Day #085: Yield to Bus (Rapid Transit)

A year-old suggestion for buses has even more meaning with Broad Street BRT in the works. 

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: Lobby the General Assembly to enact “Yield to Bus” legislation before the Bus Rapid Transit system is built on Broad Street. 
  • Difficulty: 3 — This isn’t challenging policy, but it has to happen on the state level which is cumbersome. 

In September, state and local officials announced a $24.9 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to build Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The plan is an exciting step toward realizing a multi-modal transportation network in Richmond. 

The are plenty of hurdles to creating a successful BRT system. On Day #057, I focused on staying true to the mission through branding, design, and construction. Today, the focus will be on a broader ordinance for buses that will be crucial for the 4.6 miles of BRT that are not dedicated travel lanes. 

In May of 2013, Councilmembers Baliles and Mosby chaired the Report of the Recommendations of GRTC and Transit Study Task Force (PDF). Several of the eleven recommendations have been accomplished or are in progress–including removing City Council approval for the designation of or changing of any bus routes (passed 9-0), as well as improvements to fair boxes on buses. 

An important recommendation aimed at creating a “Yield to Bus” ordinance has yet to make progress:

Recommendation #8: Richmond City Council should lobby the General Assembly enact legislation to enable local jurisdictions for pass “Yield to Bus” Ordinances which would require traffic to yield to a bus merging into traffic.

This type of ordinance creates “respect” for buses while reducing rear-end collisions and, more importantly, route times. Speed is crucial to all bus routes, but it is even more important when trying to keep the rapid in BRT. Since Richmond’s BRT will not be entirely built upon designated lanes, giving buses right of way when entering and exiting those designated lanes will be very important. 

This change isn’t as simple as a vote by City Council. Because of the Dillon Rule, Richmond has to lobby the Virginia General Assembly to grant that power through the state code–that’s the unfortunate hurdle of policy in the state of Virginia. 

The task force suggested “Yield to Bus” before the TIGER grant made BRT possible because the ordinance would benefit all buses in the GRTC system. Now that Richmond has the money and mandate to build a world-class BRT route on Broad Street, the ordinance has taken on a new meaning to keep Bus Rapid Transit rapid. 

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. 

Photo by: Tyler Finney Photography

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Aaron Williams

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

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