Welcome Aboard GRTC’s Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report, which provides a “State of the System” executive summary of our achievements from July 2020 – June 2021 and looks
toward our future efforts for our staff, riders, and the Greater Richmond Region. This document is our return to a Fiscal Year reporting schedule, so if you read our Annual Report 2020 in Spring, some of the items we celebrate will be familiar to you. I invite you to discover how the GRTC Family of employees provides for the communities we serve with more reliable service, a better passenger experience, and commuting solutions for everyone.
GRTC Chief Executive Officer
|LEADERSHIP||CAPITAL BUDGET PLANNING|
|BOARD OF DIRECTORS||IMPROVING RIDER EXPERIENCE|
|GRTC OVERVIEW||TRANSIT FARE COLLECTION & COVID ZERO FARE OPERATIONS|
|GRTC CELEBRATES||SAFETY INITIATIVES|
|RIDERSHIP DATA||CENTRAL VIRGINIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY (CVTA)|
|CARE AND CARE ON-DEMAND||COVID-19 ONGOING RESPONSE AND RECOVERY|
|GRTC EXPENSES TO REVENUES||RECRUITMENT EFFORTS|
The Board of Directors governs GRTC through the adoption of broad policies and objectives to protect, improve, and expand immediate and long term regional public transit services within RVA. This includes approving key priorities and new initiatives to ensure the organization has sufficient resources and capacity to carry out core public mass transit services. The GRTC Board monitors operational performance of the system and adherence to the annual budget.
The Board is comprised of citizen appointees from within the GRTC service area. GRTC Board members bring diverse and significant business, community, and transportation leadership skills to provide balanced and unbiased decision making to regional transit governance.
Benjamin P. Campbell
Board Chair: serving on the Board since October 2017, representing the City of Richmond shareholder, and bringing expertise in political science, community engagement, and communications.
Vice Chair: serving on the Board since October 2010 (including as Chairman in 2018 and 2019), representing the Chesterfield County shareholder, and bringing expertise in business and commercial and community banking.
Eldridge F. Coles
Secretary/Treasurer: serving on the Board since October 2016, representing the City of Richmond shareholder, and bringing expertise in public transit, including scheduling, planning, operations, and executive management.
Director: serving on the Board since October 2013 (including as Chairman from October 2013-2017), representing the City of Richmond shareholder, and bringing expertise in law, diversity and inclusion, and public education.
Director: serving on the Board since October 2019 representing the Chesterfield County Shareholder, and bringing expertise in civil engineering, transportation policy, operations, and logistics, and project management.
Daniel K. Smith
Director: serving on the Board since October 1989 (including as Vice Chairman from October 1994-2005 and 2009-2011 and Chairman from October 2005-2009), representing the Chesterfield County shareholder, and bringing expertise in accounting and business.
GRTC was recognized by WTS (formerly known as Women’s Transportation Seminar) as the 2021 Employer of the Year. This award is given annually to honor an employer who actively supports career development and advancement of women in the transportation industry. Chapter recognition winners represent the best of the best in the transportation industry, reflecting commitment, diversity, and ingenuity from every nominee.
RideFinders was recognized with three awards during FY21. In August 2020, RideFinders earned the 2020 Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) National Commuting Option Award - Vanpooling for the “Fall in Love with Vanpooling” program, which provided more than $10,000 in financial incentives to vanpools, placed 71 commuters into existing vanpools, and started 12 new vanpools. In November 2020, the Chesapeake Chapter, Association for Commuter Transportation, recognized RideFinders as the 2020 Best Online/Social Media Marketing Campaign for its “Celebrate Earth Day, Every Day” Clean Air Campaign. Additionally, in April 2021, the same campaign earned the 2021 Communitas Leadership Award in the Community Service and Corporate Social Responsibility Category.
1. Monica Carter, Safety and Service Compliance Manager, earned the Advanced Safety Certificate through the National Safety Council in June 2021.
2. Sheronda Hill, Transportation Department Administrative Assistant, was chosen this Summer to receive the COMTO Scholarship titled: “Woman Who Moves The Nation”. This scholarship is awarded to students attending an accredited college/university, majoring in Business. The recipient of this scholarship strives to work in a leadership capacity within the transportation industry. Sheronda graduated with Honors from John Tyler Community College and was recently accepted into the Old Dominion University Business program.
