Stories

GRTC Public Meeting in Review

The latest map of the Broad Street BRT from GRTC.

The latest map of the Broad Street BRT from GRTC.

On Monday, GRTC hosted the first of two identical meetings to update the public on the progress being made on the Broad Street BRT project. Since it's not always easy to make every meeting, we got a quick update from David Green, GRTC's CEO, on the project status, updates since the last public meetings, and what to expect next.  Listen here:

[audio m4a="http://www.rvarapidtransit.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/BRT-Update-4715-6.40-PM.m4a"][/audio]

 

Some of the key points from Monday and Tuesday:

  • The initial feedback from the community about parking was taken into consideration. The initial plan called for the loss of 708 parking spaces, and alternatives presented in the update meeting indicate that there has been a 60% reduction in the number of spaces to be removed on Broad Street.
  • A study is currently underway that will determine the best way for the existing fixed-route bus service to interface with the BRT.
  • Henrico County is open to extending the service to Short Pump, however they are not committing to anything at the moment. It seems as if they are taking a wait-and-see approach toward the existing plan.
  • GRTC is working with Richmond City and VCU as they consider how to implement the BRT in a way that meets pedestrian and cyclist needs. They are still gathering feedback from the community and technical advisors, and North-South access across Broad Street is still being refined.
  • The next round of meetings will be held in July.

 

Canvass the Corridor

ready to ride

You are Invited to Canvass the Corridor

On April 18, 2015 RVA Rapid Transit will lead an effort to canvass the Broad Street Corridor. We hope to engage citizens and merchants in conversation about the benefits and their concerns related to Bus Rapid Transit. Volunteers will distribute information, collect feedback and contact information so we can keep citizens and business owners engaged, updated and informed of the process.

Who: RVA Rapid Transit supporters, transit advocates, enthusiasts and anyone interested.

What: Help canvass the Broad Street corridor to spark positive dialogue around the BRT, collect contact information and explore citizen concerns.

When: Saturday, April 18, 2015, 12-4 p.m.

  • Training and Orientation 12-1pm
  • Dispersal, Canvassing & Debrief 1-4pm

Where: We will gather at St. James Episcopal Church @ 1133 W. Franklin for orientation. Parking is available in the lot beside the building and in the parking garage across the street. After orientation we will disperse to areas around the proposed BRT stations along Broad Street. We have free Go Cards for the first 50 volunteers to arrive, but please bring $3 for the bus just in case. The bus is $1.5 each way and you will need exact change.

How: Sign up HERE. Email ebony@rvarapidtransit.org for more information. Please invite anyone you know who might be interested and we encourage student, civic and church groups to take this on together as a service project.

Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit News

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On Tuesday, January 27, 2015 the following article ran in RVA News: RVA’s bus rapid transit updated

GRTC releases some more details of the future BRT system.

The first of two meetings to show off and discuss the rapid transit plan occurred last night. As expected there were some changes to the original plan and quite a few details were released.

  • On-street parking between Interstate 195 and 14th Street will be removed for a bus lane (according to Style Weekly the lane is 9 feet wide and the buses are 10.5 feet wide, so that’s an issue to resolved)
  • Station locations have been shuffled, with a downtown stop heading to the location of Stone Brewing and another moved closer to Scott’s addition
  • Station designs revealed (seen above) and will allow passengers to walk directly onto the busses without dealing with steps
  • Stations will allow passengers to buy tickets, including daily, weekend, and weekly passes
  • Busses would operate every 10 minutes during peak hours and 15 during off peak and cost $1.50.

More information at Style Weekly and Richmond Times Dispatch.

January 27, 2015; 9:38 AM • by Nathan Cushing

RVA Rapid Transit January 2015 Update

Ebony Walden

Ebony Walden

New RVA Rapid Transit Staff

Ebony Walden joined the RVA Rapid Transit staff in August. Ebony has 9 years of City Planning experience and will be working to coordinate future efforts. In 2015, RVA Rapid Transit will help garner support for a land use and economic development vision along the Broad Street corridor to compliment the BRT project and ensure its success. We will also continue to promote the regional vision. Contact ebony@rvarapidtransit.org if you know of an organization that would like a presentation or if your organization wants to officially support the regional BRT vision via letter or resolution.

