Richmond has lined up $24.9 million in federal funding for a 7.6-mile bus line that isn’t broken. But where the city will get the matching money is anyone’s guess.
The publicly run Greater Richmond Transit Co. says the $49.8-million project will improve downtown bus service for “transit-dependent persons in an area where nearly 27 percent of the population is in poverty and 17 percent have no vehicle.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation bought the plan, agreeing to pay half the fare. GRTC says the other half will come from “state and local sources.”
But with just $4 million in hand, the transit authority admits source for the $20 million unfunded balance is “yet to be determined.”
Higher fares, tax increases and more operating debt likely are results of the envisioned “Broad Street Rapid Transit Corridor.”
A Watchdog.org examination of downtown bus service shows the capital’s core already is well served by GRTC.
Eights separate bus lines run along Broad Street, the city’s main thoroughfare. One route alone, the No. 6, makes 69 trips each way, every weekday — 48 on weekends — from 5 a.m. until past midnight.
Including the other seven runs, riders wait no more than 10 minutes to catch a bus — and less during commute periods. In all, 25 bus lines serve downtown daily.
But GRTC convinced federal transit planners that’s not good enough. The city seeks easier access to the Amtrak station, a three-minute bus ride and two-block walk from the Capitol. GRTC generally wants “more convenient transit connections.”
At $49.8 million, GRTC’s wish list works out to $6.6 million per mile along a Broad Street corridor that is rarely congested.
GRTC recently raised the price tag to $53.8 million, plus $2.7 million more for annual operating costs, boosting the per-mile expense to $8.4 million.
Steve McNally, GRTC’s director of engineering, said the Bus Rapid Transit line will employ new designated bus lanes, but mostly run on the current “mixed traffic” grid.
The Department of Transportation acknowledges that time savings for commuters will be modest.
“The average transit time (will be reduced) by six minutes,” DOT figures. Slight ridership increases are expected.
Additional information can be found here.
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