GRTC to open new downtown transfer station ahead of Southside route expansion
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GRTC to open new downtown transfer station ahead of Southside route expansion

Jul 30, 2023

Jack Jacobs August 31, 2023 2

GRTC is preparing to open a new temporary transfer station in downtown Richmond. The facility is being established on a portion of a city-owned parking lot between East Leigh and East Clay streets. (Jack Jacobs photos)

As the regional transit authority gets ready to christen a new bus-route nexus in downtown Richmond, it’s also gearing up for a route expansion south of the river.

The Greater Richmond Transit Co. expects to begin operations at its new temporary downtown transfer station in September.

The station will be located on a city-owned parking lot that’s bordered by East Leigh, Ninth and Eighth streets. The site is next to the Richmond courthouse complex at 400 N. Ninth St.

The new station will feature 12 bus bays, as well as shelters for riders, 24-hour lighting and digital information kiosks. It will replace GRTC’s current temporary transfer hub on Ninth Street between Marshall and Leigh streets.

“It’s going to be brighter, easier to wait and we’re excited it’s an off-street location,” GRTC spokesman Henry Bendon said of the new station.

GRTC opened its current on-street transfer hub in 2014. It is moving to make way for the redevelopment of the city’s neighboring former Public Safety Building.

GRTC intends to eventually establish a permanent transfer station, though its location hasn’t been determined. The transit authority’s board of directors in August approved a $442,840 contract with consulting firm HR&A Advisors to identify potential sites for the permanent facility. The study is anticipated to take six months.

The downtown transfer station acts as a nexus point for GRTC’s bus route system, allowing bus routes from across the region to converge and shuffle riders in a central point. Riders make 5,000 trips through the current on-street hub a day.

“Downtown is a key source of jobs, it has healthcare facilities and it’s where people want to go. You can transfer between lines and it opens up more access to not just downtown but other parts of the city,” Bendon said. “You really do want a central point in the central business district for people to come from all different directions.”

GRTC currently operates a temporary transfer hub next to the soon-to-be-demolished Public Safety Building on Ninth Street.

Construction is largely complete on the new station, with final completion slated to come in the days before it begins operation Sept. 10. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for the following day.

The latest budget for the project is $3.7 million. GRTC had previously estimated the project would cost $2.2 million, but Bendon said it increased due to inflation and supply challenges.

“Supply chain issues hit us throughout the construction process,” he said. The project has been financed with local, state and federal money.

The site being used by GRTC for the new transfer station is situated on a portion of a parking lot owned by the City of Richmond, which is leasing the site to the transit authority.

GRTC has a five-year lease on the lot with an option to renew, Bendon said. GRTC still has a little more than four years left on the agreement and is paying $1 per year for the lease.

Pilot route expansion planned on Midlothian Turnpike

With GRTC’s new transfer station nearly ready, the organization is also gearing up to establish a greater presence in Chesterfield County.

GRTC is extending its Route 1A on Midlothian Turnpike by eight miles, a project that will lengthen what is a highly traveled route farther along the major commercial corridor.

“It’s tens of thousands of jobs that will be available to Chesterfield residents and people who use the system. It’s an extension of one of our biggest and most important routes,” Bendon said.

An initial pilot run for the extension is expected to begin in January.

Route 1A currently ends just over the Richmond-Chesterfield line. The extension will send the line deeper into Chesterfield to Walmart Way, just west of Chesterfield Towne Center.

The pilot program is intended to gauge rider interest, through data points like on-time performance, operating expenses and ridership. The test could be followed by a permanent extension of the line. Bendon said the pilot will cost about $1.5 million to operate for one year.

GRTC is still working on where bus stops would be located on the extended route.

The extension of GRTC’s 1A Route along Midlothian Turnpike is shown in green. The pilot of the extended bus line is planned to start next year. The route’s current terminus is shown in black. In pink is the coverage area of a planned expansion of GRTC’s paratranist service that’s expected to launch along with the 1A extension. (Image courtesy of GRTC)

The expectation is that more drivers will be needed in order for GRTC to operate the planned route extension on Midlothian Turnpike.

Bendon said that GRTC has had recent success in addressing hiring challenges it and other transit operators have experienced in recent years. Among those efforts was the spring decision by the GRTC board to increase the starting hourly wage of drivers by 40 percent to nearly $25 per hour.

GRTC is on track to meet its goal of 300 full-time drivers by the end of the current fiscal year, which wraps up next June, Bendon said. The organization currently has 250 full-time drivers.

The transit system doesn’t charge fares to its riders as part of an ongoing zero-fare pilot program that was initiated in March 2020 and extended in December 2022. The program is currently slated to continue through June 2024, and GRTC could decide to continue the policy after that.

GRTC is operating on a $74.2 million budget for the current fiscal year 2024.

Jack joined BizSense in 2020, covering startups, retail, healthcare, public companies and nonprofits. He previously reported for the Virginia Gazette and Tidewater Review. He is a graduate of Christopher Newport University. Reach him at [email protected] or 804-554-6545.

The 1A extension is the most important part. It shows that Chesterfield County is finally getting on board (pun intended) with public transportation. The success of the extension of route 3B to the Chester area was probably a driving factor. This is how a proper metropolitan area is supposed to work.

An extension of route 1 to Brook and Parham is also in the works I believe!