C-677E-4E14-AAC5-D2BE8879BF07.jpeg

TAKE ACTION

It sounds like Chesterfield County has mostly decided to provide some sort of public transportation on Route 1 from the City limits to John Tyler Community College. Whether that will be fixed-route bus service provided by GRTC (👍) or an on-demand service provided by a private company (👎) remains to be seen. To help inform their decision, the County has put together a survey for folks who live, work, play, learn, and worship along the corridor. If you spend any time at all along Route 1 please fill out this survey! If you know people who spend any time at all along Route 1 please send them this survey!

AROUND THE REGION

Mark your calendars for February 28th! RVA Rapid Transit, along with a handful of other organizations, will host Mayorathon: Policy Jam from 6:30 – 8:00 PM at the Institute for Contemporary Art. We’ll sit down with Mayor Stoney to discuss his first two years in office and then also recommend priorities for his next two years. The evening will feature an in-depth, entertaining, and informal discussion on policy issues, with special guest appearances. It’s gonna be fun, wonky, and a good way to spend your Thursday evening. You can and should RSVP here.

At some point recently, GRTC installed new snow-route badges on some of their bus stop signs (pictured above). These charming little snowflakes let you know if your bus still serves that particular stop when GRTC switches over to snow routes. It’s a little, infrequently-used thing, but sure makes a big difference for folks standing out in the cold and snow.

ELSEWHERE

This Women Changing Transit mentorship program run by TransitCenter sounds awesome: “This program aims to connect women transit professionals with women leaders in transit to serve as mentors to help guide, advise and grow in their careers. The year-long mentorship program is open to applicants who identify as women and who are in the first 10 years of their career, in any facet of the transportation field: planning, engineering, administration, operations, finance, and advocacy. The multidisciplinary nature of this mentorship is intended to support and enhance connections and relationships across public/private/non-profit lines.” If you’re even slightly interested in this, I really recommend that you apply. The TransitCenter folks are wonderful to work with!

Now that our Bus Rapid Transit line is up and running, it’s fun to follow other cities through their BRT planning processes. Both Birmingham and Charleston are working through the next steps of bringing rapid transit to their towns.

These subway station designs in Toronto are beautiful / interesting!

—Ross Catrow

Design your own bus stop shelter...

TAKE ACTION

GRTC has released a survey that you can fill out to help them decide what our new bus stop shelters should look like. First, it’s excellent that we’re getting new shelters—the existing ones are...suboptimal. Second, the background to this is that GRTC had designs for new shelters in front of the City’s Urban Design Committee late last year and someone (someone who may or may not write a weekly email about transportation-related topics) submitted a comment that the chosen design looked dated and didn’t feel like part of the same transportation system as our fancy new Pulse Stations. GRTC pulled the paper from UDC (😬), and now we have this very thorough survey about what folks might want out of a bus stop shelter. Unsolicited opinion, should you decide to fill out this survey: Choose something modern, mostly glass, and as far away from anything that looks like it belongs in Colonial Williamsburg. Almost ten years ago San Francisco redesigned their bus top shelters to something modern, useful, and even solar-powered—we can do it, too!

AROUND THE REGION

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has a story about GRTC missing their revenue projection by $1 million. Note that’s a revenue projection and that GRTC’s budget is still balanced. Regardless of what this means for the transit company moving forward, riders should not shoulder the burden of revenue shortfall through service cuts—it’s something to keep an eye on.

ELSEWHERE

TransitCenter has a good article about the reasons to decriminalize fare evasion. Richmond’s fare enforcement officers are not police officers, and if you are caught evading fare on the Pulse it is a not a criminal offense. This is good policy and should remain GRTC’s policy moving forward. Many studies have shown “that fare enforcement disproportionately targets black and brown people, and that people of color face harsher penalties when they are stopped.”

Also from TransitCenter, check out this Open Transit Data Toolkit. Are you interested in wrangling the data GRTC makes available into useful tools for the rest of us? This is an excellent resource to get you started.

The CEO of MARTA (Atlanta’s transit company), says he wants the region to spend $100 billion dollars over 40 years on transportation projects. The last sentence of that editorial is a good one: “To maximize a prosperous future that seems in the cards for this metro, we must be willing to dream and build aggressively toward it, we believe.”

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: A 21% ridership increase!

TAKE ACTION

Last week, the excellent Transit mobile app launched in Richmond, and you should go download it right now! The app does an incredible job at showing you the best ways to get around town by bus, walking, bike, or even RVA Bike Share, and gives you an easy-to-read list of different travel options sorted by trip length. It really is a game changer.

Note that the availability of the Transit app in Richmond is only possible because GRTC opened up to developers their bus scheduling and real-time data feeds. This was something we asked y’all to advocate for last year, and, now, you can see the impact of that advocacy! Good work!

