public transit

If you make driving difficult…people take public transit!  DC Metro set a one-day ridership record- as of 7 pm, more than 973,000 people had ridden the metro- breaking the previous record of 887,000.  Those are some serious numbers, and without the last 5 hours of the day counted!

It wasn’t just the popularity of our current president creating this bump in transit-use.  From a Times-Dispatch article:

One of the contributing factors in the heavy ridership was a decision by federal authorities to close all bridges from northern Virginia into Washington, limiting vehicle access to the city.

I’m trying to figure out how this lesson applies to Richmond.  So far, I’ve got nothing.


Would anyone in Richmond ride it ?

Apparently, if you’re a U of R employee, the answer is no.

I heartily applaud the new president’s efforts to green the campus and hand out free bus passes to employees. However, only 97 of 1500 employees had accepted the offer when the TD published their story on Saturday. That’s just over 6% of folks taking a FREE bus pass- never mind how many actually ride the bus.

30-40 employees were regular bus riders before the program began. So about 60 people may be enticed onto the bus. Which, don’t get me wrong, is fabulous. I’d just hope for more.

In the city once famous for implementing the nation’s first electric streetcar, streetcars may soon return to Broad St.

According to Richmond’s “top planner,” Rachel O. Flynn, the city and GRTC are working together to return trolleys to Broad St. But before they do that, they’ll begin piecemeal implementation of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

They’ll start by creating a route of dedicated bus lanes with frequent charter-style buses running from downtown to Boulevard (hopefully in time for the new movie theater opening). Eventually, we should have BRT running into Henrico- both the east and west ends. BRT provides much faster transit than traditional buses by keeping them out of traffic, using signal-changing technology, and spreading out the stops a bit.

Preparing for BRT must be why bus lanes have been added to Broad St. downtown.

And the best news about implementing this transit improvement is that federal funding has been secured, which means there should be fewer reasons this project could get derailed.

And then- trolleys!

Of course, the TD is maddeningly sketchy on the details.

Why is implementing a trolley dependent on first developing BRT? For infrastructure reasons? Because of the federal grant?

What kind of trolley? Electric? Trackless?

Nevertheless, good news for Richmond transit! Finally some innovation, improvements, and change from GRTC.

For a does of realism to temper my enthusiasm here, read about “How biased numbers could kill mass transit in Richmond.”

Nothing more needs to be said. Click on the picture below:

Photo header reads: Amount of space required to transport the same number of passengers by car, bus or bicycle.

Photo courtesy of Juan Jose. Thanks to Tim for emailing me this picture.

Bacon’s blog posts are always thoughtful, usually well-researched and spark endless debates in the comments section. Considering we often blog about similar subjects- transportation options, sprawl, planning and urban development- I’m jealous of the intellectual heft of his posts and of his loyal readers and hecklers.

I wish I were as smart as he is.

That desire is due, in small part, because I disagree with his self-avowed anti-tax zealotry, and I wish I could engage him on a higher intellectual plane. But I don’t have the time or inclination to invest that amount of time in reading, researching and blogging about these issues.

So why am I writing this? Because you all should go and read the latest debate about an important issue for Richmond: the viability of passenger rail.

The now (in?)famous James Crupi report suggested a “dedicated high speed passenger rail system that connects Richmond International Airport and the city of Richmond with Washington/Dulles International Airport.” This rail link would improve Richmond’s role as a major regional player by providing DC-area workers and travelers an alternative to the congested and sometimes-dangerous I-95.

Veteran journalist and Bacon’s Rebellion contributor Peter Galuszka wrote a provocative piece “Forget Passenger Rail.” His honest analysis of Virginia’s political realities (read: willingness to tax) and its impact on our transportation options is sobering, and I’m afraid, dead-on. His conclusion is evident in the article title.

Jim Bacon has responded with a blog post that is primarily noteworthy for the debate in the comments section (20 comments so far at 11:45 AM on 12/11) including posts by Peter Galuszka, Jim Bacon, and many of the Bacon’s Rebellion e-zine contributors.

The debate is refreshing for the variety of opinions on display and the candor with which people lay out their ideological commitments. If only politicians were as forthcoming, this commonwealth would be better off.

At any rate, I strongly recommend heading over to Bacon’s Rebellion and participating in the ongoing debate about the future of passenger rail.

Want to improve Richmond’s transit system? Read on for a specific suggestion on how you can influence GRTC.

I recently posted about the prospect of public involvement in reshaping Richmond’s public transit system. Several folks chimed in with helpful comments about desperately needed changes. Please add your voice to that conversation.

One commenter issued a call to action, which bears reprinting here where it will receive more attention:

Hey, just wanted to stop in and say thanks for covering this and other transportation related issues! My name is Galen Pierce-Gardner and I’m the Deputy Director for External Affairs under the executive branch of VCU’s Student Government Association. We’re currently raising support for Pantele’s Circulator to be completely and functionally implemented with full service from Church Hill or Shockoe Bottom to Carytown. The study currently being undertaken which you mention above is a Comprehensive Operations Analysis(COA) and is a system wide overview of routing and service. It’s the first one in five years with implementation of approved changes scheduled to begin as early as December. As you stated in an early post, councilman Pantele is still very much behind the full service Circulator. It’s time Richmond had functional mass transit!I’d like to ask all of you to take a few minutes to email GRTC in support of this plan. (due to a high volume of mail from students on this issue, some emails to this address have recently been bouncing back, alternate internal GRTC addresses below)

A circulator is a bus that runs very frequently in a circle around downtown, providing tourists, office workers, and residents a quick and easy way to get around downtown sans car.

In Richmond a proposal has been floated for a circulator to run through downtown from Carytown to Church Hill- so frequently you don’t need a schedule to use it. The benefits would be many: Downtown business folks could nip out to Shockoe or Carytown for lunch. VCU students and west of the Boulevard residents could get to clubs in the bottom without drinking and driving or taking up parking. Church Hill residents could shop in Carytown without fighting traffic and looking for a parking spot.

Some of our city politicians, however, have been hacking away at the proposal reducing its route and frequency which, in my opinion, threatens its viability. As I wrote in an earlier post about the ciruclator:

(some) politicians want to phase things in, spend as little as possible until they’re guaranteed financial success. The public, however, will only use public transit when it’s convenient and comfortable- which costs a lot of money upfront to achieve.

You can’t run a bus once an hour and see if it’s popular before increasing service. People won’t ride the bus precisely because it only runs once an hour. And people won’t ride a bus with an imperfect route- they’ll only ride the bus when it stops near their origin and destination without too much meandering in the middle. And achieving those goals costs money.

So Pierce-Gardner’s call for a “full service” circulator to be “completely and functionally implemented” is right on target.

Perhaps, given the political realities of transit funding, writing your councilperson would be advisable as well. Addresses listed below by district number:


Not sure of your district? Check this unhelpful map and use the clunky “Find your District” link.

Buried in an article about the move of GRTC headquarters is this exciting statement [emphasis mine]:

The bus company expects to complete a survey of the system, including all bus routes, later this year. The study will set the stage for a public debate over what localities in the region want from the bus system and how much they’re willing to pay to get it.

A debate about what the public wants from transit!

Okay- so the debate may be between localities and their government representatives and not between us regular non-elected folk.  But maybe not.  Maybe GRTC will solicit input from the general public.  How exciting would that be?  A charrette for transit!

So I’d like to get the ball rolling here- what do you want from transit in Richmond?

I’d like to see a downtown circular running from Carytown to Church Hill that runs so frequently you don’t need a schedule.

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