The Broad Street corridor contains one out of every four jobs in the greater Richmond region and a number of significant activity centers. This corridor is currently supported by a high density of local bus routes, with as many as 48 buses traveling in one direction along segments of Broad Street during the peak hour. The current congested network of converging and duplicative transit routes is contributing to inefficiencies in transit service both within the Broad Street corridor and throughout GRTCís broader system of routes. The absence of a dedicated trunk line route, with improved speeds, consolidated operations, and less time-consuming transfers is affecting the ability of the GRTC Transit System to adequately meet existing and growing travel demand and to attract choice riders.
To meet these needs, a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) concept, running within the Broad Street corridor in downtown Richmond, was recommended in the recently completed GRTC Transit System Comprehensive Operations Analysis report (2008). This service concept is the culmination of past studies in a phased approach to providing efficient, high capacity transit in the Broad Street corridor. The project is conceived in two phases, with the first phase concentrated on the more urban portion of the Broad Street corridor between Rocketts Landing and Willow Lawn. The second phase is intended to consider the westward extension of the BRT corridor to the Short Pump area of Henrico County.
The conceptual plan for the BRT corridor includes many characteristics common in other BRT operations. The Richmond BRT service will provide a high frequency, limited stop service that uses specialized vehicles on dedicated right of way to transport passengers along Broad Street. The conceptual plan also proposes to include real-time next bus arrival information and other ITS systems that will give signal prioritization to the BRT vehicle.
Similar to other bus rapid transit proposals, the Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit project will be developed through a series of steps required by the Federal government.
During 2009, GRTC intends to work with the City of Richmond, Henrico County, and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to explore the various alternatives for providing efficient, high capacity transit along the Broad Street corridor. Work will involve the development of capital and operating costs in addition to identifying any fatal flaws that would prohibit the project from moving forward. Ideally, the analysis will result in a locally preferred alternative for providing high capacity transit along the Broad Street corridor.
During this phase of the project, environmental, engineering, and final design work are undertaken. This can take two or more years to finish once the Alternatives Analysis phase has been competed. Given that the Alternatives Analysis is complete by the end of 2009, project development could be completed as early as 2012.
Project Construction Grant Agreement
If the project is approved for funding by the Federal Transit Administration, construction funding is provided through a Project Construction Grant Agreement (PCGA) that is finalized during project development.
This phase could take one to two years, depending on the projectís complexity. If project development is complete by early 2012, the service could be running as early as 2013.
The need for the proposed project in the Broad Street corridor is addressed in terms of transportation needs and community and environmental needs. Transportation needs include both transit and roadway issues. Community and environmental needs include population and employment, land use and community development, environmental justice, and air quality.
Transit Operations and Ridership: Historically, Broad Street was the most important transportation and commercial corridor in the region. Today, it is still an important corridor with significant commercial, government, and institutional users along it. Of 31 local bus routes in the GRTC system, 20 are routed along some portion of the Broad Street corridor, while eight others cross the corridor or pass within one block of it. In one segment alone, during the peak periods, overall bus frequency is 75 seconds (or 48 buses each hour) in one direction. Most of the express bus routes in the system also use Broad Street in downtown. Within the corridor, total daily boardings are approximately 9,700. Thus, there is significant transit access along Broad Street, especially downtown, but there are operational problems with so many bus routes constrained to one corridor.
While service on Broad Street itself is very frequent, service to specific destinations reached by these routes once they leave Broad Street is of significantly lower quality and often requires long waits for passengers to board the appropriate bus. In addition, congestion on Broad Street slows transit service, making bus trips even longer. By consolidating service along Broad Street into one main trunk route that provides fast, reliable, and frequent service, other GRTC resources can be reallocated to better serve Richmondís neighborhoods and other important destinations, and the improved travel times will both benefit existing passengers and attract new riders.
Roadway Congestion: In terms of general traffic flow, existing traffic along Broad Street in this corridor ranges from 16,000 vehicles per day (vpd) at 2nd Street to 29,000 vpd at Staples Mill Road near Willow Lawn. The I-95/I-64 corridor generally parallels Broad Street to the north from I-195 to downtown Richmond and carries an average of 145,000 vpd. This interstate corridor is congested and greater congestion is projected by 2031. No plans to add capacity to Broad Street or the interstate corridor are included in the regional Constrained Long Range Transportation Plan, other than operational improvements to traffic signals and freeway ramps. A BRT project has the potential to alleviate congestion on the Broad Street and I-64 corridors, particularly if choice riders are attracted to the BRT mode.
