Once free RVA Shoppers’ Shuttle to charge fee

Posted at 12:32 AM, Jul 31, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-31 00:32:15-04

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) -A service once offered for free will soon instill a fee.

Currently, the City of Richmond offers a free shuttle service to take residents living in different neighborhoods to Walmart in the city's Southside. The shuttle serves the communities of Hillside Court, Fay Tower, Creighton Court, Fairfield, Mosby, Whitcomb, and Fulton. The shuttle service grew out of preliminary recommendations of the Mayor’s Food Policy Task Force.

The shuttle service was recommended by the Mayor’s Food Policy Task Force as a way to give Richmonders easy access to fresh food.

“This is a recommendation that we can act on right away,” said Mayor Jones in a press statement last year. “Helping city residents’ access healthy and fresh food options tie right in with the City’s healthy lifestyle focus.”

Routes were chosen based on areas that were identified as food deserts–places void of affordable, fresh and bulk food options–high concentrations of poverty, and big population of seniors.

“I deal with diabetes and if you don’t have the proper food you can’t help yourself stay healthy,” said Patricia Williford, who helps her neighbors get to the supermarket to buy healthier foods.

Williford said that this program is what the community needs, not “little corner stores where prices are really high and they really don’t have the proper stuff the tenants out here need.”

But starting August 2, the RVA Shoppers' Shuttle will now include a fee of $4 per round trip.

David Henderson says he has to budget any new costs that might come his way, while living on a fixed income, "It's hard enough to afford the grocery store," he said.

"It's like they're slowly taking away more and more from the people who need it the most," said Henderson.

The city says due to the economy, it can't keep funding the GRTC buses to shuttle residents for free.

CBS 6 compared the new fee to taking a regular GRTC bus to Walmart. If a rider gets on at the Ginter Park stop, the cost would be $1.50. But, to get to the Walmart, the passenger has to transfer and pay an extra 25 cents which would come to a total of $3.50.

For seniors and the disabled, there is no transfer fee and the local route is 75 cents.

Debbie Hinton, the city's operations manager said that cost to take GRTC might be cheaper, but it's more inconvenient having to transfer. But Henderson told CBS 6 in tough times people are willing to take the longer route to save money.