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.

— ∮∮∮ —

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.

— ∮∮∮ —

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

— ∮∮∮ —


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.

  • error

    Report an error

Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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

  1. Rocket J. Squirrel on said:

    Things the Fan District Association *doesn’t* oppose (in no particular order):
    -White Wine
    -White People

  2. Dino on said:

    The thing I don’t understand is the part about festivals (xmas parade, etc), supposedly no longer would be able to be on broad st. With pulse, it would be no different than currently. On event days, the buses have an alternate route. during xmas parade last year, grtc had buses running, just not on broad street.

  3. A.G. on said:

    What a surprise, wealthy white folks opposing mass transit…

  4. Scott Burger on said:

    President Rao,

    Thank you and the VCU Department of Community Development so much for hosting the VCU-Neighborhood Forum this afternoon. I do enjoy the chance to meet and discuss issues with the VCU administration.

    As I brought up at the meeting, the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association would appreciate it very much if the inappropriate billboard-style signs at Belvidere and W.Main and at Belvidere and Cumberland could be removed. We are hoping that more appropriate signage can be installed with the City’s cooperation and input. And I was very sincere when I complimented VCU for the fine work of its police force. It really has helped change VCU’s relationship with surrounding neighborhoods for the better.

    But I am writing to you and Councilperson Agelasto to follow up on two of the more contentious issues at the meeting, namely, the Bus Rapid Transit proposal and increased parking pressures. You heard Jon Marcus of the W. Grace Neighborhood Association give his issues with the current BRT proposal. You also heard Councilperson Agelasto’s challenge to VCU in regard to supporting BRT (something that I brought up at last year’s VCU Monroe Park Neighborhood meeting).
    After you left the meeting, many neighborhood representatives expressed concern about the impact of additional student units from a larger Gladding Residence Center on W. Main. Jennifer Hancock, OHNA’s President, noted to me after the meeting that even the Fan neighborhood, with all of its decals and controlled parking, is still very worried about VCU student parking.

    I would like to offer a possible 2-in-one solution to both of these matters:

    We all want BRT to succeed in offering better mass transit to Richmond residents and VCU students, even if many strongly disagree with the current proposal. Indeed, some of us are worried that if it fails, it will set back mass transit in Richmond for years. That said, the current proposal needs more attention. Citizens and businesses have legitimate criticisms that should be listened to and taken seriously.

    Personally, I believe that without considerably more commitment and support from the county governments, the BRT proposal should be reoriented towards serving the City (and VCU) more by becoming part of a new, inner-city circulator proposal. GRTC says that it has not been able to gain any traction with a circulator in the past, but previous attempts have been unreliable and anemic, only serving small parts of downtown and barely impacting midtown. If VCU (and U of R, and VUU) worked with GRTC, I believe a much more robust and satisfying inner-city circulator could be developed that could serve citizens, tourists, and students. Imagine a strong loop that included a slightly reformed Broad Street BRT as well as Boulevard, Main Street Station and Shockoe Bottom, and the entire Cary Street corridor. This circulator idea would not preclude extending BRT into the counties, converting to light rail, or adding more connecting, regular GRTC bus routes now or in the future.

    Such an inner city circulator could totally change perspective and thinking about the new Gladding Residence Center. We know that VCU students want access to downtown, other transportation options (Main Street Station), and Carytown shopping. This would give them access to those things and make it easier for students (and especially first-year GRC students) to live without cars on the Monroe campus. This would enable VCU to truly transform and brand the Broad Street corridor while also helping other portions of its campus, including and connecting south of Main and Monroe Ward. By supporting the circulator, VCU could live up to claims about investing in the City of Richmond and overall sustainability.

    (At the risk of overreaching, I will add that, in regard to Main Street Station, the City should really give up on its wasteful Shockoe baseball stadium scheme and dust off former GRTC CEO John Lewis’ plan to turn the train depot shed into the downtown GRTC bus transfer station. That, along with a shuttle to the airport, would make Main Street Station truly multimodal transportation and help establish Shockoe Bottom as THE transportation center of the region if not the entire state. Any help you can give to nudging the City back on the right path towards this would be greatly appreciated.)

