Connecting to high-speed rail

Danny Plaugher, executive director of Virginians for High Speed Rail, had a good editorial in the RTD this past weekend about the reasons for bringing high-speed rail to the region:

Our region is home to the largest train station by passenger volume in the South, served by three of the top six best-performing regional routes in Amtrak’s entire network — and it boasts the second-fastest-growing station in the state.

Over the past decade, ridership at our stations has increased 68 percent, while the amount of service has increased just 12 percent. That is a great foundation on which to build improved passenger rail to serve RVA.

Passenger rail is great at connecting destinations that are 100 to 500 miles apart. But it has to be reliable, car competitive, safe, and frequent — which is why completing the Washington to Richmond High Speed Rail study is so vital to our region.

If we're going to have high-speed trains zooming into Richmond, we need to figure out where to put the station that handles those trains. We've got a couple options:

  1. Main Street Station (which would allow us to keep the Staples Mill Station active)
  2. A new station on the Boulevard
  3. A new station behind the Science Musuem

Before you shout out your heart's desire, consider how each location connects to our existing (and planned) regional transit network. What good does it do to build the infrastructure to get to DC by high-speed rail if you don't have a way to get to the train station in town?

With that in mind, here's a quick (and incomplete) list of ways some of the regional transit pieces and plans could come into play:

  • Main Street Station will have a BRT stop (PDF) right in its front yard.
  • The Science Museum will also have a BRT stop nearby, but it'd probably be at least a third of a mile walk from the train station's location behind the museum to the BRT at Broad & Robinson.
  • The High Ridership concept of the RTNP has a high-frequency, 15-minute bus line coming down Boulevard that connects with the BRT and continues on down through the Southside.
  • Part of the Richmond Regional Transit Vision Plan recommends a local service bus that connects Staples Mill (and the existing train station) to Willow Lawn and the BRT running down Broad Street.

Whoa there are a lot of things going on related to transit in the region!

And it's important to hold all of these pieces in your mind as we make decisions like where to put the high-speed rail station, where we should build the next BRT, and how to rejigger Richmond's bus network. It's all connected, y'all!

Photo by: Jeffrey P. Horne