This week in transit: Another month, another ridership increase


Just a couple weeks ago now, Richmond’s City Council passed a budget that included funding for bus service upgrades in the East End and on the Southside. In case you need a refresher: GRTC will design a new route to serve the recently-opened East End grocery store, extend the service hours on the Southside’s #86 and #87, and add Sunday service to the #2B.

Mark your calendars! The public meetings to discuss these service upgrades are on June 4th at the Southside Community Services Center, Room A (4100 Hull Street Road) from 5:30–6:30 PM and June 6th at the East End Branch Library (1200 N. 25th Street) from 6:00–7:00 PM.

These meetings are a good opportunity to get into the specifics with GRTC of how the new service upgrades will work—especially that new East End route. If you can’t make either of the meetings, you can always send an email to


Bus ridership in the Richmond region continues to increase in an incredible way (PDF), setting us apart from almost every other city in America. This is really stunning and something we should celebrate. As of April, with two months remaining in the fiscal year, GRTC saw almost 400,000 more rides this year than last. Not only that, but weekday Pulse ridership has doubled the original projections. Getting more folks on the bus is not a mysterious and magical thing—it just requires jurisdictions across the region to invest in faster, more frequent, and more reliable service. It’s nice to finally see some national recognition for the work being done in the Richmond region.

Despite the nationally-unique, month-after-month increase in ridership, the public narrative around GRTC in Richmond has, at least recently, seemed focused on fare evasion—despite no evidence that it’s a significant problem on the Pulse. So, acting on a directive from City Council to do something to dissuade folks from riding without paying, this past week GRTC’s board considered a pretty terrible advertising campaign to shame transit riders and threaten to “expose” them for evading fare. First, we don’t use this sort of language for people who illegally park, and we shouldn’t use it for people riding transit. Second, you can imagine a world where these ads could have simply said something like “It’s fair to pay your fare.” and totally eschewed the shame-based language. Third, King County, Washington, recently did a study on fare evasion (PDF) and found that “people experiencing homelessness or housing instability received nearly 25% of [fare evasion] citations.” If the City and GRTC still feel like spending resources on a marketing campaign to curb fare evasion (without knowing if it’s even a problem), they need to use better and more compassionate language.

As the State continues to build, renovate, and update their properties in and around the Capitol, transportation continues to feel the impact. The eastbound Pulse lane between 9th and 10th has been closed and will be closed indefinitely until the new General Assembly building is completed. Now, the State will close 9th Street and portions of Grace Street, detouring two 15-minute bus routes (the #2 and #5). They’ll also install “two new gates controlling traffic at the south end of the street at Bank Street,” which, if they’re anything like the gate on the other end of Bank Street, don’t sound particularly friendly to people on bikes.

—Ross Catrow