By Saumya Jain
In an era of falling transit ridership and utopian sustainability goals, Richmond, Virginia, seems to have hit the nail on the head. With the introduction of a bus rapid transit (BRT) line and an overall bus system redesign, the GRTC has increased transit ridership in the region by 17 percent. GRTC’s distinctive carpooling and vanpooling system has grown extensively in the past decade. A recent article by Mobility Lab explains in detail the reasons and strengths behind GRTC’s continued success.
The article states that the substantial increase in transit and vanpool ridership in the region has occurred despite the prevalence of app-based ride hailing. It lists the following as the main possible reasons behind its success:
- Pulse, a 7.6 mile new BRT line through the heart of the city;
- The new BRT line being accompanied by an overall transportation demand-based redesign of the bus system that more closely resembles a spider web rather than the traditional hub-and-spoke design;
- A focus on student, low-income, and minority populations as the redesign’s primary beneficiaries; and
- Periodic tweaks based on continuous analysis of ridership patterns and public feedback.
Mobility Lab writes that RideFinders—GRTC’s shared ride and TDM division—is taking all possible steps toward keeping their informal ridesharing program going strong via extensive public outreach, working with local businesses, and giving businesses reasons to provide incentives to their employees. To ensure further reductions in VMT, RideFinders also promotes various biking and walking events.
Richmond’s multi-dimensional ridership strategies could provide useful lessons to transit agencies with similar transportation demand and demographic profiles. The success of its informal, quirky vanpool program is proof that, despite competition from private companies, outside-the-box strategies can work if accompanied by extensive public outreach and worthwhile incentives. As mentioned by one of RideFinder’s directors, “There’s no one answer, or no one solution, that’s a panacea.”
Saumya Jain is a Senior Associate at SSTI.