BRT FAQ: Holiday status report

What’s happening with these rapid buses lately? What’s the status, Gladys?

Well you guys, it’s been awhile since last we spoke about my most favorite topic: Bus Rapid Transit. So what’s the deal? Is it, like, done? Do we have buses rapidly transiting up and down Broad Street? Nay, not yet friends, but soon. Here’s a quick recap of where we’ve been over the last little while and what’s on deck.

Commissions and committees did some approving

On November 5th, the City’s Urban Design Committee approved the BRT plan, which had been updated after a couple of initial questions and suggestions. They submitted their fairly dry recommendation to the Planning Commission (PDF), who has the final say on these sorts of things. Dry as it may be, you should totally read that document–it’s the best concisely written summary of the project I’ve come across.

Then, the Planning Commission met on November 16th and also approved the BRT. As part of their process, they keep track of each letter of support and opposition they receive for all sorts of projects–for the BRT they got 44 letters of support (PDF) and only three letters in opposition (which, for some reason, seem to no longer exist on the City’s website).1 For all the consternation spilled out leading up to this moment, BRT’s final approval was…uneventful?

Up next: Richmond, Henrico, and some dudes give each other a big hug via a probably boring PDF

The next hurdle facing the BRT is the adoption of a Project Partner’s Agreement between all of the project partners (Richmond, Henrico, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and the U.S. Department of Transportation). It is a mysterious document that has yet to make its public debut, but a very important one that must exist and will–one would assume–govern how this whole thing’s gonna work, who has which role, that kind of thing.2

This hurdle, while by no means the last hurdle in a long series of hurdles stretching down the length of Broad Street and into the future, seems like it is one the final chances for BRT opposition to halt or delay the project. Even though both Urban Design Committee and the Planning Commission have signed off on the thing and funding has been raised and committed, it cannot exist without this agreement. To convince Council to reject (or, more likely, delay) the agreement would mean death to the project in its current state.

This agreement should be introduced for the December 14th City Council meeting and then should be voted on in the January meeting.

Up next next: BRT Existing routes = ???

Assuming Council gets their parts all nailed down, the next thing on the list is the Companion Route Analysis Study, which is due in January. This study will look at existing routes and suggest modifications to how those interact with the BRT route.

I imagine this will be one seriously complex and long PDF once it hits the streets. Not only does GRTC need to deal with a spaghetti bowl of existing routes, each with a bunch of people that rely on them for their day-to-days, but they also must comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. If your transit system takes money from the Federal Transit Administration (which, you’ll remember, has provided $24.9 million) you must ensure that, “prior to implementation, any and all service changes that exceed the transit provider’s major service change threshold, as well as all fare changes, to determine whether those changes will have a discriminatory impact based on race, color, or national origin.”

Lots and lots of thinking will need to be done3 before GRTC can go in and add, edit, or delete routes. It’s my opinionation that only with a solid plan for the companion routes can the Pulse reach its full potential.

Unlimited passes and a new mobile app

While you’re here, I might as well mention the new unlimited ride passes the GRTC just started offering:

  • Unlimited 1-day pass: $3.50
  • Unlimited 7-day pass: $17.50
  • Unlimited 30-day pass: $60.00

There’s also an oddly named “One Ride Plus Pass” that costs $1.75 and allows you to take a single, one-way trip but not pay a transfer fee.

Oh also! GRTC will soon, fingers crossed, roll out their mobile pay app, thereby eliminating the need to carry cash and to interact with a human while boarding a bus. Shoot an email over to Carrie Rose Pace if you’d like to be a beta tester.

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  1. You can find letters supporting or opposing all sorts of things by poking around in the City’s legislative system. For instance, here are the letters for and against closing a portion Brook Road to make way for the Maggie Walker statue. Most of the latter are actually for saving the tree that lives on that block. So interesting! 
  2. The project partners are also responsible for finding extra cash if things should run over budget. 
  3. Here’s a 130-page PDF explaining exactly how to comply with Title VI, if that gives you any idea of how complicated it can get. 
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Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

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