Monday March 17th is Transit Driver Appreciation Day! Without the operators, none of this works, so take a second to thank your driver when you hop aboard on Monday.
AROUND THE REGION
The City’s Office of Community Wealth Building released their annual performance report (PDF) which contains this bit about the connection between high-quality public transit and employment: “Transportation continues to be one of the major barriers to individuals gaining and retaining employment. Although, the OCWB strives to ensure all participants are able to get to employment and training through our direct services we understand that the Richmond Area needs a comprehensive regional transit system that effectively and efficiently connects residents to employment opportunities. The development of a strong regional transit system continues to be a systemic goal of OCWB’s.” This, of course, is our goal as well, and we’re lucky that a plan for just such an effective and efficient regional transit system exists. While the recent and continued investment in public transportation by some of the region’s jurisdictions is definitely a start, to build a truly regional system we will need some bold leadership and movement towards creating a dedicated bucket of funding for just such a thing.
Henrico County released their budget (warning: huge PDF) and joins Richmond City in increasing their funding for GRTC. They’ll chip in an additional $465,000 to pay for “a 3.0 percent increase in GRTC operating costs, and for a full-year of support of the mid-September 2017 service enhancement.” So while Richmond’s money goes towards new service, Henrico’s money will go to preserving the existing service (which is still pretty dang new). Between the two jurisdictions, GRTC will see about a $1.4 million increase in funding.
Did you see this ridership trends PDF from GRTC? It’s kind of incredible. This past January saw a 26% ridership increase as compared to the previous January! After some back-of-the-napkin math that you should definitely take with a grain of salt, all of the recent investments in public transportation total a less than 10% increase in GRTC’s budget, but have kicked ridership up by 26%. That’s a significant return on investment.
Gwinnette County, an Atlanta suburb, will hold a referendum this coming Tuesday to approve a one-cent sales tax to expand public transportation into the County. This would raise $5 billion to build and run heavy rail, Bus Rapid Transit, and more local service. Fingers crossed for those folks!
Also in Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has decided to create a dedicated Department of Transportation for the City—something Richmond lacks but was one of the transportation-related priorities from Mayorathon.