Business owners along West Broad Street in Richmond and residents in the Fan and Museum District voiced their concerns about the bus service at a community meeting held at the Orchard House School on West Grace Street.
“It just seems a real conundrum,” one woman in attendance said.
If completed, the plan would create a new rapid bus line between Rockett’s Landing in the East End of Henrico County and Willow Lawn in the West End. It would run every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during off-peak hours. According to GRTC, the bus line could carry you between those two points in 28-31 minutes. If you took their existing fixed route service, that same trip would take an hour and 15 minutes, according to GRTC. A car ride would take 20-35 minutes.
Residents could count on the operation to run between 5:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. on weekdays, with hours from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on the weekend.
The line would run in the middle of Broad Street and include 14 stations.
Several business owners on Broad Street, people who live near the route, and civic organizations said they don’t like the proposed service line. Last week the Fan District Association came out in opposition to the implementation of the project.
“The negative impacts are quite a few,” said Kevin Korda, who owns Renovation Resources on Broad Street in downtown Richmond. Korda and others said the plan would eliminate hundreds of parking spaces, take away left turn options from Broad Street into the Fan, and kill business.
“It’s not benefiting the immediate neighborhood, and usually mass transit should benefit the neighborhood,” Korda said.
Not all in Tuesday’s crowd were against the plan.
Tommy Nicholas spoke up to say rapid transit is the future, and it will help a lot of underserved people who can’t currently find work because they don’t have a car.
“I think it serves younger talent, it serves everybody in the next 20 years, everybody benefits from getting to place to place without a car,” Nicholas said.
His views are mirrored on a blog post that showcased enthusiastic community responses to the project.
Let’s do this right! I support BRT! Please, let us not be afraid to use public space for the best possible use. 10 people who are irate that can’t park right outside their building do not outweigh 1,000 who would have a reasonable way to travel for work and shops. PS --I’m a car owner." (Liz Marshall, Richmond)
GRTC officials were not at the meeting, and the meeting organizer told the crowd they refused to come, but a GRTC spokesperson said they were not invited, and welcomed ideas for ways to improve the plan.
“We are very solutions driven with these, and we understand that some of the community groups need to get together and figure out what works best for our neighborhood and then submit that,” said Carrie Rose Pace, GRTC Spokesperson.
City Councilman Charles Samuels was on hand to answer questions about how the group could either stop the plan in its current form, or stop it from happening altogether.
Samuels did not take a position on the issue and said he would support his constituents with whatever they decided. He did say that he researched rapid transit in other cities and found that it can actually improve business.
Right now GRTC said they are 30% into the conceptual design stage. Public participation has been offered going back to 2010. The next public meetings are July 27 and 28.
Study and public meeting documents can be found online here.
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
GRTC Pulse is expected to be operational by late 2017.