Dominic Carter

Dominic Carter

Dominic Carter joined the RVA Rapid Transit staff in November to focus on Church and Clergy Relations. Churches have played a significant role in our promotion and advocacy efforts as mission driven social institutions with multijurisdictional membership. Dominic will organize clergy and churches in Metro Richmond to promote and advocate for a BRT focused regional transit system. If you would like to get your church involved please email dominic@rvarapidtransit.org.

Broad Street BRT Update

In September, GRTC received a $24.9 Million federal grant to fund the Broad Street BRT project. The project will service a 7.6 mile route from Rocketts Landing to Willow Lawn, including 14 stations and over 3 miles of dedicated travel lanes. The design process is underway, with construction starting in 2016. Service is expected to begin in October of 2017. For updates and more information go to www.ridegrtc.com/brt .

Richmond Magazine wrote a recent article on the Broad Street BRT.

BRT News & Research

Bus Rapid Transit has gained a lot of prominence in the US and abroad. Click on the links below to learn about recent BRT and other transit related happenings. Like us on Facebook and get regular news updates: www.facebook.com/RVARapidTransit

Join Virginia’s Transit Action Network

Virginia Transit Association has launched a new e-action program to direct folks to their legislators when it’s time to push support for transit. This program allows target alerts for any level of government – even the local level of Board of Supervisors! To register go to the VTA website: www.vatransit.com.

Happy Holidays and thank you for your support. Please help us spread the vision…tell your friends, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and recommend presentation venues or partnerships

Rapid Transit For Richmond's Future

Joe Calabrese

RVA Rapid Transit, together with Partnership For SmarterGrowth and GRTC, present:

Rapid Transit For Richmond's Future Richmond is getting very close to building its first Bus Rapid Transit line -- from Rocketts to Willow Lawn. Join us for an evening with Joe Calabrese*, the CEO of the Cleveland Healthline, the most success Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in the country, who will discuss the economic development potential of BRT for Metropolitan Richmond on:

Wednesday September 17, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm. The Science Museum of Richmond 2500 West Broad Street Thalhimer Theater Richmond, VA 23220 Seating is limited so please RSVP to let us know you are coming.

If you would like to help us get people out to this important event please email us at: rvarapidtransit@gmail.com

Ready to Ride!

The supporters of RVA Rapid Transit

Joe Calabrese** led Cleveland’s effort to build the innovative 6.8-mile long Healthline, a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system connecting several of the city’s major employment hubs, including a major university health system. Since Cleveland’s BRT came on line in 2008, the corridor has seen over 5.8 billion dollars in economic development. The Healthline corridor has many similarities to Richmond and is being used to predict economic development, especially as it relates to job access, for the planned BRT route.

Come hear Mr. Calabrese’s exciting vision about how Bus Rapid Transit will move Metropolitan Richmond into the future.

GAO publishes extensive report on BRT

GAO BRT Report

 Recently, RVA Rapid Transit reported on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the effects of Bus Rapid Transit. We would like to summarize this fifty four page report for those who do not have the time to read the entire report. The 2012 report, surveyed 20 BRT projects nationwide. The GAO also did five site visits to BRT projects to gain more insight on particular characteristics of the projects. These 20 BRT projects were compared to 20 railway projects to determine differences in ridership ( GAO, 2).

Overall, after one year of service, BRT has resulted in an increase in ridership for 13 of 15 projects that reported ridership information. This translates into an average travel savings times of 10 to 35 percent. Overall, U.S BRT projects have lower ridership than international BRT systems, such as those in South America. The report’s authors explain this difference because U.S BRT systems generally have lower population densities and U.S  riders generally have a more positive view of rail systems than bus systems ( GAO, introduction).

However, the study found that success of rail over BRT was not so much an issue of the inherent superiority or inferiority of one system over the other, for each type of transportation has benefits and drawbacks. Instead the study found that marketing, perception, infrastructure development, and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) all contribute to the success of a transit system.

Cleveland Ohio, for example, helped spur economic development by investing in dedicated lanes for the BRT vehicles, which is one way for transportation planners to signal the community’s commitment to the corridor. The study found that the majority of the BRT projects surveyed ( 16 of the 20) operated in mixed traffic for 50% or more of their route ( GAO, 10). Only 5 of the 20 BRT routes surveyed traveled along a dedicated or semi-dedicated guide way for 30% or more of their routes ( GAO, 10).  According to a recent Broad Street BRT update presented at April 22nd’s Richmond City Council Land Use, Housing and Transportation committee, the current Broad Street BRT plan would call for 50% dedicated guide ways putting the project in the top of the pack as far as BRT in the United States is concerned.

