This week in transit: Bus the vote!

TAKE ACTION

The most important way you can Take Action this week is to go vote! This coming Tuesday, November 6th is Election Day, and to help get out the vote, the City will offer free bus rides on local routes within the City limits. Using this cool map put together by GRTC, you can see that almost every single one of the City’s polling places (minus about a dozen or so) are a short walk from a bus stop. If you still, for some reason, haven’t ridden the bus, Tuesday would be a great opportunity to kick the tires and try it out.

After doing one of your civic duties and voting, consider volunteering as an extra in an upcoming GRTC commercial. They’re looking for a diverse group of folks of all ages to hang out and look awesome on November 14th from 1:00–8:00 PM. If you’re interested, contact Ashley Mason ().

AROUND THE REGION

Justin Mattingly from the Richmond Times-Dispatch was at the RTD’s 75th Public Square where the paper unveiled the results of a regional survey that asked folks about goals for the region. Improvements to the transportation system makes the top-10 list of things people from all over the region are looking for. As a 65-year-old Henrico resident said, “You need a good [transportation] system so you don’t need to use cars all the time.” Yes!

Jim McConnell, for the Chesterfield Observer, writes about Chesterfield County’s new (and slow but steady) progress on sidewalks. The goal is, of course, to have GRTC run local, fixed-route bus service along the County’s major corridors. Accessing that future bus service gets a lot safer and more comfortable if there’s a good network of high-quality sidewalks and paths in place. This is good work from the County and double good because the State is footing most of the bill.

RVA Rapid Transit’s quest to win top honors at the Better Housing Coalition Gingerbread House Challenge continues! This year, the theme is “Holiday Movies” and our crack team of gingerbread urban planners and gingerbread transportation analysts have put together a transit-twist on the Polar Express (see below). Stop by Hardywood today between 12:00 PM and 5:30 PM to check out the gingerbread creations and vote (for us).

ELSEWHERE

I want to quote each and every paragraph from this piece in the Atlantic at you. In it, Jarrett Walker addresses almost every reason I’ve heard folks use to suggest implementing on-demand bus service instead of regular ol’ fixed-route service. This is a particularly timely article for our region, as Chesterfield County is—at this very minute—deciding whether they should run fixed-route GRTC service on Route 1 or some sort of on-demand service provided by a private company out of Loudon County. Decision makers and county leaders! Read this article!

—Ross Catrow

466618C3-6405-423D-91A4-D0109A445465.jpeg

This week in transit: New ridership numbers!

AROUND THE REGION

I’ve got new GRTC ridership numbers through the week of October 7th (PDF) for you to dig into, hot off the presses! Here are some of the more interesting takeaways, but I encourage you to open up the document and see how your own bus performs!

  • The Pulse ridership continues to exceed expectations. Over the last three weeks for which data are available (September 25th–October 13th), the Pulse has seen an average of 39,319 rides per week—smashing the pre-launch goal of 22,600. The week of September 30th even broke 40,000 rides!
  • Some context for the previous numbers: The Pulse accounted for 22.6% of the entire system ridership over those three weeks.
  • For the month of September, VCU students, faculty, and staff took 45,345 local-service rides (that’s non-Pulse buses). Due to how the data are aggregated, it’s hard to tell what percentage of total ridership that is, but let’s say it’s somewhere around 10%.
  • The #1ABC, #2ABC, and #5 are some of the local-service routes with the highest ridership. Combined, the #1ABC accounts for about 15% of total system ridership!
  • The ridership on Henrico’s major routes has soared after the County extended service to Short Pump and expanded operating hours. Just look at the #19’s average rides the three weeks before the extension to Short Pump and the three weeks after: 1,519 ➡️ 4,520! That’s nearly triple!
  • Henrico’s #7 and #91 have also seen sizable ridership increases after operating hours were expanded.
  • The route with the lowest ridership? The 23x averaged just 50 rides per week over the last three weeks of available data. Yikes.

ELSEWHERE

Will autonomous vehicles magically solve congestion? Nope! In fact, they may make the traffic problems (and air-quality issues) cities see even worse.

