richmond

A new analysis of Richmond’s bus network redesign

Last winter, VCU’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis put out a report about Richmond’s bus network redesign (PDF) that claimed, among other things, that after the redesign 22% fewer lower-income dwelling units were within 1/4 mile of a bus stop.

Today, the folks who redesigned the bus network, Jarrett Walker + Associates, released a memo detailing errors in methodology and with calculations in that original report (PDF). In fact, following CURA’s methodology and using their data, JWA found that only 2% fewer lower-income dwelling units were within 1/4 mile of a bus stop—and, of course, public transportation is about more than proximity to a bus stop. In fact, JWA notes that, with the new bus network, the average resident can access 6% more jobs in 45 minutes while the average lower-income resident can access 10% more jobs in that same time period.

From the Jarrett Walker + Associates release:

The CURA report also contains numerous calculation errors and key mistakes in its methods. For example:

  • CURA used a roadway network that excluded many potential walking paths. As a result, they calculated many walks as being longer than they actually are.
  • CURA excluded large parcels on the edge of their miscalculated walking areas entirely, even if only a small portion of the parcel was outside the walk area. For example, in their analysis of the old network, Creighton Court is fully within the ¼ mile area and all 356 dwelling units are counted in their numbers. For the new network, because less than 1% of Creighton Court is not covered by their walk area, none of the 356 dwelling units are counted.
  • CURA made manual adjustments to the results for dwelling units in low income areas but only for the old bus system and not for the new one, thus skewing the results in favor of the old network. This manual adjustment, and the other issues with their methods, lead to their erroneous result purporting to show a 22% decline in dwelling units in low income areas within ¼ mile of a bus stop. Strictly following their flawed methods would have shown only a 2% decline, without their skewed manual adjustments

And from a GRTC release:

JWA chose to review GRTC’s network changes after a December 2018 report erroneously and falsely concluded a significantly negative impact on disadvantaged populations. The Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (CURA) at Virginia Commonwealth University released the report entitled “Impact of the GRTC 2018 Reroute on Richmond’s Disadvantaged Population” based on analysis mistakes, manual manipulations and incorrect data calculations, as JWA concludes.

GRTC Interim Chief Executive Officer Sheryl Adams says, “We cannot permit false assumptions to perpetuate in this community when GRTC, in partnership with local jurisdictions and quasi-governments, is committed to responding to the needs of the communities it serves. GRTC strongly endorses the conclusions of Jarrett Walker + Associates.”

VCU and GRTC sign a three-year agreement

Earlier this week, VCU signed a three-year agreement with GRTC to continue their unlimited rides program for all VCU, VCU Health System, and Virginia Premier students and employees. The program, which provides unlimited rides across the entirety of GRTC’s bus network, is extremely popular:

In a recent VCU survey, 95.4% of students and employees expressed support for a continuation of the existing transportation agreement VCU and GRTC have been piloting since August 2018. Since January, VCU community members have accounted for approximately 12% of GRTC’s total ridership, averaging 87,400 trips a month.

Not only will VCU extend their agreement with GRTC through 2022, but they’ll pay more for it, too. Beginning in August, the University will pay $1.42 million for the first year, $1.57 million and $1.65 million the following two years. VCU paid $1.2 million for its first pilot year.

Keeping the region’s largest employer (and university) on the bus is a huge win for the Richmond region. Now, it’s up to other larger employers in transit-accessible locations to begin offering similar bus pass programs to their employees, too.

A look at the GRTC spring route updates

This past Sunday, May 12th, GRTC rolled out their spring route updates, which included a handful of small tweaks and a few bigger adjustments. Here are a few highlights and thoughts:

  • The two Fulton routes, the #4A and #4B have had their peak frequencies returned to 15-minutes. Credit goes to advocates for reverting some of the frequency reductions to a neighborhood that was promised quick and efficient connections to the Pulse.
  • Routes #50, #76, and #77 will now continue farther into the city on their eastbound trips, turning around on Meadow Street and serving the new Whole Foods and any future development on that site. This change comes after GRTC agreed to remove the three lines from the block bordered by Grace, Robinson, Davis, and Broad, which then forced a temporary turn around on Science Museum property.
  • The #87 Bellemeade/Hopkins route will now run until 10:00 PM. This change is separate from the new—and even later—service that the Mayor proposed and City Council recently funded in this year’s budget process.
  • The #102x Kings Dominion is up and running for this summer season. Make sure you check the timetable (PDF) as the span varies depending on the month and day of the week. This bus also stops in downtown Ashland and could make for an interesting, permanent regional route with a big of planning and a bit of funding.

