Rethinking the bus

This week, the Greater Washington Partnership—a group of business leaders from Richmond, Washington D.C., and Baltimore—released a new report titled Rethinking the Bus: Five essential steps for improving mobility in the Capital Region. It’s buses all the way down in this report that looks to offer suggestions on how to improve each region’s public transportation network with a eye toward better connectivity between all three cities.

First, it’s great that a group of business-minded folks want to focus on improving public transportation in the larger region. Second, their recommendations for Richmond are great, and we should begin implementing them ASAP! Err...full disclaimer: RVA Rapid Transit helped put together the Richmond portion of the report, so we’re a bit partial:

  1. Expand service in the counties

  2. Lay the groundwork for a north-south bus rapid transit line

  3. Reorganize transportation staff

  4. Update the strategic transportation plan

  5. Make more data public

You can download the full report here (PDF), or read on for a summary of the recommendations for Richmond plus a few additional items related to each.

Expand service in the counties

Further expand bus service in Henrico and Chesterfield counties building on the expanded service that launched in September 2018 on three major Henrico routes.

The region needs to capitalize on the Pulse, the redesign of Richmond’s bus network, and the recent expansion (the most significant in several decades) of public transportation in Henrico County. We should use all of this incredibly exciting transportation momentum to continue to expand transit in Henrico while beginning to offer local service in Chesterfield County.

GRTC’s Transit Development Plan (PDF) recommends several expansions and extensions as does the Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s Greater RVA Transit Vision Plan (PDF). To list a few examples:


  • Extend Route #1 to the shopping center at Brook & Parham

  • Create a new express route to Virginia Center Commons

  • Increase the frequency on the Route #91 to 30-minutes


  • Extend Route #3B to John Tyler Community College

  • Add high-quality transportation along Midlothian and Hull Street

  • Create a new express route to a park-and-ride at Cogbill Road and Chippenham Parkway

Lay the groundwork for a north-south bus rapid transit line

Expand service and stop locations along Jefferson Davis Highway to Chester and U.S. 1 to Ashland to lay the groundwork for the next BRT line.

The Greater RVA Transit Vision Plan recommends bus rapid transit or enhanced local bus lines running on most of the region’s major corridors: Route 1, Broad Street, Patterson Avenue, Hull Street Road, Midlothian Turnpike, and Mechanicsville Turnpike. The recommendation for Route 1 stretches from Ashland all the way to Petersburg. Additionally, Richmond Connects (PDF), the City’s Strategic Multimodal Transportation Plan, recommends Route 1 as a “transit priority corridor.”

Currently, GRTC runs the 95x Petersburg Express (PDF) and the seasonal #102x Kings Dominion Express (PDF) which just recently added a stop in Ashland.

Reorganize transportation staff

Consolidate Richmond transportation staff into a single City department.

Richmond’s transportation planning and engineering responsibilities are spread across multiple City departments which makes efficient and rapid implementation of a cohesive transportation strategy difficult. Cities across the nation have a single, consolidated Department of Transportation or a Division of Transportation within another department (e.g. Department of Public Works).

In May of 2017, Mayor Stoney requested a performance review of each city agency. In response to this review, his office put together Realizing One Richmond: A Roadmap for Organizational Change (PDF), which, in part said:

“Finally, the reorganization may also lead to creating a unified division of transportation based within a single department. Staff working on transportation infrastructure issues are currently scattered across several departments. Formation of a separate transportation division based within a single department will strengthen the City’s capacity to address transportation issues holistically and effectively, and may also accelerate the permitting process for key projects.”

Update the strategic transportation plan

Implement and regularly update the Richmond Connects Strategic Multimodal Transportation Plan.

Richmond Connects was last updated in July 2013, and, while we haven’t accomplished everything the plan recommends, it’s in desperate need of an update. The transportation landscape has changed in dramatic ways since the report’s release.

Make more data public

Monitor and report on bus on-time performance by route.

At the moment, GRTC regularly(ish) releases monthly ridership trends on the Ridership Reports section of its website. They’ll also occasionally post more data via their twitter accounts, like this report of the first 11 weeks of Pulse ridership and local service routes. But more data is better! Additionally, GRTC should publish this data in standard, open formats.

If they wanted to move to the front of the pack, they could consider tracking and publishing some of these more advanced performance measures recommended by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (PDF).