I was just in Pittsburgh last week and was shocked to learn that it costs $1 to make a transfer in their bus network (in Richmond that costs $0.25). Even more shocking, if you’re paying in cash, there are no transfers and you have to just pay the full fare again ($2.75 compared to Richmond’s $1.50). This article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette goes into how those policies extend to their planned mobile fare-payment app and how the local transit advocacy group is pushing to make the entire fare system more equitable.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: Help us with community engagement

TAKE ACTION

Exciting news: We’re hiring a handful of part-time community advocates to help us with outreach, recruitment, and community engagement for a new project we’re working on called RVA Rides. If you’re interested read more about the position and apply before October 22nd!

The annual Morton B. Gulak Lecture in Urban and Regional Planning is this Wednesday, October 17th at 7:00 PM in VCU’s University Student Commons. Majora Carter will give this year’s lecture, which sounds fascinating and is titled “Beyond Mobility: Designing Public Transit to Cultivate Communities of Opportunity”. The event is free and open to the public, although space is limited so get there early!

AROUND THE REGION

Charles Mitchell, interim CEO of GRTC, has a column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about GRTC’s work towards reducing their carbon footprint and helping to create a more sustainable commonwealth. Getting more folks using public transportation is one of the ways to offset climate change. As City Lab put it this week, “The Planet Can’t Survive Our Transportation Habits.”

In micomobility news, Richmond’s dockless, shareable scooter ordinance, ORD. 2018-262, should end up in front of the City’s Land Use, Housing and Transportation committee this coming Tuesday. Scooters, deployed in an equitable way, can be an important tool to fill gaps in our existing transportation network.

ELSEWHERE

The Washington Post looks forward to a comprehensive rethinking of the D.C. region’s entire bus network. While they’ve got multiple, large systems to work on, the basics of improvement remain the same regardless of system size: “Ideally, there would be a robust network of bus lanes, frequent service 24/7, all-door entry and an electronic or off-board payment system.”

TransitCenter has a new report out about what makes a good bus stop. Richmond already does some of their recommendations, but I would like to see more movement on something like this: “Transit agencies should become experts on their bus stops, and maintain information about every stop in an interactive database that can be shared publicly.”

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: Chesterfield considering public transportation on Route 1

TAKE ACTION

Our friends over at the faith-based Isaiah Project had a good turnout at the Henrico Board of Supervisors meeting the other week. They were there to give public comment and show public support for the recent expansions in the County’s bus service.

Next up on the Isaiah Project’s calendar: A trip to the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, October 24th from 6:00–8:00 PM at 10001 Iron Bridge Road. While the logistics will match the trip to Henrico (a handful of speakers, a roomful of supporters all wearing green), I imagine the message will shift from celebrating new public transportation to demanding that the County take the first steps towards connecting Chesterfield into the region’s existing public transportation network.

You can RSVP to the Isaiah Project event on their Eventbrite.

AROUND THE REGION

Speaking of Chesterfield, the County has finally received the report that they requested from the Department of Rail and Public Transportation about transportation options for the Route 1 corridor. The report recommends two different paths forward:

  1. Extend GRTC into the County from the City limits to John Tyler Community College (👍).
  2. Bring in a company that provides reservation-based service on 14-passenger vans. (👎).

I wrote some more on the specifics of the two options over on the RVA Rapid Transit blog, and Jim McConnell at the Chesterfield Observer has some of the thoughts and feelings from Chesterfield’s Board. You can read the study for yourself (PDF) or watch video of the presentation to the County’s Board of Supervisors (skip forward about 22 minutes).

Unrelated, GRTC has slightly simplified and updated the way you can track your bus by text. Just text “GRTC” and your stop number to 22827 and you’ll get back the next couple of buses headed to your stop and the estimated arrival times. Stop numbers are clearly printed on bus stop signs.

ELSEWHERE

How much would it cost to install a bus shelter at every bus stop in America? Angie Schmitt at Streets Blog has an estimate!

—Ross Catrow