3. Isaac Wright, Assistant Chief of Transit Operations, completed his certification as an Associate Instructor for the Transportation Institute (TSI), Transit Safety and Security Division in Summer 2021.
Although the public announcement was not until September 2021, in FY21 GRTC received two awards from the Virginia Transit Association. Operator 4. Tabitha Benjamin received the 2021 VTA Unsung Hero Award, and GRTC Marketing once again (fourth year in a row!) earned the 2021 VTA Outstanding Public Transportation Marketing Award - Large Agency for GRTC’s “Now Hiring” campaign in 2019-2021. RideFinders was also recognized in FY21 with a pandemic delayed VTA Award honoring 5. Cherika Ruffin as the 2020 Transit/TDM Employee Unsung Hero.
6. Brigitte Carter, RideFinders Account Executive, completed the Best Workplaces for Commuters, Telework Certificate Program in July 2020, which included the following courses: Managing a Distributed Team, working on a Distributed Team, Mobility Best Practices, Working in a Home Office, and Negotiations at a distance.
7. Jekeima Taylor, RideFinders Client Services Coordinator, was recognized in October 2020 by the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) as a recipient of the prestigious 40 Under 40 Awards, awards that recognize talented leaders who are working to find creative solutions to improve the quality of life for commuters and the livability of our communities.
8. John O’Keeffe, RideFinders Account Executive, earned the Florida Commuter Choice Certificate from the Center for Urban Transportation Research (University of South Florida) in June 2021.
9. Von Tisdale, Executive Director of RideFinders, was recognized for leadership by DRPT during African American History Month 2021.
10. Juan Shackelford, Customer Service Manager, was Ordained in ministry with Saint Paul’s Baptist Church. Reverend Shackelford joins several other ordained staff who bring a wealth of professionalism and personal care to our customers.
11. GRTC announced the appointment of Tony Byrd as Director of Maintenance, effective August 30, 2020. Tony is a classic GRTC success story, beginning in 1989 as a mechanic in training and working his way up through the ranks both within the Maintenance Department and serving in the Union as Shop Steward and later Vice President.
12. GRTC welcomed its new CFO John Zinzarella in January 2021. John has expanded oversight internally of the Finance, Procurement and Human Resources Departments, and brings tremendous long-term budgeting experience to GRTC.
FY21 ridership data represents COVID conditions throughout the reporting period, with lower-than-normal ridership. However, a marked recovery trend is aligned with the broader availability of COVID testing in Summer 2020 and later vaccines to the public in Spring 2021. Local bus ridership is now back to pre-pandemic levels, but express and Pulse ridership remain depressed with continued virtual school and remote work options. GRTC will return to normal levels in Fall 2021 primarily because of Virginia Commonwealth University resuming most on-campus activities. Although vanpool ridership remains lower while employers continue liberal telework policies, this data shows vanpools do have capacity to grow in the future for customers shifting from traditional daily express routes to targeted in-office commuting days. GRTC’s next passenger survey is planned for FY22 to help identify shifts in use of the system and composition of riders after over a year and a half of COVID restrictions and associated zero fare operations.
GRTC’s CARE services provide origin-to-destination service under the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for the citizens of the Richmond Region. CARE and CARE On-Demand provide public transportation access to individuals with disabilities who may not be reasonably able to use GRTC fixed route bus service. CARE is a pre-registration, shared-ride van service, whereas CARE On-Demand is a premium, same-day reservation, solo-ride service open to CARE customers. Both CARE and CARE On-Demand ensure customers with disabilities have ADA-compliant mobility options to reach critical healthcare, community services, shopping, or social destinations within the GRTC service area.
While GRTC is Zero Fare, CARE is free just like fixed route bus service, but CARE On-Demand still charges its regular fare. Like local ridership, CARE passengers rode less often during the pandemic, but their return to riding is slower than on buses. This delayed recovery may be a combination of factors related to the pandemic, including ongoing personal precautions to limit public exposure and medical appointment delays from shut-down backlog demand.
Federal COVID relief distributions continued to fill budget deficits resulting from ongoing increased expenses and revenue reductions due to the global pandemic. Federal support ensured GRTC could continue preserving jobs and services for core riders, as well as delivering a safer experience with enhanced cleaning protocols, plexiglass shields, and ongoing personal protective equipment supplies and sanitizer. With Board authorization, frontline essential workers also received several appreciation bonuses for their efforts to maintain mobility services through the pandemic. GRTC expects to sustain and budget for these enhanced cleaning protocols long-term.
