RICHMOND, Va. — Earlier this week, I rode my bicycle from the Northside where I live to the Fan where I work. Then I took the #24 bus down to 14th Street, grabbed a transfer to the #43 and took it up into Church Hill for a meeting. After the meeting I hopped on the #52, headed west to my final meeting of the day on Grace Street and then walked back into the Fan to get my bike and ride home.
That exhausted me just typing it all out, and I wouldn’t wish that day of travels on most folks. Luckily, I won’t even be able to wish it on anyone as Richmond’s transit system is about to get a lot more efficient, easier to use, and more useful.
Three super big deals are on the horizon and will totally transform our transit network.
The GRTC Pulse, RVA’s first bus rapid transit line, will open for business almost one year from now—if you head out to Broad Street you can see crews working on the stations right this very minutes. The Pulse will provide service every 15 minutes up and down Broad Street from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing. It’ll have cool-looking stations, off-board fare collection, and run in its own lane for a good portion of the route.
Generally speaking, it’ll be the most rail-like bus you’ve ever seen, and it will form the backbone of a new transit network that’s going to be way less exhausting for everyone to use.
The Richmond Transit Network Plan will totally transform our existing bus lines. The point of the plan, put together by the City and GRTC, is twofold:
1) take advantage of the Pulse’s backbone and consolidate some of the zillions of bus lines that run down Broad Street right now, and
2) free up hidden capacity in the system by spacing out the bus stops.
Across most of the current system the bus stops every. single. block.
By spacing out the stops we can unlock capacity and do amazing things like make most bus lines in the city run every 15 minutes!
If you’re a bus rider, I’ll pause to let you put your jaw back together after it shattered all over the floor. If you’re not a bus rider, in the current system very few buses run anywhere close to every 15 minutes—with most running every 30 or 60 minutes.
In the immediate future, Richmond will have its own bike share system, adorably called The B.
Bike share is intended for short trips, not all-day rentals; you just pick up a bike at one station, ride it around, and drop it off at the next station. It helps solve all sorts of last-mile problems, and lets you still get around with the convenience of a bike without all the sweat you might work up riding into town.
These three things—the Pulse, the Richmond Transit Network Plan, and The B—will dramatically transform public transportation in Richmond.
Remember that long exhausting trip I describe in the first paragraph? In the very near future all of the complicated parts will be replaced with “take the Pulse.” All of the walking parts will be replaced with “grab a bike share bike and go.” How awesome is that?
In just about a year, folks living in all parts of town will have a more efficient, easier to use, and more useful transit system. The existing bus lines will be reconfigured to interact smoothly with the Pulse. The Pulse itself will directly connect one side of town to the other (and take about half the time to do it). Bike share will provide convenient (and adorable!) connections between neighborhoods. How can you not get excited about all of this?
And these things are just the first step!
Later this year the state will release their Richmond Regional Transit Vision Plan, a vision for public transit across the entire region. Imagine being able to take a frequent and fast bus from the West End to the airport for a business trip, or from the Northside to a job at Chesterfield Towne Center, or from Downtown out to see family in Mechanicsville.
This kind of stuff lies directly in our future! Now all we’ve just got to do is ask our leaders in the City and Counties to grab the plan by the horns and implement the dang thing!
If you’re interested in grabbing some horns, learning more, or joining the effort for a truly regional transit system, click here.
Ross Catrow is an advocate and organizer for RVARapidTransit and the Metro Richmond Clergy Committee for Rapid Transit.
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