This week in transit: Free to Ride on August 21st

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On August 21st, the Isaiah Project (our faith-based outreach initiative) will host a screening of Free to Ride. This documentary explores the intersection of public transportation and Civil Rights in Dayton, Ohio plus raises key issues about the important role public transportation plays in our communities and the role faith groups can have in advocating for change. You can see the trailer of the film here, and you can RSVP here (but the event is free!).

Also, July’s nearly done, and RVA Rapid Transit is still on the hunt for 100 new supporters. If you’d like to donate (any amount!) to our work of advocating, educating, and organizing for a frequent and far-reaching public transportation system, you can do so over on our website.

ELSEWHERE

According to a new study, Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing services (aka Transportation Network Companies or TNCs) are not reducing traffic in American cities. Keep in mind, though, this research mostly applies to large American cities. However, this makes a lot of sense wherever you live: “The main conclusion is that TNCs are bound to generate more car traffic in cities for two reasons: They mostly draw passengers who wouldn’t have otherwise used a car, and each TNC trip includes significant mileage with no passenger.”

Speaking of fixing congestion, the head of Washington DOT says the state can’t highway-build their way out of traffic. In fact, he says that the issue stems from a lack of affordable housing in the transit-rich city center, which, in turns, forces folks to live in the outlying suburbs which lack public transportation.

Cincinnati may look to an increase in sales tax to help fund its current public transportation system. Here’s a good explanation of why a regional tax for public transportation helps everyone, even if you never plan on riding the bus: “If you don’t ride the bus, this still affects you. It affects the tax rate on everything you buy in Hamilton County. And public transit, whether you use it personally or not, is key to a city’s success or failure. It affects the environment, when there are more or fewer exhaust pipes on the road. It affects the unemployment rate and investment, whether companies want to move to a city or not.”


If you'd like to support RVA Rapid Transit's work to bring a truly regional transit system to Richmond, consider making a tax-deductible donation.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: Pulse ridership numbers

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Just a tiny, quick reminder that we’re quickly approaching the end of July, and RVA Rapid Transit is quickly approaching our goal of 100 new supporters before the month’s end. You can make a donation, of any amount, on our website.

AROUND THE REGION

A couple days ago, I got my hands on ridership numbers from the first three weeks of Pulse service. I went ahead and wrote up three quick takeaways from these initial numbers: 1) Ridership consistently exceeded goals, 2) Lots of folks are connecting at Willow Lawn, and 3) The Pulse is a fast way to get across town. You can download the PDF of the numbers yourself and dig in. Please let me know if you find your own interesting takeaways!

On Friday, I took part in a panel on how the Pulse and the other improvements to our public transportation network could impact tourism in the Richmond region. Turns out, when folks from out of town come to visit, they expect robust and functional public transit. Not only that, but the thousands of employees that support our local tourism industry can benefit from a frequent and far-reaching public transportation network. It’s not a zero-sum game: Building high-quality public transportation benefits everyone in the entire region.

ELSEWHERE

The Charlotte Area Transit System, headed up by once-and-former Richmonder John Lewis, has announced the details of their massive new transit plan. Better transit to the airport! Light rails! Transit tunnels! Whoa!

Albuquerque continues to face serious issues in launching their BRT, but, as they continue to push forward, they’ve implemented a $80 fine for driving in the bus-only lanes. While Richmond may have an issue with folks parking in the curbside BRT lanes, I haven’t seen a ton of people driving in our bus-only lanes. But, enforcement like this is an important part of prioritizing a bus full of people trying to get to work over a single, empty car.

Our friends at TransitCenter have released a new report focused on building an inclusive and equitable public transportation system (PDF). You can read a summary of the report over on StreetsBlog if you’d like!


If you'd like to support RVA Rapid Transit's work to bring a truly regional transit system to Richmond, consider making a tax-deductible donation.