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this and other matters.

    Scott Burger

  5. Joe on said:

    Also, what a surprise that the group that has been trying to turn the Fan into a suburb for 50 years is against URBAN transportation. All their arguments are wrong. People in city neighborhoods need to understand that its not about the automobile.
    These neighborhood groups are very selfish and are doing lots of harm to Richmond. Remember the atrocity to the coffee shop in church hill.
    This system is very well planned and is similar to systems being implemented all over the world. GRTC is to be commended for their vision.
    All these people need to do is move to the Malvern area and they can have suburban living with the city convenience but they chose to do constant harm to the best neighborhood in the Fan. Remember these groups only represent a small portion of the actual residents of neighborhoods.

  6. Cat on said:

    Actually, if those making ridiculous racist comments above had seen the plan they would know that GRTC describes the new riders as a different demographic than those riding the curb running buses. I personally find that completely offensive, and yes, the curb running buses will stay and they hope to capture “high value” riders in the new buses in the middle lanes. What does that mean? This is a route that serves an existing route, except of course, for the needy folks at Rocketts Landing. I personally ride the #6 bus up and down Broad, it takes me 6 minutes to get to city hall. I am not opposed to upgrading the bus system but I think for 54 million dollars the folks in Fulton, Montrose, Church Hill, and south side should have received attention and upgraded routes. The Fan is opposed because it wipes out parking, loading zones, and almost every option to turn left, AND 1/3 of the traffic lanes on West Broad from Thompson to 14th street downtown. The contribution from Henrico taxpayers to create a rapid route form Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing is 400k. The contribution from Richmond City taxpayers is 7.6 million dollars and RVA has to foot the bill for the estimated annual cost of 2.5-3.5 million dollars, which is GRTC’s estimated annual loss and cost to RVA taxpayers alone. Do I think there is a better way to spend RVA’s tax money? Absolutely. This plan was formulated to capture grant money NOT to come up with a thoughtful, comprehensive plan that targets areas that are not served or are under-served. I think it’s interesting to note that one of the few people supporting this plan at the meetings I’ve attended was Mr. Ukrop, who will never have a bus in his Windsor Farms neighborhood AND who mysteriously retains parking in front of the new family hotel. While I think this family has done so much for RVA and the surrounding area, that is suspicious. When GRTC talks about the new line they talk about appealing to millennials, not poor or working class citizens, that millennials like public transportation so we should support their effort. Really? BTW RVA NEWS, the folks you report as having supported the plan, actually supported the concept in 2014 as the “PLAN” was revealed at the end of January 2015.

  7. West Grace Street Resident on said:

    For those who have expressed the knee-jerk “the Fan is full of racist rich white people,” please don’t give in to your own obvious prejudices, read the FDA’s letter carefully and think again. If you all are so concerned about a fair and equitable bus system, please know: that is precisely what we are fighting for in the Fan. I have been to all the GRTC meetings and here is the bottom line: The Pulse is an expensive, redundant line whose only route innovation is to link Willow Lawn to the very upper middle class Rocketts Landing neighborhood. If you think The Pulse is well planned, please note my following point, as just one example of ineptitude. The GRTC has admitted in every meeting that they have no GRTC designated parking areas at Willow Lawn (the mall parking is for shoppers only) and the GRTC is desperately trying to find a parking area. They have launched a plan without the most basic needs being fulfilled- is this good planning? And about The Pulse extending to Richmond’s neglected areas that actually would benefit from a comprehensive bus system? The GRTC and the City stated “there are no funds as of yet” to support those areas- and there are no projected dates either. Supposed “rapid” transit down Broad is not a guaranteed fix for the City, the way the GRTC is making it sound. Nor was it one for Cleveland, the argument most often used by the GRTC. Even Cleveland’s own bus system has admitted that they were not responsible for the financial growth in their city. We are for a bus system that is equitable and fair. The Pulse simply does not fit the bill- neither literally nor figuratively. Those who do not live in the Fan, please do not pretend to speak for us. We are a diverse community- on my block alone there are three halfway houses with residents who would benefit from a bus system that actually accessed more of Richmond- not what bus Route #6 already provides. The letters of support from politicians are all from over a year ago before The Pulse’s plans were released to the public. I wonder how what they think now? The FDA’s letter reiterates much of what the businesses on Broad fear, as well. This is not a bratty-rich-person-reaction as many of you are stating. We are a proud, urban community that does not want to see City funds- that should be put to better use- thrown away on a bus line that does not accomplish what it states, and which blatantly disregards our bus-dependent citizens for car owners who can park and ride but don’t want to be bothered to pay for parking downtown. Richmond, fight for a better and more equitable GRTC!

