Friday, September 22, 2023

More than 1.1 million Virginians lack access to fixed-route transit service

A temporary bus stop sign at Broad and Seventh streets in Richmond. (VCU’s “The Bus Stops Here Project”)

RICHMOND — More than 1.1 million people in Virginia are in need of fixed-route transit, according to a recent assessment of the commonwealth’s bus and rail services.

Additionally, 570,000 jobs lack access to fixed-route transit, a term used for bus, van and rail service that operates according to a regular schedule along a predetermined route.

The findings of the Virginia Transit Equity and Modernization Study follow the commonwealth’s push to regain and attract new transit passengers as people return to work after the height of the pandemic.

Democratic Del. Delores McQuinn carried the legislation that directed the Department of Rail and Public Transportation to study transit equity and modernization in the commonwealth. An emphasis was placed on transit services and engagement opportunities for underserved and underrepresented communities.

A summary of transit service coverage within Virginia. (Courtesy of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation)

Basic transit infrastructure was found to be “inconsistent” in the commonwealth, with some transit stops having lighting, seating or shelters and others lacking such features, according to the report.

The 40-page report also shows that half of the transit agencies in Virginia are interested in suspending fares to address the lack of access.

DRPT and local transit agencies will begin addressing the findings through a plan with near-, mid- and long-term recommendations.

DRPT said it will expand or supplement the state’s Multimodal System Design Guidelines to meet the inadequacies at bus stops.

The report also recommended developing best practices for coordination between land use and transit planning, and providing transit agencies, community leaders and the public with information about tradeoffs that may lead to economic and societal benefits.

McQuinn did not immediately respond to questions about the study.

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