On April 7, 2015 and April 18, 2015 organizers and supporters of RVA Rapid Transit participated in Canvass the Corridor, an event designed to create awareness of and gather feedback about the Broad Street BRT project.
Volunteers were equipped with information about the project, which they shared with interviewees, and they also collected feedback on awareness of the project, attitudes toward it, and suggestions for improvement.
The major learnings of the survey were that more people are unaware (63%) than aware (37%) of the Broad Street BRT project, and that far more people are in favor (59%) than against the project (9%) with the remainder giving a neutral response (33%).
Support and concerns elucidated a few recurring themes.
The major supporting sentiments were that the speed and regularity of the system would be a vast improvement; business owners thought that improved transit would bring more customers to the corridor; and that as a growing metro, Richmond’s transit system needs to keep up.
The major concerns were that the removal of parking will create major problems; the system will be bad for businesses on the corridor (this was a combination of parking concerns and business owners not wanting BRT near their stores); that the project does not solve a major need for the city and doesn’t fit into a plan of any sort; and that there needs to be improved north-south service as well.
Of his firsthand experience, said RVA Rapid Transit volunteer Grady Hart, “Local businesses on Broad street are concerned about losing parking spaces, but there also is some excitement at the idea of a BRT system bringing more business to their doorsteps - especially when looking at the long term goal of connecting the surrounding counties with the city.”
These preliminary results are very encouraging, as community support is critical to the success of any rapid transit system.
They do, however, suggest a need for better education by GRTC, Richmond City, and Henrico County on the existence and merits of the project. Though overall awareness was at 37%, awareness among the GRTC riders was only 21%, and some of the major questions from merchants and riders alike were about how the Broad Street project fits into a larger plan or vision for the city.
“Broad Street is the first step toward a regional rapid transit system. The positive energy of the canvassing volunteers on both days was encouraging,” said RVA Rapid Transit organizer Ebony Walden.