GRTC continues to advance a multi-year plan (FY 2023 – FY 2027) to improve passenger infrastructure at stops, including installing benches, shelters, trash cans, and ADA landing pads. If achieved, these ambitious goals would increase the number of stops with a shelter to 15%, the number of stops with a bench to 35%, and new landing pad infrastructure added to 51% of bus stops so that 100% of bus stops have a flat, stable area for riders to wait for the bus. The preliminary total five year estimated cost for this goal may reach or exceed $20,000,000 with most of the expected expense for ADA accessibility associated with needed sidewalk infrastructure, safe crosswalks, and stormwater improvements.
During FY21, adjustments to the approved budget were made to account for the shift of local funding away from GRTC operating contributions in anticipation of new CVTA revenues dedicated to GRTC, as well as to receive increased State funding also resulting from the pandemic. Once COVID no longer significantly impacts transit operations, GRTC in partnership with the region must address sources of sustainable transit revenues required to meet increasing demands for public mobility services. Conversations will include strategies for allocation of CVTA funds for existing regional service and future system growth, sustainable levels of local contributions to support localized mobility initiatives and paratransit services, partnerships and sponsorships with business and community groups, and a comprehensive study of an equitable and cost effective fare structure.
The bulk of GRTC’s operating expenses are based on the wages for operators and mechanics to support our existing levels of service as indicated by the budgets for Operations, Maintenance, and Benefits, but there is also an increase in COVID-related expenses during the pandemic. Growth in these departments is a direct reflection of service expansions approved by each local jurisdiction, as well as annual wage increases required by the Collective Bargaining Agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1220. GRTC efficiently stewards expenses directly to the greatest service needs benefitting customers and maintaining a state of good repair.
GRTC also intentionally spends with small, women, minority, and disadvantaged businesses to encourage diversity in our procurement and contracting processes. GRTC’s small, woman and minority (SWaM) goal is lowering from 17% in FY21 to 9% in FY22, based on the diverse spend at 9.4% in FY21 with local and small businesses. For federally funded projects, the Diverse Business Enterprise (DBE – includes minority and woman owned businesses) spend goal is 8% during FY20-22, which in FY21 noted 1.9% toward this three-year goal.
GRTC plans for Capital funding needs over the course of several years, typically the next six years. GRTC’s capital funding strategy prioritizes needs: to maintain assets in a state of good repair; to provide improvements to existing service for current riders; to reflect and advance the mobility initiatives adopted by the Transportation Planning Organization (aka Richmond Regional TPO), City of Richmond, and the Counties of Chesterfield and Henrico; and to support initiatives to expand the usage of mass transit by other public and private funding partners within the region.
A rider’s trip begins before they board the bus, and GRTC believes this passenger experience in and around stop areas should be safe, accessible to all, and equipped with infrastructure essentials like seating, lighting, and trash cans. Although not all of these items are within GRTC’s control, GRTC continues a multi-year major infrastructure improvement effort to make bus stops more comfortable, sheltered and, frankly, humane, in collaboration with localities and community partners.
Where space permits, new bus stop shelters are three- sided with a roof to provide better protection from the elements, a bench or lean-rail, a concrete pad with ADA space for a mobility device, and solar-powered lighting. Although the pandemic slowed down both the supply chain and the installation process, GRTC deployed 15 shelters, eight benches, and 12 trash cans throughout the network in FY21. With funding contributions from community partner Bon Secours Health System, ten new shelters were installed Richmond’s East End, with four more planned to coincide with other pedestrian improvements coming from the City of Richmond. Bon Secours and GRTC made enhancements to the selected stops based on input from RVA Rapid Transit, the leading regional advocacy group for public transportation, and with engagement from the local community.
In addition to physical improvements, GRTC is investing in technology improvements to make real-time bus information accessible for customers. GRTC purchased a new tool from Clever that will enable Radio Supervisors to plug in any detours, major delays or other service alerts that impact the actual arrival time of a bus. This tool, expected to deploy in mid-FY22, will enable riders on buses or at bus stops to use the mobile app to receive real-time information on current or planned route detours. This information will allow riders to better plan their trips around out-of-service bus stops or delayed buses.
