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Transportation

GRTC pilots new on-demand bus service program

The pilot program will mean early morning and late-night riders can request a ride between bus stops.

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GRTC implements modified schedules on December 20, 2021, when select routes will temporarily end service at 11PM or not start service until 6AM because of ongoing labor shortages. To provide another mobility option for customers affected by the temporary service adjustments, GRTC is piloting a new on-demand service between bus stops.

GRTC customers can request one ride per day from one GRTC bus stop to another GRTC bus stop through on-demand service Monday-Friday, 5AM-6AM and 11PM-2AM. GRTC is working with multiple partners to provide this service under Zero Fare operations.

GRTC Chief Executive Officer Julie Timm explains, “We are excited to pilot this new on-demand service to ensure no rider is disadvantaged by GRTC’s temporary service adjustments on some routes. Although the bus schedule impacts are modest, we know most riders are commuting to or from work and rely on us to be there on time. This pilot not only preserves service for these late night and early morning commuters, it will also yield data to study in the GRTC service area for demand of an on-demand mobility service.”

When: Monday – Friday between 5AM-6AM and 11PM-2AM only, excluding observed Holidays falling on weekdays when GRTC operates a weekend schedule. Please pardon the dust as GRTC begins this pilot in phases this Winter 2021-2022. Uber functionality will be phased into service. This pilot program is projected to end by Spring 2022 and may be discontinued at any time.

How it works: Several Zero Fare alternative transportation options are available for riders to choose. Rides may be requested only once per day and only work from GRTC bus stop to bus stop.

GRTC/UZURV/Uber Phone Help: Call 804-358-4782 for help requesting a ride over the phone with Uber, UZURV, or a GRTC small vehicle. This is a slower option with longer waits for pick-up. Trips should be requested approximately 30 minutes before needing to ride. Wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) are available upon request. (Uber functionality will be phased into service during Winter).

Uber App: Download Uber’s mobile app and request a ride from a bus stop to the destination bus stop. This is the fastest and easiest option. When requesting a ride, make sure your pick-up bus stop is correct. (Uber functionality will be phased into service during Winter).

The Federal Mask Order remains in effect through March 18, 2022 which means all passengers must continue to properly wear face masks throughout their trip, regardless of vaccination status. Passengers with symptoms of illness are asked not to ride. For the most complete and latest GRTC updates during this pandemic, please visit our website.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Virginia launches expanded rail service from Richmond to Washington and New York City

The Amtrak Northeast Regional Route 51 now offers early morning service from Main Street Station, getting travelers from Downtown Richmond to Washington when the workday begins or to New York for a lunchtime meeting.

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Recently, Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary Valentine joined DRPT and the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) to launch expanded rail service from Richmond to Washington and cities along the Northeast corridor. The Amtrak Northeast Regional Route 51 now offers early morning service from Main Street Station, getting travelers from Downtown Richmond to Washington when the workday begins or to New York for a lunchtime meeting.

The new train is the first expansion of service under Governor Northam’s Transforming Rail in Virginia program to significantly expand rail infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth. The event ended with a ribbon-cutting and the inaugural train heading out of Main Street Station at 5:35 am with the Governor, state officials, and DRPT/VPRA staff on board. Early ridership numbers indicate healthy demand for the extended service.

The Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative is already receiving recognition throughout the country for its role in changing the future of transportation. At the District of Columbia’s Committee of 100’s bi-annual award ceremony, DRPT received a 2021 Vision Award recognizing the Transforming Rail in Virginia Program. Director Jennifer Mitchell accepted the award on behalf of DRPT, Governor Northam, and the Virginia General Assembly.

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Transportation

Four-lane section of Church Road set to undergo strategic ‘road diet’ to allow for bike lanes

The 1.8-mile portion between Wilde Lake Drive, near Lauderdale Drive, and Chapelwood Lane, near John Rolfe Parkway, will be repaved and restriped to create two travel lanes, a center turn lane and a buffered bike lane on each side.  

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A four-lane stretch of Church Road will be reconfigured this summer in a “road diet” conversion aimed at enhancing safety as well as connectivity for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The 1.8-mile portion between Wilde Lake Drive, near Lauderdale Drive, and Chapelwood Lane, near John Rolfe Parkway, will be repaved and restriped to create two travel lanes, a center turn lane and a buffered bike lane on each side.

The project, approved July 13 by the Board of Supervisors, also will provide curb ramps, median islands, signs and traffic signal modifications. Finley Asphalt & Sealing is expected to start work in August and finish in 45 days.