This week in transit: Contact your local legislators

TAKE ACTION

If you’re a Richmond City or Henrico County resident, please take two minutes of your day and email your representative in support of the funding for public transportation included in each locality’s budget. To recap:

  • In Richmond, the Mayor has proposed $965,000 in new funding for GRTC for “increased service and route frequency to those communities that need it the most.”
  • In Henrico, the County Manager has proposed $465,000 to preserve and continue the new service that they launched this past September.

Both of these are worthy investments by our region and should be encouraged! You can find contact information for the Richmond City Council here and contact information for the Henrico Board of Supervisors here. If you’re stuck on what your email should say, keep it simple! Something along the lines of: “I’m a constituent, and I’m happy to see more funding for GRTC in this year’s budget. Please support this much needed investment in our regional public transportation system.”

AROUND THE REGION

At a recent meeting, the GRTC Board of Directors voted to restore some of the frequent, 15-minute service to Fulton’s #4A and #4B bus routes. This peak-only restoration of service will allow folks to get in and out of Fulton—on the way to and from work—much more efficiently and will cut the average wait for folks transferring from the Pulse in half. As our region scrapes together the pieces of the skeletal beginnings of a regional public transportation system, it’s important to remember that even with the influx of funding mentioned above, the Richmond region still spends less on transit per capita than almost any of its peer cities.

ELSEWHERE

This past week, Gwinnett County voters went to the polls and, unfortunately, rejected a 1% sales tax increase to expand public transportation into their region. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s editorial board says that “the changing politics and demographics of Gwinnett seem to guarantee that MARTA will eventually arrive.” Also in the AJC, a demographic breakdown of the vote and five takeaways from their quick analysis of the turnout.

—Ross Catrow

This week in transit: GRTC looking for Fulton feedback

TAKE ACTION

On February 20th from 7:00–8:00 PM, GRTC will host a public meeting at the Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton to “solicit feedback from Greater Fulton residents, businesses and riders about bus routes serving this area.” This meeting will take place about a month after the two 15-minute routes connecting folks living in Fulton to the Pulse had their frequencies halved. If those changes impacted your commute, this would be the time and place to share those concerns with GRTC. Also, if your favorite Fulton bus stop needs benches, lights, a trash can, or a concrete pad you can and should bring those issues up at this meeting as well.

Also! Don’t forget about Chesterfield’s Route 1 public transportation survey! If you live, work, play, worship, or learn on the corridor please fill out this survey—and send it to other folks who do as well. It’s far past time Route 1 had dedicated, fixed-route public transportation service provided by GRTC!

AROUND THE REGION

GRTC will celebrate Black History month by continuing its tradition of honoring local Black history-makers. You can check out this year’s honorees over on the GRTC website.

The Nation has a long piece about how bad bus service and extreme commutes impact people’s lives in the Washington D.C. region. You should read through this piece with an eye toward Richmond, because, at least on a smaller scale, you can find most of the concerns raised right here in town. For example, this sentence but sub in Chesterfield and Henrico: “A lot of these workers in low-wage jobs—they either have to [move] to Prince George’s County, Maryland, or Alexandria, Virginia, and the transportation network has not changed to meet the changing demand”

ELSEWHERE

The link between the increase in use of transportation network companies (TNC), like Uber and Lyft, and the decrease in ridership of public transportation is complex but probably not positive. That said, pilot partnerships between ridesharing companies and public transit agencies, like this one in Los Angeles, can be interesting. Key points from this particular pilot: Trips must begin or end at one of three rail stations, the TNC involved (Via) avoids trips with a single passenger, and riders that are registered with the existing low-income fare program can ride for free.

Atlanta just hosted the Super Bowl and, as a result, marked record highs in transit ridership before and after The Big Game. The flexibility with which MARTA responded to the changing transit needs—running 24-hour rail service and adding trains—is impressive.

Streetsblog looks into how Seattle is putting pedestrians first when designing safe street crossings—something you’d think would be the default but, unfortunately, is not.

—Ross Catrow