Although most riders report having a smartphone, not everyone is always on their phone using our app. GRTC needs to provide meaningful, timely, and targeted travel updates and passenger information to customers throughout their journey at stops and on buses. CleverVision is an on-board passenger information system designed specifically for use in mass transit vehicles, displaying route, next stop, stop requested, public service messages and audio announcements, emergency and service bulletins, and internet feeds for news, time, date, and weather. Customers will greatly benefit from this new on-board communication tool when it deploys in 2022.
In 2019 and 2020, GRTC began a high-level assessment of the probable costs and benefits of new fare payment technologies and structures including an account-based fare system and a zero-fare system. With the onset of the COVID pandemic and the availability of State and Federal Relief dollars, GRTC quickly pivoted into zero-fare operations as a public health measure to distance operators and riders from close and sustained interaction over bus fareboxes. Intended only as a short-term measure, zero-fares extended throughout FY2021 and are budgeted for all of FY2022 due to the lingering impacts of COVID and COVID variant surges. Under the zero fare service conditions, local bus ridership quickly jumped back to nearly pre-pandemic levels, as a long standing barrier to mobility (the cost of transportation and the impacts of fares on essential workers) was removed.
In order to continue to study the effects of Zero Fare operations on our community and to assess the costs and benefits of other Fare Collection systems, GRTC is actively pursuing a grant to study the social and economic impacts of ongoing Zero Fare services compared to account based systems. DRPT recently announced the Transit Ridership Incentive Program (TRIP), a new statewide grant program dedicated to improving transit’s regional connectivity in urban areas with a population more than 100,000 and reducing barriers to transit use by supporting low income and zero fare programming. GRTC is strongly positioned to participate in the TRIP initiative. Beyond TRIP, GRTC hopes to cultivate new and expanded business partnerships, like the existing VCU ridership program. This will establish annual funding contributions from business and employers to cover the delta for uncollected fare revenue by reinvesting in GRTC service for passengers, most of whom are commuting to and from jobs and supporting the local economy.
Safety and ongoing safety training is critical to operations of public transit. With the onset of COVID, our team adjusted in person training to socially distanced training and on-line/virtual instruction to ensure we maintained our high level of safety education and operations. The team also added new training specific to COVID health and Safety. All staff were required to complete COVID-specific online training courses. Most employees also completed a safe driving course online and a conflict de-escalation online seminar, and all managers and supervisors were required to complete an online sexual harassment program. Active Shooter and Emergency and Fire Preparedness Training courses equipped everyone with situational awareness skills that could save lives in a crisis. Although there will be an expected return to in-person routine Safety Meetings for Operators and Mechanics, GRTC’s safety programs will continue to include online training offerings after a successful year using virtual continuing education.
Emergency preparedness protects staff, essential facilities, equipment, and records. This past year, GRTC continued work on a new Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) to improve our ability to respond to emerging crises quickly and effectively. The COOP includes a clear order of responsibility and communication chain for responding to different emergency needs. GRTC will use the COOP to assess and minimize possible damage and losses, provide organizational and operational stability, and fulfill the agency’s responsibilities in local, regional, and state emergency operations plans and agreements. The COOP is expected to be ready later in 2022, and GRTC appreciates local jurisdictions and their emergency responders for participating in GRTC’s planning process.
The Central Virginia Transportation Authority (CVTA) is a newly established authority in central Virginia that provides funding opportunities for priority transportation investments across the region. Through the CVTA, GRTC now has a dedicated source of regional transit funding for operational and capital needs as identified through collaboration with regional partners and as approved by GRTC and CVTA Boards in GRTC’s annual Regional Public Transportation Plan (RPTP). GRTC’s first full year RPTP for FY22 focused on maintaining existing levels of service under COVID conditions. GRTC was unable to consider any growth plans requiring additional Operator human power until nation-wide employment shortages for bus operators and mechanics is resolved.
The FY2023 RPTP will be built to consider system growth priorities identified in previously adopted plans (GRTC’s Transit Development Plan (TDP) 2018-2028, PlanRVA’s Greater RVA Transit Vision Plan Phases I and II) and through regional collaboration regarding prioritized service growth. GRTC will also be studying priorities for micro-transit and extended service throughout the CVTA region as part of the FY2023 plan.