The GAO study found that this sense of permanence from infrastructure development was reflected in land values around BRT corridors. For example, “the University Circle portion of the Healthline, which received significant infrastructure and private institutional investments (i.e., investments that are more likely to be perceived as permanent by developers and others),experienced modest to large increases in land values.” ( GAO, 34).  This particular area of the Cleveland Healthline had an average increase in property values in $10 per square foot, an increase of 30% three years after the Healthline opened ( GAO, pg 40).

 

The Cleveland Healthline, because it is so similar to the Rocketts Landing to Willow Lawn, was used by GRTC and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit to predict the potential economic development of the Broad Street BRT. According to the most recent Broad Street BRT update the Broad Street BRT could result in $1.5 million dollars in economic impact each year, a $1.1 billion  increase in property values over 20 years, and a $98.3 million increase in real estate tax revenue over a 20 year period.

Finally, the report pointed out that Bus Rapid Transit and light rail do not necessarily have to be antagonistic ideas. Though it is often pointed out that BRT has lower capital costs (because of less upfront infrastructure) and light or heavy rail has less operating costs (because of greater carrying capacity and longer life of rail cars) such operating costs are highly dependent upon population density and thereby ridership. According to one transit expert interviewed for the GAO report:

“while signaling and control costs are high for rail transit, there is a tipping pointbwhere given a high enough density and ridership, rail transit begins to have lower operating costs overall. New York City Transit officials commented that while construction costs for a street-running BRT are about 1/500th of the cost of building a heavy rail, operating costs for a bus operation can be higher. Two operators can carry close to 2,000 riders on a single heavy rail train, whereas in a BRT system, 24 operators are needed to carry the same number of riders. “ (GAO, 31). Yet, as an About.com article on Public Transportation Operating Costs points out many Metropolitan areas lack the ridership to justify even light rail yet still desire to increase transit oriented development. In the words of the Christopher Mackechnie, an urban planner and author of the About.com article:

“It is true that one light rail train consisting of three sixty feet long cars can carry as many people as four and one-half regular buses. What this means is that assuming passenger load remains constant, a light rail train that has three-car consists operating every ten minutes would need to be replaced by standard buses operating almost every two minutes (six light rail trains per hour = 27.5 standard buses per hour). If there is enough demand along a corridor to operate buses every two minutes, then a light rail train would have lower operating costs than buses.”

Yet as the table Mackechnie provides points out few US cities have the ridership to support light rail. In the words of Mackechnie, “ Replacing a bus route operating every fifteen minutes with even a two-car light rail train operating every fifteen minutes is the equivalent of increasing corridor capacity by three hundred percent (a two-car light rail train is the equivalent of three standard buses). While ridership is likely to increase due to the introduction of trains, it is unlikely to increase by three hundred percent.”

 

Light Rail vs Bus
Cities
City Bus Cost Light Rail Cost
Dallas $122.38 $451.33
Salt Lake $118.24 $124.01
Denver $102.76 $170.18
Sacramento $119.51 $232.00
Los Angeles $127.28 $391.43
Portland, OR $134.39 $187.55
Minneapolis $123.64 $183.82
Phoenix $102.82 $180.35
Baltimore $163.96 $246.73
Philadelphia $141.34 $166.26
Boston $142.96 $216.45
San Diego $84.61 $137.67
Cleveland $126.12 $292.31
Buffalo $114.23 $280.97
Mean $121.87 $232.82
Max $163.96 $451.33
Min $84.61 $124.01
Median $122.38 $216.45
SD $19.50 $90.89

 

 

 

The authors of the GAO study suggests that mass transit is not a choice between bus vs. rail but a choice that makes economic sense based on density and ridership. The study concludes by suggesting that Bus Rapid Transit could actually lay the groundwork for light rail in areas that simply do not currently have the ridership or population densities to support a light rail system. In the words of the report, “ According to one real estate expert we spoke with, a successful BRT line can serve as a precursor to rail transit since it allows nearby property owners to see the actual and potential increase in property values stemming from the presence of transit.” (GAO, 40).  Another expert also pointed out that “communities can use BRT systems to test out potential corridors for light rail or heavy rail systems and provide some insight into the number and spacing of stops, as well as ridership.” (GAO, 40).  The report goes on to say:

