UPDATE: GRTC responds to FDA’s statement against Pulse

The Fan District says, “Nope,” and the GRTC still says, “Yes.” Both letters are contained herein.

Update #1 — June 22, 2015; 12:25 PM

We heard from GRTC this morning shortly after publishing the Fan District Association’s letter (below GRTC’s letter), in which they outline their opposition to the Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT). Below is their letter.

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GRTC Response to FDA Letter

RICHMOND, Va. (June 19, 2015) – Project partners, along with GRTC, remain committed to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project called “GRTC Pulse.”

David Green, CEO of GRTC Transit System, said in response to receiving the Fan District Association’s letter today, “We value the Fan District Association’s feedback and respect their position. I encourage them to continue providing input along with the many supporters who have contacted us from throughout the Fan and other nearby neighborhoods. Their passion and comments will undoubtedly benefit the region with a successful project.”

These Letters of Support (PDF) reiterate the themes of why this project will be critical to the region, such as access and connectivity to major employment, health care, education, retail, and housing along the route. Bus Rapid Transit will offer a faster, more reliable travel option to get people to work, school and community destinations. Safety and access will be improved for all modes of transportation, not just for bus riders. Cities thrive when efficient, safe transportation is accessible, frequent and easy to use. Multimodal choices increase the quality of life and attract new residents to our region. This means that Richmond and Henrico County can expect continued economic development and redevelopment, as well as stimulated property values.

As the Project Partners continue to move through the 30% design phase, the team continues to return to the following basic principles and goals of design, which were created in collaboration with the Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) and the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC):

  • Safety and use for all
  • Conservation of parking on Broad Street
  • North-South connectivity and access (including for pedestrians and bikes)
  • Adequate median and lane widths (these are the tools to meet the previous three criteria)

As we continue to receive public participation, these are the recurring themes upon which all parties agree. Current bus riders also want more frequent and more weekend service, of which the GRTC Pulse service will provide, operating every day of the week from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing, with a bus arriving at each station every 10 minutes on peak and every 15 minutes off-peak. Planned hours of operation will be 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on weekends. This type of service will increase redevelopment along the corridor and more mixed-use development, stimulate an improved jobs-housing balance, and provide enhanced economic opportunities. Between September 2017 and October 2017, BRT operations will be tested and accepted. Final BRT operations will begin by October 2017.

Since 2010, public participation has been encouraged with opportunities to participate in the Public Comment and feedback process. Public Meetings were advertised and held on: February 24 & 25, 2010; October 19 & 20, 2010; August 27, 2013; May 20 & 21, 2014; January 26 & 27, 2015; April 6 & 7, 2015. In between these meetings, public comment continued to be solicited. People can continue to submit written comments either via email to the project team or by mail (PDF).

Public Outreach efforts have been ongoing since 2010, and have increased during the 30% conceptual design phase, which is still happening now. Also right now in the project, GRTC is in the process of selecting a Construction Manager At Risk (CMAR). CLICK HERE to see the Procurement page. Once a CMAR is awarded by the GRTC Board of Directors, they will develop, in conjunction with the City of Richmond, Henrico County and the Project Partners, a specific construction timeline for each section of the entire project so that everyone knows how long they expect to be working and where, what they will be doing, and how they will continue to provide access. All of that will be communicated to the public prior to and during construction.

Study and Public Meeting documents can be found HERE. Technical reports still in progress have an ETA publishing date listed online, as well, so that the public knows when to expect new technical information. Technical details will be increasingly refined during the 60% design phase next, with continued guidance and feedback from project partners, as well as participation from the public. The next Public Meetings for the project are scheduled for July 27 & 28, 2015.

GRTC knows its website is the reliable destination for customer information, and continues to update the BRT section often. However, in an effort to better address frequently asked questions and provide fun, quick access to project information, a new Blog was created this Summer. The blog will likely become the weekly and daily place for construction updates once construction begins in 2016. Additionally, updates will continue during the 60% design phase next, with ongoing public participation and refined details, such as loading zones and left-turn access. GRTC is committed to responding to the needs of the communities served, will continue to welcome public feedback and provide exceptional customer service.

Connect With Us:

Visit ridegrtc.com
Call GRTC Customer Service Center at 804-358-GRTC (4782).
Snapchat: rideGRTC

Contact For Media Inquiries:

Carrie Rose Pace
Public Relations Manager
804-358-3871, ext 354
After Hours: 804-516-4148

GRTC Transit System’s mission is to provide clean, safe, and reliable transportation and to improve mobility and access throughout Central Virginia.

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Original — June 22, 2015

In a letter released last Friday night, the Fan District Association expresses their official discontent with the plans for Bus Rapid Transit, which is scheduled to be completed in 2017.

In a nutshell, the folks at the FDA oppose GRTC Pulse because:

  1. They feel they weren’t adequately included in the planning process.
  2. They worry about businesses being able to operate during the construction process.
  3. They believe that there will be so many “no left turn” situations on Broad Street that it’ll negatively affect traffic in the Fan.
  4. They will lose parking spaces, and there will also be more difficult parking for visitors, patrons of Fan establishments, and prospective Fan residents.
  5. Pedestrians and cyclists might find it more difficult to cross Broad.
  6. They believe festivals like Broad Appetit, VCU Broad Street Mile, and the Christmas Parade will most likely have to find a different street to patronize.

They are, however, insistent that they do support efficient forms of public transportation, but are now convinced that GRTC cannot handle the task at hand.

Read the letter in its entirety below.

