By Roger Walk
The future of public transportation of Richmond and its adjacent counties, including Chesterfield, was discussed at the first ever meeting of all four transportation agencies. The meeting was critically important for the creation of a “regional” public transportation system connecting the urban and suburban “knots” of Richmond and its surrounding counties.
The Richmond Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (RAMPO), a Federally designed forum for regional transportation decision-making, planning, and programming, had invited the governing boards of the Capital Region Airport Commission (CRAC), GRTC Transit System (GRTC), and Richmond Metropolitan Authority (RMA) to the Richmond Convention Center last week, to discuss jointly, and inform the public about transportation challenges and opportunities in the region.
Chesterfield County was represented by the recently appointed acting director of the Chesterfield Department of Transportation Barbara Smith. Each of the four transportation agencies briefed the group on its agency and their role in planning and building a comprehensive transportation network for Richmond and all nine of the region’s localities including Chesterfield County.
The discussion highlighted current and forecasted transportation issues, as well as opportunities for collaboration. It touched upon many aspects of the complex interactions between demand for public transportation, ownership, financing, planning, operation and management, political/legislative foundations, and union cooperation.
In the recent past, efforts to extend public transportation beyond the limits of Richmond have not resulted in services, which fares and advertising covered the cost of the buses running express routes to Midlothian and Hull Street Road and GRTC local routes. State and locally subsidized services such as “The LINK” pilot project had to be discontinued when public funding ceased. From 2001 to 2003 a regular bus route had connected the Richmond bus service ending at Food Lion on Jefferson Davis Highway to Chester Village Green and the Chesterfield airport off Iron Bridge Road.
From this four-agency joint meeting it became clear that there are opportunities for improved cooperation in planning and operation of existing services, but the questions whether there is a real demand for regional public transportation and whether the citizens of the localities involved are willing to pay the price for an extended regional public transportation system through fares or government subsidies, remained unanswered.