This week in transit: More money for public transportation!

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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.

ELSEWHERE

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.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: Mark your calendars for Mayorathon!

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This coming Thursday, February 28th from 6:30–8:00 PM, RVA Rapid Transit, Richmond Magazine, and a bunch of other organizations and nonprofits will host Mayorathon: Policy Jam. We’ll sit down with Mayor Levar Stoney to have a conversation about his accomplishments and priorities in a handful of topic areas: transportation, neighborhoods, education, public safety, and the urban environment. Get excited for an informative and fun atmosphere in which to talk about local policy—seriously, that’s a thing that can (and should) exist! The event is free and open to the public, but please RSVP over on the Eventbrite so we can get an accurate headcount. See you there!

AROUND THE REGION

Each and every ridership report released by GRTC is more astounding than the last. This recent one shows that year-over-year ridership in January across the entire bus system increased a whopping 26% (PDF)! Next up, this report shows that Pulse ridership continues to exceed expectations (PDF), with most weeks seeing near 40,000 rides. In that previous link, there’s also a fascinating table showing VCU ridership by route, with the #1A/B/C and the #5 both showing strong ridership growth.

Back in January, GRTC reduced the frequencies of the #4A and #4B routes which provide connections in and out of Fulton to the Pulse. However, after a recent public meeting at which they heard from more of the Fulton community, it sounds like the bus company may decide to add back 15-minute service during peak hours. Peak-only 15-minute service isn’t as consistent or useful as all-day 15-minute service, of course, but it’s good to see GRTC listening to the needs of the Fulton community.

Speaking of community input, on Wednesday at the West End Branch of the Richmond Public Library from 6:00–7:00PM, you can weigh in on some proposed changes to the #50, #76, and #77 routes. At this meeting, you’ll most likely hear about the changes presented at this past week’s GRTC board meeting (PDF). Those changes include new turnarounds on the eastern end of the #50, #76, #77—which you’ll remember are necessary since 1) City Council objected to the original turnaround on the block bounded by Grace, Robinson, Broad, and Davis, and 2) The current turnaround on the Science Museum property is only a temporary solution. You might also hear about a proposed extension of the western end of the #77, which would be a $255,000 change—more thoughts on this one after more details surface.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: Attend a transit meeting or two!

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GRTC will host two public meetings in the coming weeks which will give you an opportunity to weigh in on recent and proposed changes to the bus network.

First, on February 20th from 7:00–8:00 PM at the Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton (1519 Williamsburg Road), you can let GRTC know your thoughts on the recent reduction in frequency to the 4A and 4B. While you’re there you can also help them decide where to install new bus stop amenities—concrete pads, benches, trash cans, shelters, and adequate lighting.

Second, you’ve got two chances to attend a meeting about the 50, 76, and 77 routes: February 27th (6:00–7:00 PM, West End Branch Library, 5420 Patterson Avenue) and February 28th (6:00–7:00 PM, DMV, 2300 W. Broad Street). These are the three routes that originally turned around on the block bordered by Broad, Davis, Grace, and Robinson, but now turn around back behind the Science Museum.

AROUND THE REGION

This past fall, Henrico County improved and expanded their bus service in a big way—their biggest improvement to public transportation in 25 years. That hard work and new service is paying off as ridership has nearly double on a couple routes. As GRTC’s Carrie Rose Pace says, “Where you place a level of transit service that is more frequent, operates at later hours and on weekends, and reaches the destinations that the community needs to get to, the riders will get on board.”

ELSEWHERE

TransitCenter has released their Who’s On Board 2019 ridership study (PDF), and they’ve found that...fewer people are on board. Low quality transit service and cheap/easy car ownership seem to be driving the nationwide ridership decrease. What happens when cars ownership gets more expensive and more difficult? Who knows! But CityLab has an interesting article looking at the auto loan industry.

Streetsblog says that last year’s tax reform law may have accidentally added a tax to employers who provide free parking to their employees? This sounds good if you’re in favor of economic incentives to get fewer people driving to work alone in their cars and more people commuting by bike or transit. However, it sounds like the IRS is quickly working to fix the glitch.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: Attend a transit meeting or two!

TAKE ACTION

GRTC will host two public meetings in the coming weeks which will give you an opportunity to weigh in on recent and proposed changes to the bus network.

First, on February 20th from 7:00–8:00 PM at the Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton (1519 Williamsburg Road), you can let GRTC know your thoughts on the recent reduction in frequency to the 4A and 4B. While you’re there you can also help them decide where to install new bus stop amenities—concrete pads, benches, trash cans, shelters, and adequate lighting.

Second, you’ve got two chances to attend a meeting about the 50, 76, and 77 routes: February 27th (6:00–7:00 PM, West End Branch Library, 5420 Patterson Avenue) and February 28th (6:00–7:00 PM, DMV, 2300 W. Broad Street). These are the three routes that originally turned around on the block bordered by Broad, Davis, Grace, and Robinson, but now turn around back behind the Science Museum.

AROUND THE REGION

This past fall, Henrico County improved and expanded their bus service in a big way—their biggest improvement to public transportation in 25 years. That hard work and new service is paying off as ridership has nearly double on a couple routes. As GRTC’s Carrie Rose Pace says, “Where you place a level of transit service that is more frequent, operates at later hours and on weekends, and reaches the destinations that the community needs to get to, the riders will get on board.”

ELSEWHERE

TransitCenter has released their Who’s On Board 2019 ridership study (PDF), and they’ve found that...fewer people are on board. Low quality transit service and cheap/easy car ownership seem to be driving the nationwide ridership decrease. What happens when cars ownership gets more expensive and more difficult? Who knows! But CityLab has an interesting article looking at the auto loan industry.

Streetsblog says that last year’s tax reform law may have accidentally added a tax to employers who provide free parking to their employees? This sounds good if you’re in favor of economic incentives to get fewer people driving to work alone in their cars and more people commuting by bike or transit. However, it sounds like the IRS is quickly working to fix the glitch.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: GRTC looking for Fulton feedback

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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

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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...

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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