—Ross Catrow

Goal: 100 new supporters

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Fellow transit supporters! As we move past the opening of the Pulse and the entirely redesigned bus network, RVA Rapid Transit will continue our work of advocating, educating, and organizing for frequent and far-reach public transportation in the Richmond region. If you’d like to support us in that work, now is the time! What’s next? Well, here are just a few of the things we’ll be pushing for over the next couple of months:

  • In Chesterfield County: Adding bus service from the city limits to John Tyler Community College along Route 1
  • In Henrico County: Improving bus service to the Staples Mill Train Station, the airport, and adding bus service to Virginia Center Commons and Mechanicsville
  • In Richmond City: Extending operating hours and adding bus stop amenities like benches, shelters, and trash cans to highly-used bus stops

There’s lots to do, and we need your help.

Before the end of July, we want to find 100 new supporters at any level—$5, $10, $100, whatever works for you. We’re almost there, but need a few more folks to get us over that goal. So if you’d like to partner with us on the work to bring frequent and far-reaching public transportation to the entire Richmond region, consider supporting us now.

AROUND THE REGION

GRTC’s Kelsey Calder is now a nationally certified Travel Training Instructor. This is big news, and Calder is an excellent resource for helping folks of all ability levels learn how to ride the bus through GRTC’s Travel Training Program. This program makes a ton of sense as it moves folks off of the on-demand CARE service, which is extremely limited (and expensive to run), and on to fixed-route service, which gives folks a ton more freedom to get around the region.

GRTC has also posted a time-lapse video of the construction of the Allison Street East Pulse station. If you’ve ever wondered what 17 months on Broad Street condensed down to 10 minutes looks like, here’s your answer.

ELSEWHERE

High-quality transportation investment spurs development—called Transit Oriented Development—but how do we make sure that development is equitable and doesn’t cause displacement? In King County, Washington, through new laws passed this year, the jurisdiction will donate land near rail stations for affordable housing to help address the region’s housing crisis.

Dallas now has 14 all-electric buses running a 19-mile loop. Electric buses are definitely the future, but, at the moment, they’re more expensive to buy and maintain than the compressed natural gas buses used by GRTC.


If you'd like to support RVA Rapid Transit's work to bring a truly regional transit system to Richmond, consider making a tax-deductible donation.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: 56,952!

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Here’s a quick reminder to sign up for the Pulse Pedal Pursuit, an all-day, all-modes-of-transportation scavenger hunt across the Pulse Corridor. Walk, bike, or bus your way to glory on July 21st!

AROUND THE REGION

The final Free Ride Week ridership numbers for the Pulse are in and folks took 56,952 trips, which GRTC CEO David Green says is 2.5x their goal. Whoa, that’s great! I’m still looking forward to seeing the numbers from the first non-free week (keeping in mind the mid-week federal holiday) and the overall ridership numbers for the entire system since the launch of the redesign.

D.C. might be getting in on the bus network redesign game, too, and has kicked off a study to see whether or not their future holds a “ground-up redesign”—including a rejiggering of how the system is owned and organized. Speaking of redesigns of major transportation systems, here’s Jarrett Walker on what it would take to redo the entirety of New York’s bus network.

Unlike Richmond, Northern Virginia has a regional transportation authority (the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority) that distributes funding for regional transportation projects. A lot of these projects are road-based, too many, really, but some of them are public transportation projects like the bus rapid transit planned for Richmond Highway. If and when the Richmond region gets around to putting together regional funding for transportation, we should think hard about how much of that funding ends up widening roads and constructing interchanges and how much of it goes to building a truly regional public transportation system.

ELSEWHERE

StreetsBlog has a good piece about the performance of microtransit programs throughout the country. These on-demand, low-volume services consistently serve fewer passengers at more cost than a regular ol’ bus. If you’ve got a major corridor that lacks public transportation—Jefferson Davis Highway in Chesterfield County and Route 360 out to Mechanicsville come to mind—microtransit will most likely not be the most efficient or cost effective solution to move folks around!