Past coverage of Bus Rapid Transit

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The Fan District Association (FDA) opposes the implementation of the Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project (recently named the “GRTC Pulse”). In cooperation and coordination with several other civic and business associations in Richmond that will be directly impacted by the project, the FDA has put forth a sincere effort to understand and intensively analyze the plans and concepts for the Pulse. We feel that its construction and implementation will destroy the Broad Street corridor from downtown Richmond through and beyond our neighborhood.

Broad Street has made a remarkable comeback in the last 20 years. While mass transit has the ability to further that renaissance and keep growing our local economy, the poor planning, design, and communication process embodied by GRTC will erase the 20 years of progress that our city has witnessed on Broad Street.

While GRTC has claimed to value the public input process, the Fan District Association was never asked for input during the years of study leading to the GRTC and Department of Rail and Public Transit application for a federal TIGER grant. In other ways, GRTC has also failed to be the public partner that our City should expect. We have struggled to receive appropriate, current, and accurate information. Misinformation has been rampant.

We understand the goals of increased mass transit options for the City of Richmond and we share those goals. However, our association leadership feels that this BRT plan has become a big name project to be forced upon our neighborhood and city without any true engagement and buy-in from the neighborhoods and communities that it will most impact. Even many of our members who currently use GRTC bus service do not see the value in these plans and oppose them alongside us.

We want to see a smart and effective mass transit system serving as many residents of the Richmond region as possible. This BRT serves the exact same populations as existing local routes, increasing access to no one except for perhaps the residents at the route’s eastern terminus point at Rockett’s Landing.

The lack of accomplishing real progress for mass transit is our overarching objection to the GRTC

Pulse. However, there are a number of specific design and planning issues that will have lasting and damaging impacts on Broad Street and our community.

  1. Impact of Construction — There has been no communication regarding how businesses along Broad Street will be able to financially survive during the construction process. With overall construction lasting over a year, individual boarding station construction periods of 4-5 months, and no communication on block-by-block construction timelines, there is zero assurance or anticipation that service businesses will be able to sustain themselves during this time. Traffic and pedestrian diversion will cause patrons to avoid Broad Street businesses. When The Pulse finally begins service, we anticipate a large number of businesses will have shut down and closed their doors.
  2. Impact of Operations — No longer will events be able to be held on Broad Street. The Richmond Christmas Parade, Broad Appetit, and VCU Broad Street Mile are just some of the events that will no longer be able to continue to be held on Broad Street because of the new service and stations.
  3. Neighborhood Access — The elimination of left hand turns for westward vehicular traffic on Broad Street will limit access to our neighborhood and put increased traffic pressure on the few streets where left turns will be allowed. At a minimum, left hand turns should be available at Belvidere, Harrison, Lombardy, Meadow, and Robinson. Allen is not an appropriate intersection for a left hand turn if there is not also a turn at Lombardy, as once past Lee Circle, Allen Avenue narrows considerably.
  4. Neighborhood Traffic Impact — Regardless of where left hand turns are placed, any reduction in the availability of left hand turns off Broad Street will result in increased local traffic flow on our neighborhood streets, specifically West Grace Street. With the reduction of a third of the vehicle travel lanes on Broad Street, it is likely that Monument Avenue will see increased thru traffic as drivers seek to avoid Broad Street congestion.
  5. Pedestrian and Bike Friendliness — The current plans are very “bus dominant” as Broad Street will begin to feel like a wall of buses with BRT buses in the median and local GRTC buses on the curb lanes. The ability of pedestrians to feel safe in crossing the street and bicyclists to feel safe while en route are two further issues that have not been fully addressed.
  6. Parking Elimination –Our community already faces challenges regarding the ability of our residents and visitors to find parking within reasonable proximity to their places of residence and to local businesses. You will find our association and others advocating for even minimal changes that would positively impact parking. Current plans for The Pulse would eliminate hundreds of spaces on Broad Street. With such a large scale elimination of a portion of our community’s parking inventory, there will be a domino effect through our neighborhood, further exacerbating parking challenges. People do not want to live in or visit places where they think they cannot find a place to park, causing a decrease in property values and patronage of local businesses.

In summary, the Fan District Association opposes this BRT plan for all of the specific reasons listed above and more. We do not oppose mass transit expansion and would like to have meaningful conversation in Richmond about what that looks like. Upgrades and reforms to current GRTC routes, expanded express bus routes, off-board fare collection, smart stop light timing, and other technologies could all help fulfill similar purposes without many of the negatives we have found in these current plans. Perhaps there is a BRT plan that could work – but it is not this one. Our city’s neighborhoods, civic associations, businesses, and many other entities all deserve a seat at the table in this conversation and none of us or our proposals should be bound by strict parameters derived from a federal grant.

Richmond deserves an effective mass transit system and GRTC has proved that it is not capable of its creation on its own. Along with other like-minded civic, business, and neighborhood associations, the Fan District Association will be creating a coalition to advocate for transit reform in a meaningful, engaging, and deliberate fashion. More information will be available soon.

The Fan District Association is one of Richmond Virginia’s most cohesive neighborhood organizations, representing the largest neighborhood by population within the City. Its primary purpose is to promote the welfare of the historic Fan District of Richmond, Virginia and its residents. Our operational objectives are to represent residential owners, renters, businesses, educational and religious entities within our boundaries; promote the welfare of the Fan District and the City of Richmond by representing the interests of the community at the local and state level; balance the needs of individuals with the needs of the community as a whole; encourage and participate in a healthy exchange of ideas among all parties involved in any issue; and demonstrate respect for the history and diversity of our community in all that we do. For more information, please visit our website at www.fandistrict.org.

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