  8. alyse on said:

    I think folks should look a bit more closely at the criticisms. The Fan District opposed the plan after examining the details, in an effort to support the business community and ALL the neighboring residential communities. The business community stands to lose vast stretches of parking and many loading zones for a bus that stops running at 11pm, in an effort to bring new and upscale riders . The elimination of all but 5 left turns from Thompson Street to 14th street downtown means that cars trying to access businesses or neighborhoods on the opposite side of the street have to do so by turning right into residential districts and driving down those streets to the nearest intersection with a left turn to get to the opposite side of Broad or to get home. This impacts all the neighborhoods that border Broad Street including West Grace in the Fan & Museum District Carver, Newtowne, & Jackson Ward, residential districts that immediately become access roads for the commercial district. We are opposed in the Fan because no new access is provided to those folks in under-served or not served at all neighborhoods and the city is spending almost 8 million dollars of city tax money. The cost to maintain will also fall on city taxpayers at around 3 million a year. We are absolutely in favor of upgraded public transit, many of us just feel this is not the plan and I personally have attended 5 GRTC meetings to try to help move the plan to one that preserves the Broad Street Business districts AND encourages new riders without burdening RVA taxpayers alone. This route originates in Henrico and terminates in Henrico, reportedly at Rocketts Landing but I see GRTC quoted in January as excited that the actual stop will be at Stone Brewing, which seems unfair given the recent controversy over funding big brew and suing little brew over tax mistakes made by Richmond City officials; makes me wonder. Anyway, I live in the Fan, I ride the bus and I am happy with the service I receive on the current routes and the time it takes to navigate the very areas in question. If you are anxious to ride a bus from Willow Lawn to downtown, you are in luck because that route exists and it is pretty quick. Rocketts landing does not exist and I am not opposed to adding it but don’t think taxpayers need to spend 54 million dollars to save a total of 14 minutes on the entire route, not a wise investment. If we want better from this city, we’re not going to get it by treating each other with disrespect. This is the Mayor’s plan, I’m not interested in this plan but would welcome something more thoughtful and comprehensive and I hope GRTC is open to compromises that matter. I wonder how those making nasty and unfounded comments above, would appreciate city administrators going after grant money and private funds and shoving a Shockoe Bottom ballpark down our throats? Isn’t that how the Redskins plan developed? Did taxpayers get anything we were promised in those meetings with city officials? Access to the field by community and schools? RVA food trucks/restaurants engaged and profiting from the events? The answer is no, as usual. Go to the meetings folks, it’s not necessarily what you think. We have to demand more from our elected officials, most of whom have not attended a single GRTC meeting. Unacceptable.

  9. Rocket J. Squirrel on said:

    “For those who have expressed the knee-jerk “the Fan is full of racist rich white people,” please don’t give in to your own obvious prejudices”

    I lived in the Fan for a decade- it’s not simply a prejudice. As was said earlier, this is a group that has moved to a decidedly urban neighborhood which they then treat like suburbia (see: parking fights, house colors, noise ordinances, et bloody cetera).

    Here’s the irony: If Richmond had *real* transit, maybe some of those evil renters (of which I was one, and lord knows the homeowners treated us like dirt) wouldn’t even need cars, thus freeing up more space for The Anointed Few to park right in front of their houses each and every night like Jesus and Ronald Reagan intended.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

Or report an error instead