Regions Central Virginia

Effort continues to bring bus rapid transit to Richmond

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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A proposed pilot project would provide service along a
seven-mile route. Rendering courtesy RVA Rapid Transit

Imagine a transportation system that provides the benefits of light rail, without the high costs.

That’s one of the pluses of bus rapid transit (BRT), says RVA Rapid Transit, a citizens group dedicated to bringing the form of transit to the Richmond area.

“RVA Rapid Transit is intended to organize people in metropolitan Richmond around a vision for public transportation,” says Andrew Terry, coordinator for RVA Rapid Transit and associate pastor at Richmond Hill. “We see ourselves as putting the big regional vision out there and just letting people subscribe to it as they see fit.”

The concept is to have four BRT lines running on dedicated lanes along the four major arteries of metro Richmond: Broad and Hull streets, Midlothian Turnpike and Route 1. The system can run about as fast as a car and provides the benefits of a light rail system at one-tenth of the infrastructure cost, RVA Rapid Transit says. 

The idea is to open a pilot line in 2017 that would stretch 7 miles from Rocketts Landing in Richmond to Willow Lawn in Henrico County. Infrastructure costs for that line would total $53.8 million and operating costs would be $2.7 million per year.

Aiding the BRT project is Greater Richmond Transit Co. (GRTC), the public bus system in the Richmond area. The agency finished phase 1 of the project, which included submitting an environmental assessment to the Federal Transit Administration. Then it will begin to work on public outreach, including talking to local jurisdictions in Richmond and Henrico. 

“We are trying to generate support for the project to move it forward and then ultimately we will need to identify a locally preferred alternative to present to GRTC’s board of directors for approval,” says David Green, GRTC’s CEO. 

Both Green and Terry say the project can help fuel economic development. Terry points to Cleveland’s HealthLine which the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy named the best BRT in North America. Cleveland’s BRT on Euclid Avenue was completed in 2008 at a cost of $200 million. Since then, there has been almost $6 billion in real estate investment along the corridor. Bringing BRT to Richmond also would give seniors more mobility and help attract and keep young talent, Terry says.

“That’s part of the lifestyle that the younger generation is seeking, you know,” Terry says. “Our freedom is through our cell phones, not through our cars.” 

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