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GRTC picks up awards at state’s annual transit conference

GRTC Transit System picked up the Virginia Transit Association’s Unsung Hero and Outstanding Public Transportation Marketing Awards, with an Honorable Mention for Outstanding Community Program, as announced last week at the 2019 Annual Transit Conference in Portsmouth, VA hosted by the Virginia Transit Association.

RVAHub Staff

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GRTC Transit System picked up the Virginia Transit Association’s Unsung Hero and Outstanding Public Transportation Marketing Awards, with an Honorable Mention for Outstanding Community Program, as announced last week at the 2019 Annual Transit Conference in Portsmouth, VA hosted by the Virginia Transit Association.

GRTC Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Adams says, “These accolades are well-deserved by our team for their incredible efforts in Greater Richmond in customer engagement, responsiveness to the needs of the communities we serve, and communication.”

GRTC’s Travel Training Instructor Kelsey Calder is recognized with the Unsung Hero Award for her outstanding work teaching a variety of riders with varying abilities how to use public transit safely and independently. Through travel training people can develop the skills necessary to travel with flexibility and self-reliance within the community. Kelsey has been particularly helpful for introducing public transit to people with disabilities, youth or older adults who are hesitant to try transit alone. It is also estimated that Kelsey’s efforts have saved GRTC $125,280 from paratransit customers transitioning to traditional fixed route bus service.

Kelsey has her Travel Training Instructor Certification through Easterseals and the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research and was also the first nationally certified travel trainer.

GRTC’s Outstanding Public Transportation Marketing campaign “GRTC Pulse: More Time For Life.” was a multilayered and multimedia marketing effort supporting the successful launch of the new GRTC Pulse (Bus Rapid Transit – BRT) service in the City of Richmond and Henrico County during Summer 2018. The Pulse links to many exciting and essential destinations along its 7.6-mile route and is jointly sponsored by Bon Secours Richmond Health System and VCU Health System.

The goal of the GRTC Pulse marketing campaign was to inform, educate and energize people about the new service. This award-winning campaign translated technical BRT features into understandable and relatable messaging, placed in targeted locations to reach riders and Greater Richmond residents. GRTC Pulse had an astounding debut week, welcoming nearly 57,000 riders aboard.

GRTC also received an Honorable Mention for Outstanding Community Program for its “CARE On-Demand” service, which provides GRTC’s paratransit (CARE) customers the option to use a same-day, direct, non-stop trip. This premium, innovative program responds faster to service needs by tapping into the flexibility of the on-demand transportation market, matching available drivers with customers when they want to travel with little notice.

Because the cost to GRTC for a CARE On-Demand trip is less than traditional paratransit, GRTC estimates it has saved approximately $382,000 since launching in August 2017. With on-time-performance consistently higher than 95% on this premium, direct service, customer satisfaction with On-Demand is understandably high. GRTC now exceeds its monthly goal of completing at least 10% of its CARE trips through On-Demand, shifting more than 2,000 CARE trips per month to On-Demand.

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Downtown

Jefferson Davis Highway in the process of being renamed following House vote

The bill, introduced by Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg, passed the House earlier this month with a 70-28 vote. The Senate passed the measure earlier this week with a 30-9 vote.

Capital News Service

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By Cameron Jones

The Virginia General Assembly has approved a bill renaming sections of U.S. Route 1 almost 100 years after it was named in honor of the first and only president of the Confederacy.

The bill, introduced by Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg, passed the House earlier this month with a 70-28 vote. The Senate passed the measure earlier this week with a 30-9 vote.

Counties and cities have until Jan. 1, 2022 to change their portion of Jefferson Davis Highway to whatever name they choose, or the state will change it to Emancipation Memorial Highway.

“Change the name on your own, or the General Assembly will change it for you,” Cole said to House committee members.

Sections of the highway that run through Stafford, Caroline, Spotsylvania and Chesterfield counties will need new signage and markers, according to the bill’s impact statement. Commemorative naming signs will be replaced, along with overhead guide signs at interchanges and street-name signs. The changes are estimated to cost almost $600,000 for all localities. The changes in Chesterfield will cost an estimated $373,000 because there are 17 Jefferson Davis Highway overhead signs on Routes 288 and 150.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy conceived the plan for Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway in 1913, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Davis was a Mississippi senator who became the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Virginia General Assembly designated U.S. Route 1 as Jefferson Davis Highway in 1922.

“Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy, a constant reminder of a white nationalist experiment, and a racist Democrat,” Cole said. “Instead we can acknowledge the powerful act of the Emancipation Proclamation.”

Cole said the change acknowledges the positive history of the Civil War and reminds people of the emancipation and freedom that came from it.

The bill received little pushback in House and Senate committees. A Richmond City representative said their initial concern was the interpretation if districts would have the opportunity to choose a replacement name. Signs are already going up renaming the route to Richmond Highway in Richmond.

Sen. Scott A. Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, voiced his support for the bill. He responded to concern that the change dishonors a veteran. He said he believes the bill “strikes a reasonable balance” by giving counties time to rename their portion of the highway, or they will give it a default name which “doesn’t carry the political baggage.”