AROUND THE REGION

There are very, very few cities in the United States that are seeing ridership increase on public transportation, but Richmond is now one of them. After several years of decline, bus ridership in Richmond is up 21%! That’s a huge percentage! When localities invest in better bus service, more people ride the bus. It’s a pretty straightforward formula that we should continue to follow.

This past week, the Henrico County board of supervisors hosted their annual retreat at which they talked a bit about public transportation. From the County’s Twitter account: “Henrico's focus on transit service will continue in 2019, with a study of Route 1 Brook Road Corridor; an assessment of Park-N-Ride express services; and shelter improvements.” It’s exciting to hear that Henrico won’t let their transit momentum stall and is already looking to expand upon their big-time services increases from last year. Also, because it’s fun to dream about the future, with the County’s interest in building a sports arena at the Richmond International Raceway one can imagine extending the #3 Highland Park route north to connect to Laburnum and increasing the frequency of the hourly #91 Laburnum Connector.

Over in the Virginia Mercury, Danny Plaugher from Virginians for High Speed Rail has a column about how landing Amazon can and should push the Commonwealth to build a modern transportation network.

ELSEWHERE

Does the proliferation of Uber and Lyft reduce car ownership? Survey says: Probably not. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and, as the author of this article says, to reduce those emissions we need to “continue to expand space-efficient and active transportation options...but it’s not some new form of ‘shared mobility.’ It’s frequent, reliable, safe, and comfortable public transportation.”

Gwinnett County, a suburb of Atlanta, has officially begun their campaign to join their regional transportation network. On March 19th, county residents will vote on a referendum to both join MARTA and levy a 1% sales tax to pay for a ton of transportation improvements. Check out the Go Gwinnett! advocacy website to learn more.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: Chesterfield...Will they or won’t they?

TAKE ACTION

Will they or won’t they?? Will the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors decide to bring fixed-route GRTC service to Route 1? Will they pick an on-demand van service instead? Will they do nothing at all (something that Supervisors Winslow says “doesn’t seem to be an option”)? We’ll learn more this month as the County conducts a stakeholder survey of the Route 1 corridor and mulls over whether or not to apply for a state grant that would cover up to 80% of the operating costs for a public transportation pilot. Jim McConnell at the Chesterfield Observer has a great piece that should give you all the background information you need to know.

If you are a Chesterfield resident and you have thoughts on the County bringing public transportation to Route 1, please let your Supervisor know!

AROUND THE REGION

A reminder: GRTC will roll out a set of service updates today, January 6th. As part of these updates, the two Fulton routes—#4A and #4B—will have their frequencies reduced from 15-minutes to 30-minutes. This means that folks living in Fulton, who since this summer’s network redesign no longer have direct routes to Downtown, will have their average wait times doubled from 7.5 minutes to 15 minutes. It’s always disappointing to see service cuts but especially so as Richmond’s new bus network is less than a year old.

WCVE has a short look at a new bus study out of VCU’s Wilder School Center for Urban and Regional Analysis. You can also download and read the full study (PDF). Something to keep in mind as you read through that PDF: Access to public transportation is about more than just proximity to a bus stop—it’s also about the usefulness of that transit. As we’re seeing in Fulton this weekend, folks’ distance to their bus stop remains unchanged, but, as the frequency has been halved, the number of places they can get to within one hour has certainly decreased. This means taking more time out of your day to get to work, school, doctor’s appointment, or your favorite local doughnut shop.

ELSEWHERE

As Pittsburgh plans its new BRT service, they’re thinking about improving access to the airport. Bus service to the Richmond airport is brand new and a pretty big service upgrade, but, dang, is it anything but fast. While a BRT to RIC probably isn’t in the cards any time soon, an express route to the airport might be something to consider. Typically, airport service doesn’t have the best ridership, but it does feel like an amenity that a growing city in 2019 just needs to provide. Seems like something folks in Richmond’s business/tourism/hotel industries would be interested in?

TransitCenter has their Best Worst Most of 2018 end-of-year transit review. Richmond gets a small shoutout.

Did you know there’s a tunneling trade publication? Did you know tunneling is up world wide 7%? This is all so very charming!

—Ross Catrow

Keeping Richmond’s Department of Social Services easily accessible

TAKE ACTION

On November 8th, Mark Robinson at the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the City will consider moving the Department of Social Services from its current location behind City Hall to a Southside location off Commerce Road. RVA Rapid Transit is concerned that the proposed location is hard to access for Richmonders traveling on foot, bike, or by public transportation. Please take a minute to read more about the specifics of those concerns, and if you—or a nonprofit, company, or faith group you’re involved with—would like to share your perspective on potentially moving the Department of Social Services, please reply to this email.

