To the Editor:
The middle of a global pandemic may not seem like the best time to open a bus route, but for many who live along Jefferson Davis Highway in Chesterfield County, GRTC’s new Route 111 between John Tyler Community College and Richmond is a lifeline, just when they need it most.
The neighborhoods along Route 1 have some of the lowest rates of vehicle ownership in an otherwise car-centric county. Residents’ only option has been to walk or bike along the gutter of a treacherous four-lane highway. Commuting to and from work I witness such dangerous scenes every day: parents with small children in one arm and overloaded bags of groceries in the other.
Route 111 is not just a lifeline for communities without cars; it represents a new model of development that can revitalize Chesterfield County’s older inner suburbs. Having the freedom to own one less car is also a huge boon to families’ finances. AAA estimates the annual cost of a car at $10,000. Chesterfield’s suburban growth model has trapped families into needing two to four cars just so everyone can get to work, school, etc. That means families spend tens of thousands of dollars every year that they could have been investing into their kids’ education, paying down debt, or starting a business.
New apartment communities along Route 111 like Colony Village and Moore’s Lake provide people with options. To prevent Chesterfield from growing ever grayer and increasingly poorer, county and state leaders must team up to promote transit-oriented development along our main corridors like Route 1, Midlothian Turnpike, and Hull Street Road. We should redevelop old land into new housing instead of building ever more suburban sprawl on our farmland and forests, all the while providing residents with greater mobility by building out sidewalks and expanding our bus network.
Building desirable neighborhoods around transit is a tried-and-true growth model, and I can’t wait to ride the new Route 111 after this crisis is over. My community of Chester wouldn’t be the lovely small town it is today if it weren’t for the Richmond-Petersburg Electric Railway that connected it a century ago.