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.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Elizabeth Lamp on said:

    I love the idea of special events trips. GRTC should also consider destination trips – to Short Pump, to VMFA, to Carytown, to Shockoe Bottom. I’d love to take a destination bus from my home in Richmond out to Short Pump, avoid parking and traffic congestion.

  2. Geraldine Grundy on said:

    I would love to attend the Flying Squirrels games in the evenings, but I don’t have a car and bus service usually ends before the game is over. On nights where there are games, at least extending service until the game is done would be nice.

  3. I would love to ride the bus from Northside to a restaurant downtown/midtown/Carytown on the weekends. No real options right now.

  4. I would love it if they actually put signs up at the bus stops with the routes and timetables. And maybe cut half the stops. There is no need to have a bus stop every single block or even every other block.

  5. Alix Bryan on said:

    GRTC needs to consider just going a quarter mile more up to Target. There are thousands of people who get off at Willow Lawn and walk up to Target. This is just a basic suggestion that would see great improvement for people utilizing public transportation.

  6. Alix,

    The #1 bus to saint mary’s hospital has a stop on libbie right next to the shopping center that Target is in. Granted, it only runs every 30 mins or so and stops at 7pm with no weekend service. I do agree though that the #6 to willow lawn should probably go as far as the Target.

  7. Also, pjpink, there are definitely weekend bus options that will take you to those locations you listed from most places in Northside (not sure where you are, though). You will likely have to transfer, but thats not so bad.

    Also, I’m not trying to be a GRTC apologist. It nearly as good as most other cities bus services. The routes and system in general can be a pain, particularly later at night or on weekends, but it is possible to get to all parts of the city.

  8. *It is NOT nearly as good as other cities…

  9. Michael Dodson on said:

    Funny people talk more service but without approval and local funding from Henrico or Chesterfield it will be small city only system.

  10. Bradley Robb on said:

    I don’t know if people have been reading, but as a bus commuter, the last two days have been standing-room only.

  11. Jacob K on said:

    I’ve often thought with all the river congestion we see at places like Pony Pasture and Belle Isle during the summers that a smaller bus with racks for kayaks, tubes, and Mountain Bikes could make a bundle shuttling along the river and ending at a unused weekend parking lot somewhere near each terminus. It would be awesome and relieve congestion. SO MUCH OPPORTUNITY, so little vision on the part of the leadership there

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