AROUND THE REGION

GRTC systemwide ridership numbers continue to impress. Weekly ridership stands at around 169,708 (that’s the average of the three weeks from October 7th to October 27th, the most recent data available). Compared to the week before the Pulse opened, which saw 141,513 rides, that’s an almost 20% increase! A year-over-year comparison would give us a better picture of how ridership is increasing, but regardless, it’s impressive. There are very, very few cities in the United States that are seeing ridership increases on their bus systems, and, now, Richmond is one of them!

While this article in the Washington Post recapping the first year of the dynamic I-66 tolls is framed from the point of view of single-occupancy car commuters, there’s a lot of really great takeaways for how congestion pricing can change people’s behavior. From the Fairfax County Transportation Director: “There are people who are now paying and people who are turning to transit or ride-sharing. The institution of the tolls has resulted in people changing their travel patterns.”

ELSEWHERE

Why haven’t electric buses taken over the transit world? Well, in China they basically have, but in American they’re still mostly an oddity—but that’s changing! Angie Schmitt at StreetsBlog digs into some of the challenges facing electric bus service in the U.S. and how some localities are finding success with an all-electric fleet. Fingers crossed that some of the $14 million of Volkswagen Mitigation Trust money finds its way to the Richmond region for some sort of small, electric bus pilot.

Alon Levy, who’s known for their intensely nerdy thoughts on transit, has a fairly accessible post up about what part public transit can and should play in any future federal environmental / infrastructure plan. While the political will for massive transit spending may not exist at the moment, as Levy says, regional planning agencies should have some solid ideas for how to spend a bucketful of money—ideas that don’t involve building or widening roads.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: “The bus system has got to get into Chesterfield County”

TAKE ACTION

Below, you’ll find two local events—ways to get involved and get educated—to put on your calendar.

The Partnership for Smarter Growth will host a Richmond Region Roundup on Tuesday, December 11th from 6:00–8:00 PM at the Virginia War Memorial (621 S. Belvedere Street). The event will cover a wide range of topics and feature an interesting group of speakers including: Burt Pinnock from the Richmond 300 Advisory Council; Mike Sawyer, the City’s transportation engineer; Greta Harris, president and CEO of Better Housing Coalition; Steve Haasch, Chesterfield’s planning manager; Nicole Anderson Ellis, Chair of the Route 5 Corridor Coalition in Henrico; and Patti Bland, president of Hanover’s Future Committee. That’s about as regional as a group of folks can get! The event is free to attend, but you should RSVP to help give the organizers an accurate headcount. Also, a big thanks to PSG for including transit directions to the event on their website!

On Saturday, December 8th at 10:00 AM, teachers, parents, students, community organizations, and elected officials will gather at MLK Jr. Middle School (1000 Mosby Street) for the March for More to ask state legislators for more education funding. Safe and reliable transportation is one of the core underfunded needs of school districts locally and across the state. In town, Mayor Stoney has addressed a small portion of that need by funding unlimited GRTC bus passes for high school students. All students, however, deserve a safe and reliable way to get to school and to after-school programs. Again, it’s wonderful to see that this event has also included transit directions on its website.

AROUND THE REGION

The Richmond Times-Dispatch published two articles this week about the region’s public transportation momentum. First, Michael Martz writes about a new report from the folks at the Greater Washington Partnership highlighting the disparities in access to opportunity via public transportation. The article includes this surprising quote from Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell: “The bus system has got to get into Chesterfield County.” Having the region’s business leaders advocate for bus service, especially bus service into the counties, is new, different, and exciting.

Second, Mel Leonor focuses in on Chesterfield’s historical aversion to public transportation and a possible change of tune in the form of a recent study suggesting bus service on the Route 1 corridor. That particular study (PDF) recommends choosing between two options: regular ol’ fixed-route bus service that connects to the rest of GRTC’s regional bus network or a deviated-route service provided by a private company that would be limited to the immediate area. Joe McAndrew, from the aforementioned Greater Washington Partnership, explains why the latter is a bad choice for the region: “A concern that we should look out for is that those [options] are equally accessible to all residents of the region...If they don’t benefit a Richmond or Henrico resident to access jobs in Chesterfield, then it makes it challenging for employers to access the full labor pool of the region. Or, for individuals in the city or the county to access retail or other kinds of destinations.”

You can read and download the Greater Washington Partnership’s report here.

ELSEWHERE

Brendan Bartholomew, a bus driver for San Francisco’s Muni, writes a first-hand account of what it’s like to drive a bus. It’s a challenging job requiring a bunch of different skills—both “driving enormous vehicle skills” and “interacting with all sorts of people all day long” skills.