GRTC continues to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with new and enhanced safety measures and passenger policies to protect staff and the public alike. Operational changes included primarily rear-door boarding/alighting, mandated face masks, maintaining on-board hand sanitizer stations, robust cleaning schedules and staffing to support daily complete-fleet disinfection, redistributing vehicle resources to the routes with greatest ridership needs, and encouraging social distance as much as feasible on-board and in GRTC facilities. Schedules remained reduced on express routes and lower-ridership local routes, with increased Operator extra board duties to ensure coverage when Operators were pulled for quarantine and testing from any possible COVID exposure. GRTC’s liberal leave and paid quarantine policies protected jobs and encouraged employees to voluntarily report potential exposure to mitigate possible spread among the workforce. On-site free testing events detected asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic cases to proactively catch any workplace exposure, and vaccine appointments were opened for GRTC staff in March 2021 to begin significantly protecting staff from serious illness.
These efforts appear to be working well, as concluded by the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) after investigations. These reviews assessed GRTC’s compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace rules regarding notifications, safety practices, and workplace transmission. DOLI’s investigations resulted in no fines, no citations, and no findings. At the exit interview for each, DOLI representatives commended GRTC on its commitment to transparency, as well as GRTC’s implementation and adherence to health and safety protocols above CDC and DOLI requirements for transit. While there is no room to be proud of these results when GRTC suffered the loss of two employees to COVID before vaccines were available, the entire GRTC family’s commitment and integrity will continue to build trust with staff, riders, and community partners.
Even after the pandemic “ends” in the future and our society adjusts to life with COVID, GRTC expects many of the pandemic workplace safety and cleaning protocols adopted will continue long-term. GRTC will continue to clean the entire fleet nightly and supply on-board hand sanitizer stations. Even after the Federal Mask Order expires (currently planned in early 2022), GRTC will encourage passengers to continue wearing face masks while riding, especially during flu season. Personal hygiene and workspace cleaning will continue to be strongly encouraged to mitigate the spread of germs. Telework and flexible work hours have also been heavily used by administrative staff, and these options previously permitted in GRTC’s Employee Handbook will probably be used more often going forward.
Like most transit systems in the United States, GRTC is competing against other CDL employers for professional drivers and for trained mechanics. To increase awareness about GRTC employment opportunities, marketing efforts in FY21 will continue into FY2022 in targeted periods. Most of the advertising focused on the Greater Richmond Metro Area through local television partners like CBS6 and NBC12, but digital advertisements could reach farther if desired to cover the entire Commonwealth or select CDL “hang-outs” like truck stops and CDL and technical training schools.
Although marketing has been effective at driving increased web traffic to the employment page, where GRTC exclusively receives job applications, there were other barriers preventing a higher hiring success rate during these campaigns. The pandemic created a significant back-up in appointment demand at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and led to long lead times to get a Virginia driver’s license, CDL learner’s or CDL permit. This shrunk the qualified applicant pool to mainly people who already had a Virginia CDL with P endorsement learner’s permit. For some applicants, the barrier was lack of childcare, or other personal restrictions on availability to work necessary shifts, including overnights, weekends, and holidays. And, understandable during a pandemic, some applicants were nervous to interact with the public before being vaccinated.
While GRTC cannot solve all these problems alone, there are some solutions on the way soon in FY22. By late Summer 2021, GRTC expects to be able to process all three CDL tests on-site during training because of a new partnership with DMV. GRTC will also re-launch an improved mechanics apprentice program and CDL permit test-prep support. To compete with peer employers and attract more talent with higher pay, incentive programs and bonuses are currently in development with the Union for possible implementation in FY22. Incentives are also being reviewed with the Union for existing staff to mitigate attrition and reward positive performance. GRTC is committed to being a competitive employer of choice.
I hope after reviewing this Annual Report you join us in celebrating the valuable and essential work GRTC accomplished this year protecting and building prosperity through mobility. We will continue to address workforce challenges, plan for future growth and mobility solutions under the CVTA, improve the rider’s experience throughout their trip, and deliver reliable service that is more tech accessible. Multi-modal and regional partnerships will continue to connect and grow public mass transit into a seamless range of mobility services locally, regionally, and beyond. Get Ready To Connect!
GRTC Chief Executive Officer