A poll by Hampton University and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Virginians are still divided on changing the names of schools, streets and military bases named after Confederate leaders (44% supported the idea and 43% opposed it).

Eric Sundberg, Cole’s chief of staff, said there were two camps of people that opposed the bill. He said some were openly racist and called Cole’s office to make offensive remarks. Then there were people who said they did not want to “double dip” on renaming the portion in their respective district and wanted it all to be named Richmond Highway.

Stephen Farnsworth, professor and director at the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, said efforts to rename the highway have never received much support in Richmond until this year.

“Virginia has rapidly moved from a commonwealth that treasured its Confederate legacy, to one that is trying to move beyond it,” Farnsworth said.

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Downtown

Delegate celebrates Senate passage of limited paid leave bill

The Virginia Senate passed an amended version of a bill by Del. Elizabeth Guzmán, D-Woodbridge, mandating paid sick leave. The substitute bill, which now only extends to some in-home health care workers, heads back to the House where the initial bill passed on a 54-46 vote. Guzmán said she will encourage delegates to approve the substitute and send the amended bill to Gov. Ralph Northam.

Capital News Service

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By Zachary Klosko

After four years and multiple bills, Del. Elizabeth Guzmán, D-Woodbridge, is on the cusp of being able to secure paid leave for some Virginia workers.

“It feels really good,” Guzmán said. “I think about the amount of people who are going to get this benefit and how they will have peace of mind to stay home and take care of family members if they are unwell.”

The Virginia Senate passed an amended version of the delegate’s legislation that mandates paid sick leave for some in-home health care workers. The substitute bill heads back to the House, where the initial bill passed on a 54-46 vote. Guzmán said she will encourage delegates to approve the substitute and send the amended bill to Gov. Ralph Northam.

Guzmán took to Twitter after the Senate’s 21-18 vote to express her excitement.

“Thank you!!” Guzmán wrote on Twitter. “We did it!!”

House Bill 2137 originally offered the benefit to many essential workers, including first responders, retail workers, cleaning workers, teachers, jail and prison employees and transportation workers.

 The bill advanced from the House with an amendment for small businesses; it did not apply to retail businesses with fewer than 25 employees. The Senate later amended the bill to only offer the benefit to in-home health care workers who serve patients with Medicaid coverage.

The substitute still requires employers to set aside one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. Employees must work at least an average of 20 hours per week or 90 hours per month to qualify. Once covered, workers will be allowed paid leave if they are sick or if they need to care for a sick family member. Unused sick leave can be carried over to the year after it was earned.

The amended bill will protect 25,000 workers, according to a press release by Guzmán.

Guzmán says her work is not done.

“I will continue to fight as lieutenant governor, I will continue to fight as a delegate,” Guzmán said. “Whichever role I’m in, I will continue to fight.”

Guzmán is running for lieutenant governor. Among others in the race, she is facing Del. Hala Ayala, another Democrat from Prince William County. If successful, Ayala or Guzmán would become the first Latina to serve in the role.

If signed into law, those covered will begin to accrue paid leave hours on July 1.

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Downtown

City hires former Richmond 300 project manager as the manager of new Office of Equitable Development

In her new position and in leading the new office, she will focus on working across city departments to plan for and facilitate the creation of the more sustainable, beautiful, and equitable city envisioned by Richmonders in the master plan.

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Maritza Mercado Pechin will serve as a Deputy Director within the Planning & Development Review Department and will manage the city’s new Office of Equitable Development.

Pechin formerly served as the project manager for the city’s master plan, Richmond 300: A Guide for Growth. In her new position and in leading the new office, she will focus on working across city departments to plan for and facilitate the creation of the more sustainable, beautiful, and equitable city envisioned by Richmonders in the master plan.

“Richmond 300 is a roadmap for the Richmond we want to be after 300 years of tumultuous history,” said Mayor Stoney. “This office, under the leadership of a tested public servant and planning professional, will start us down that road.”

The office is housed under the Department of Planning and Development Review but will work laterally across the entire Planning and Economic and Community Development portfolio. This will allow office staff to coordinate and collaborate with staff citywide to realize the vision detailed in Richmond 300: A Guide for Growth.

Pechin will report directly to DCAO for Economic and Community Development Sharon Ebert and work closely with the Office of the CAO and Mayor.

“The process to create Richmond 300 was expansive and inclusive, and now, the fun of implementation begins. I am honored to join the city staff to execute the recommendations outlined in the plan so that Richmond 300 is truly a guide to creating a more equitable, sustainable, and beautiful Richmond, and not just a plan that sits on a shelf,” said Pechin.

“Richmond 300 set a new bar for community engagement,” said Acting CAO Lincoln Saunders. “Establishing this office will enable the administration to work across the department to build on that model, pursuing growth in an inclusive and equitable way.”

“I am delighted to be working with Maritza,” said DCAO Sharon Ebert. “Her expertise in planning, organizing and implementing inspired great confidence throughout the community engagement process for and writing of the Richmond 300 Plan.”

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