If you'd like to support RVA Rapid Transit's work to bring a truly regional transit system to Richmond, consider making a tax-deductible donation.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: Join us for the Pulse Pedal Pursuit!

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Now that RVA Transit Week is over, it’s, sadly, time to move on. Luckily we can move right on to the Pulse Pedal Pursuit! Our friends at Sports Backers are hosting a walking, biking, and public transit scavenger hunt along the Pulse corridor on July 21st. Put together a team (or go solo) and try to score points by visiting as many location as you can on foot, RVA Bike Share, or the Pulse. Top teams will win prizes, but everyone gets a free GRTC 1-day pass and a 30-day membership to RVA Bike Share.

You can register here, and, if you’re feeling generous, chip in a couple of bucks to the event’s charity partner...RVA Rapid Transit! Looking forward to seeing y’all out there—should be a blast.

AROUND THE REGION

Alright, the week of free rides has ended. Now, if you want to ride the bus you’ll need to pay the fare. Here are some things to know:

  • A single ride cost $1.50, and, if you need to transfer to another bus, $1.75 for a One Ride Plus pass.
  • Since the new bus network is designed for easy transfers between frequent routes, it’s often best just to buy a $3.50 1-day pass and then ride as much as you want. You can do this at places like Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens. Here’s a full list of where to get passes.
  • If you’re not trying to add another errand to your life, you can use the new mobile payment app to buy your pass.
  • Once you board the bus just tap your pass to the top of the fare box or scan the QR code in the mobile app, and you’re good to go.
  • Finally, since the Pulse requires off-board fare payment (which speeds up boarding) validating your pass works a bit differently. You can watch this video from GRTC which explains it all.

On opening week, ridership on the Pulse blew projections out of the water, crushing the goal of 3,500 riders per day. Over the first three days, our new BRT saw ridership numbers easily double that goal (8,669; 7,968; and 7,877). We’ll see how that changes this coming week with the end of free fares and a mid-week holiday, but these early numbers are very impressive.

ELSEWHERE

Now that Richmond has a BRT and a redesigned bus network, what’s next? The answer: More frequent bus service to more places, connecting folks to jobs. This story about a Dallas man with a daily commute of three hours (each way!) is something folks in Richmond are dealing with today—even after our major transit upgrade.

Ann Arbor has seen their ridership increase by about 5% by spending more money (via a regional transit tax) on regular ol’ bus service—expanding routes, improving frequency, and extending hours. It’s definitely not rocket science, but it does take more money.


If you'd like to support RVA Rapid Transit's work to bring a truly regional transit system to Richmond, consider making a tax-deductible donation.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: The Pulse is here!

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It’s here! After years and years of hard work, meetings, planning, and advocacy the GRTC Pulse and entirely redesigned bus system are up and running. Today! Right now! Maybe you’re even reading this email on the Pulse or one of the new routes right now?

If not, here are a couple of things to get you started:

  • First, check out the new system map (PDF) to get a lay of the land.
  • You can plan your specific trip in a variety of ways, including Google Maps, Apple Maps, or GRTC’s newly refreshed app (available on the App Store of your choosing). Or even download PDFs of the paper schedules if you’re feeling old school.
  • Remember that most of the routes and some of the stops have changed. If you’re used to catching a certain bus at a certain stop at a certain time, make sure you check on the new state of affairs first.
  • For this week, June 24–30, all GRTC buses—including the Pulse—are free! After this week, you can pay in a variety of ways, but the one I’m most excited about is the new Mobile Pass app (also available in the App Store of your choosing). Using this app you can purchase a 1-day, 7-day, or 30-day pass.
  • If you’re looking for ways to explore the system this week, check out our RVA Transit Week suggestions. We’ve got a bunch of suggested destinations in different parts of town using different bus lines. Get out there and explore!

AROUND THE REGION

In today’s news it’s all Pulse, all the time! See what local media has to say:


If you'd like to support RVA Rapid Transit's work to bring a truly regional transit system to Richmond, consider making a tax-deductible donation.

—Ross Catrow