“Project sponsors and stakeholders in four of our five site-visit locations indicated that the BRT projects could one day transform into rail transit service. Los Angeles Metro officials explained that Wilshire Boulevard, which is currently serviced by the Metro Rapid system, is the preferred location for a long-deferred subway extension project. According to Metro officials, the agency is still interested in establishing a subway line along this corridor, but it might be 20 or 25 years before this happens. In Seattle, King County Metro officials believe that the RapidRide A Line has established the transit agency’s commitment to capital and service investments that build a foundation for future light rail service in the corridor.” (GAO, 40)

The GAO is a well respected, nonpartisan, government agency who’s report shows the promise of Bus Rapid Transit as well as the downsides and areas for growth in this emerging form of Mass Transit in the United States. We at RVA Rapid Transit encourage you all to read the full report and decide for yourself if Bus Rapid Transit is right for Metro Richmond.

 

Rapid Transit Proves Effective in Richmond-sized Cities

1024px-Richmond,_Virginia_skyline

Most people who have lived in metro Richmond for any duration of time come to see the city as a “big small town”. It’s big enough that you can get a taste of city life, but not so big that you feel overcrowded and have to deal with a high cost of living. The supporters of RVA Rapid Transit love the Richmond region and believe that a comprehensive Rapid Transit System will substantially improve the quality of life for the entire metro area. We’d like to share some examples of how cities similar to Richmond have successfully implemented comprehensive transportation systems.

In 2012, Reconnecting America, a national nonprofit that “integrates transportation and community redevelopment,”  released a report, “Midsize Cities on the Move: A Look At the Next Generation of Rapid Bus, Bus Rapid Transit, and Street Car Projects In the United States.” (You can download the full report here.)

The report defines a “midsize city” as any city between 50,000 and 250,000 residents. Many midsize cities are part of metro areas of 100,000 to 10 million.  The report notes that midsize cities are often characterized by both promise and problems. On the positive side, many are inexpensive to live in, have lower levels of congestion and have institutional assets such as universities. On the negative side, many of them struggle with poverty, unemployment and limited tax revenues.

Does any of that sound familiar? Based on the report’s definition, Richmond is a pretty typical midsize city. The Reconnecting America report shows that successful rapid transit in a city  the size of Richmond is not only possible, it’s already being implemented with great results.

In Eugene, OR, transit planners have begun construction of the first phases of a 61-mile network of bus rapid transit (BRT) lines. In 2007, the Emerald Express, the first BRT line, opened for business. This line connects downtown Eugene with its partner city Springfield, while serving major destinations like the University of Oregon. In 2009 the Federal Transit Administration reviewed the line and found that ridership had doubled compared to previous service, riders found the service to be more reliable and developers had taken interest in developing along the BRT line (p. 42).

In 2008, residents in Flagstaff, AZ, approved a ballot measure to fund Mountain Links, the city’s first rapid bus service, which links downtown Flagstaff, the Northern Arizona University, and off campus residential and commercial areas called the Woodlands (p. 26). Already, data from ridership indicates that Mountain Links has 600,000 trips per year (p. 41).  As a result, Northern Arizona University has closed some parking lots and converted them to green public spaces.

In Grand Rapids Michigan, a town that has reinvented itself as a hub for high tech and medical industries, the city is constructing a 9.6 mile long BRT route, where 65% of the route consists of dedicated lanes.  The silver line will be the first BRT line in Michigan. Already, developers have shown interest, and one grocery store has agreed to locate there (p. 23).

The report contains several suggestions for achieving successful transit-oriented development in midsize cities.  These suggestions include having an overall vision of economic development with transit as a key element, working with business, institutional interests and property owners to support transit-oriented development and enacting supportive zoning to create the optimal densities of different types of development around transit routes.

The report shares just a few examples of midsize cities across the nation that are realizing the potential of sustainable, transit-oriented development. We look forward to Richmond joining their ranks so citizens of the metro area can benefit from the economic and quality of life improvements that a comprehensive rapid transit system will bring. We hope you’ll join RVA Rapid Transit in making this vision a reality!

Photo Credit: Ben Schumin, Wikimedia Commons