Church’s conversion is the type of project that can be replicated easily on four-lane, undivided roads with excess capacity because it reallocates how the pavement is used, said Terrell Hughes, director of the Department of Public Works.

In relative terms, it is an economical way to create bike lanes. Seventy-five percent of the project’s $1.2 million cost will cover the repaving, which was already slated to occur.

“That’s our big thing,” Hughes said. “As opportunities arise, we’re trying to increase our pedestrian and bike connectivity.”

Traffic engineers use “road diet” to describe the conversion of an undivided, four-lane road to a three-lane road, with two through lanes and a center lane for left turns. The redesign can bring a 19% to 47% reduction in crashes as well as lower speeds and improved access and mobility for all users, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Church was a strong candidate for conversion because it is due for resurfacing and residents recognized the benefits, Hughes said. In a survey, 71% of 426 respondents preferred the Option 3 proposal for dual bike lanes and a median over two alternatives. Church’s four-lane stretch attracts about 8,500 vehicles per day and connects two-lane sections to its east and west.

The pending reconfiguration also dovetails with earlier initiatives to address safety concerns along the curvy road, which is home to Gayton Elementary School and provides access to Deep Run Park and nearby stores and restaurants.

In June 2019, Public Works reduced the posted speed limit to 35 mph on Church’s 3-mile stretch between Three Chopt Road and Lauderdale Drive as well as on Park Terrace. The speed limit in those areas had been 45 mph.

“Immediately, we started seeing improvements,” Hughes said.

Vehicle crashes on Church dropped from 14 in 2018 – before the change – to five in 2019, none in 2020 and two in the first six months of 2021. In addition, the average speed dropped by 5.8 mph, from 49.8 mph in 2016 and 2018 to 44 mph in 2019.

Hughes credited residents and the homeowners’ associations along the corridor for helping to shape the plan.

“We hear the residents of the county, and we’re actively working countywide on improvements that can be made,” he said.

Public Works sees the potential for similar road conversions on Dumbarton and Dickens roads in Lakeside and hopes to present proposals to the community late this year or early next year.

“We’re starting to see the benefits of slowing things down a bit,” Hughes said. “You can accommodate both cars and pedestrians without sacrificing either.”

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GRTC Continues Zero Fare Operations for Another Year

Hop on the bus, Gus. You don’t need to discuss much cuz this ride is free.

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Press Release from GRTC made the announcement that no fares through June 30th of 2022.

GRTC will remain Zero Fare through June 30, 2022, as approved by the Board of Directors this morning. Using State and Federal COVID relief funding, GRTC has been fareless to ride Local Bus, Pulse (Bus Rapid Transit), Express Bus, and CARE/Paratransit vans since March 19, 2020 in response to public health measures and in the interest of economically distressed communities who rely on public transit services to reach jobs, food, healthcare, and other critical community resources.

GRTC’s annual operating and capital expenditures for FY2022 are expected to approach $100 million, including $5.8 million enabling Zero Fare operations from Federal relief funding.  In FY2019 before the pandemic, GRTC received $6.8 million in fare revenue directly from riders and paid $1.6 million in expenses associated with fare collection, resulting in a $5.2 million net fare box revenue.  For FY2022, non-staffing fare expenses were removed from the budget. Fare collection staff have been offered essential non-fare job functions within GRTC. The projected net revenue difference of $5.8 million will be replaced in the budget by federal COVID relief funds as the region continues to recover economically from the pandemic.

GRTC CEO Julie Timm explains, “Although bus ridership did decline in 2020 across the nation during the pandemic, GRTC local ridership drops were modest by comparison and are already approaching pre-COVID levels.  I attribute the ridership rebound to three areas: 1) the strength of the 2018 network redesign connecting essential workers to jobs; 2) the extensive COVID protective measures enacted early and throughout the pandemic to protect staff and riders; and 3) the ongoing commitment to Zero Fare operations to protect the health and financial stability of our riders. GRTC’s focus on connecting people to essential resources resulted in higher sustained ridership. Higher ridership translates into increased Federal and State formula funding and creates a positive feedback loop for GRTC to improve and grow the region’s mobility network.”

GRTC is a public service corporation providing mobility services in the Greater Richmond area. GRTC’s current operational budget (FY21) of $60.3 million primarily funds daily mobility operations and vehicle maintenance. GRTC has provided 7.1 million trips during this FY21 (July 1, 2020 – May 31, 2021).

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