Day #047: Special GRTC routes

What can Richmond do to boost GRTC revenue and bus ridership?

Inspired by Michael Bierut’s 100 Day Project, 100 Days to a Better RVA strives to introduce and investigate unique ideas to improving the city of Richmond. View the entire project here and the intro here.

  • Idea: Create a late-night route and routes for special events to boost ridership and revenue for GRTC.
  • Difficulty: 3 — What is the tolerable opportunity cost of not encouraging partying and maintaining a “polished” image for GRTC?

In the 2013 fiscal year, the GRTC1 generated $11.35 million of revenue through ridership while its expenses were $44.25 million. Since then, Chesterfield County slashed its funding, the city reduced CARE service, and rates have increased.

Overcoming a net operating loss is difficult, especially when the mission is “to provide clean, safe, and reliable transportation and to improve mobility and access throughout Central Virginia.” Riders who have access to multiple forms of transportation could boost revenue and cross-subsidize GRTC’s more important routes. To generate revenue and boost ridership, GRTC should attract “choice” riders with late night party routes and routes for special events.

The Hop RVA” and “To the Bottom and Back” before it, already set out to provide affordable bus service through Richmond’s most popular party districts on Friday and Saturday night, but GRTC should be competing for market share.

The GRTC has already made the expensive fixed-cost investment in buses and infrastructure and have competitive advantages, network effects, and economies of scale. GRTC could operate Wednesday and Thursday service, run to other parts of town on Friday and Saturday, and underbid advertising contracts (the advertisers don’t need to fund the bus). GRTC’s services shouldn’t be limited to areas where private companies don’t operate.2

For special events (think Dominion Riverrock) GRTC could charge a small fee for parking at the GRTC bus depot and run a shuttle to Brown’s Island. This would provide predictable parking, curbside drop-off, and help ease congestion by the river.

Transit is one of the most important tools for empowering individuals. A more predictable, comprehensive, and well-used transit system stands to benefit everyone in this city and in the surrounding counties. Ridership need not be limited to the poor, and services need not be limited to employment access.

Love this idea? Think it’s terrible? Have one that’s ten times better? Head over to the 100 Days to a Better RVA Facebook page and join in the conversation.

  1. GRTC’s frequent appearance in “100 Days to a Better RVA” is less of an indictment of their shortcomings, and more of a testament to transit’s ability to empower and improve lives. 
  2. This is partially why it’s easy to complain about government: it doesn’t always do the best job because most of its job is doing things that are too difficult and too expensive for private industry. 
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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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