BRT FAQ #011: What’s next for BRT?

The vote happened, and we are definitely moving forward with the Pulse. But now what?

We did it you guys! After about a decade of planning, GRTC’s Pulse, Richmond’s first BRT, cleared the last hurdle at this past Monday’s City Council meeting. Beers all around! But now that the legislative hoops have been jumped and paperwork signed, what’s next? Turns out a bunch of stuff!

Behold! The future!


First things first: Construction on the BRT–like actual shovels in the ground–most likely begins this April. But really, the construction wheels are already turning as the teams of designers and builders get started planning the different bits of construction (stuff like utility relocation that doesn’t require building a fancy BRT station).

Design-build, by the way, is what all the hip Department of Transportations are using for projects like this. Instead of submitting a giant sequential Gantt chart of the entire project, designers and builders submit a conceptual schedule and work through construction packages. Think of it as a bunch of parallel processes running at once–it makes for faster delivery of the overall project. It also makes for really boring paragraphs like this one.

Anyway, Sid Pawar at VDOT, who’s clearly super stoked that the Pulse is moving forward, said he’s already heard through the grapevine that folks want to get started with construction as soon as possible. VDOT has a bunch of public information requirements to meet, so as soon as they have more information about construction timelines (including possible inconviences to local businesses) they’ll let us know. Again, look for more info around April.

East End route rejiggering

One of the most repeated and totally legit criticisms of the Pulse is that it does not serve the East End or even really connect well with the existing East End bus system. Take heart, East Enders, GRTC is working on improving those connections as we speak! Take a look at the Route Modification Recommendations for Richmond East End Communities of Fulton and Church Hill (PDF) for an exhaustive list of all the proposed changes. Or read these bullets lifted from the executive summary:

  • Modifications to existing routes 7, 43, 44, and 52 to connect to the BRT and improve directness of travel reducing travel time to and from downtown.
  • Introduction of community shuttles to provide direct service to the BRT.
  • Introduction of community circulators to broaden mobility in and between Church Hill, Church Hill North, and Fulton neighborhoods.

Or if visuals are more your thing, here’s a map showing how with the introduction of some new shuttles, access to BRT from the more northerly parts of Church Hill is a lot more straightforward.

East End Bus Routes

Genius Houston Bus Guy

I need to stop calling Jarrett Walker “Genius Houston Bus Guy,” mostly because I’m afraid I will one day meet him in real life and call him that to his face. Also he isn’t even from Houston. He and his company just oversaw the recent and dramatic overhaul of Houston’s bus system. He’s what they call a “rock star” in the transportation circles–and let me assure you transportation circles do have rock stars. He’s also headed to Richmond, on the state’s dime, to revamp our bus system! He’ll be working with the locals at Michael Baker International over the course of this year to study, solicit public feedback, and design a better transportation system for all of Richmond. Maybe the counties will take note!

TOD spells Transit Oriented Development

What do all of these transportation upgrades get us–other than an easy way to get around the city? How about a boat(bus?)load of economic development? One of the benefits of real-deal transit is that folks want to put their coffee shop next to it, or build their condo nearby, or set up a falafel stand across the street (please, please, please). The City is in the middle of a Broad Street development study and had their kickoff meeting last November. Keep an eye on this for opportunities to weigh in on how the development that the BRT will draw should go down.

We got a fast train, I want a ticket to anywhere

I guess you can take a bus to D.C.–and many people do!–but wouldn’t it be way better to take a super-fast train? The state is trying to figure out just what high-speed rail between D.C. and RVA looks like, especially where that fast train stops in Richmond (Main Street Train Station, the Staples Mill station, a new station entirely?). If you look at the BRT route map, you’ll see that there’s a BRT station right in front of the dang Main Street Train station. You’ll also notice that the BRT does not go to Staples Mill. State agencies! Please keep those facts in mind as you roll through the planning process!

No Richmond is an island

Hey! While we are busy toiling away on our own transportation issues, what about everyone else? What happens when you take the BRT out to Willow Lawn but want to go to Mekong? Shouldn’t someone be thinking about the entire Richmond region? Why yes, they should and in fact they are! Check it out:

The progress toward construction of the GRTC Pulse Bus Rapid Transit system and planning by individual jurisdictions and GRTC raises questions about what is next and what is the long-term vision for transit in the greater Richmond area. DRPT, in cooperation with the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RRTPO) and GRTC, is developing the Richmond Region Transit Vision Plan to address this issue. The study team will use current transit and demographic data, land use data and plans, transit and population forecasts, public opinion surveys, and stakeholder input to create and present a regional transit vision plan to stakeholders and the public that will guide transit development in the region through 2040.

The team is buried up to their elbows in analysis at the moment but we should see the results of their hard work later this year. Until then consider attending one of the public meetings and unleashing your opinions on the unsuspecting public.

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Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

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