Community and Environmental Needs
Population/Employment: Population within the corridor as of 2000 is estimated to be 37,080 and is projected to grow to 45,120, or 21%, by 2031 based on RAMPO projections. Overall population density within the station areas in 2000 is about 4,500 people per square mile. Residential densities are the highest in the Fan district, Carytown, Shockoe Bottom, and in the vicinity of Willow Lawn. Census Bureau estimates show that from 2000 to 2007, the City of Richmond as a whole has seen a 1.2% increase in population. While modest, this is a significant change from the general decline in population within the City since 1980. Henrico County overall has seen a 10% growth in population during this period.
Employment within the corridor was 151,313 in 2000, at an average density of 11,500 employees per square mile or 18 employees per acre within a half-mile of stations. Employment densities are highest in downtown Richmond (85 per acre), but medium density employment continues along a large portion of Broad Street. Current employment projections indicate a decline in employment within the corridor by 2031, to 140,154, with the existing pattern of density remaining intact. However, as described in the section that follows, some planned developments may offset the projected decline in employment.
Land Use and Community Development: Transit supportive development already exists along much of the Phase 1 corridor and more is expected at the endpoints. Downtown Richmond, the VCU Monroe Park Campus, Shockoe Bottom, and most other sections of the corridor between Hermitage Road and 26th Street have transit supportive land use densities and patterns. The City of Richmond and Henrico County both have transit supportive plans and zoning for most areas within the corridor. Further, in terms of economic development potential, nearly the entire corridor and 55% of the area within a half-mile of the potential stations is within an enterprise zone.
The City of Richmondís Downtown Master Plan contains transit supportive policy directions reinforcing the Bus Rapid Transit service sought by GRTC. The overarching theme of the Downtown Master Plan is to transform the downtown area, and, specifically, the Broad Street corridor, into a more pedestrian friendly environment. The City views transit as a key contributor to achieving this goal.
Main Street Station, located approximately three blocks south of Broad Street where it crosses I-95, is a National Historic Landmark originally built in 1901. Since its restoration in 2003, Amtrak revived passenger rail service to the station with about six weekday trains and 12,757 boarding and alightings in 2007. The City, DRPT and Amtrak plan to increase service to the station by routing all trains through Main Street Station.
GRTC also has plans to use Main Street Station as a multi-modal transportation hub. The GRTC Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA) recommends that the Main Street Station function as a future central downtown transfer center. The City of Richmondís overarching goal is to integrate bus, trolley, airport shuttle, taxi and limousine services to the station to make Main Street Station a truly multi-modal facility that provides connectivity with various transportation modes near the major employment and activity centers in downtown.
Current market analysis of the Main Street Station area indicates that there is strong redevelopment potential in the immediate area of the proposed transit hub. Approximately 400,000 square feet of office space, over 1,500 residential units, and a retail component on a scale that would provide a new focus for downtown shopping that currently does not exist are projected in the analysis. The retail component is plausible in light of the steady and projected increase in 24-hour population in the surrounding areas of downtown and the many amenities that have the potential to draw regional shoppers to the area.
Henrico County also has adopted land use policies that support future GRTC bus and rail service. Portions of areas in Henrico County surrounding the proposed BRT line are designated under the Urban Mixed Use (UMU) District in the current zoning ordinance. The UMU district is intended to encourage redevelopment of commercial areas where public transportation and other infrastructure capacity exists.
Rocketts Landing, at the eastern end of the corridor, is being constructed as a $500 million mixed-use development with 1,500 housing units, a hotel, and retail and office buildings on 45 acres. At the western end of the corridor, Gumenick Properties is planning to build a $400 million mixed-use development with over 2,000 housing units, 100,000 square feet of retail and 50,000 square feet of office space. Both of these developments are occurring under Henrico Countyís new Urban Mixed Use zoning code and will be highly transit supportive in density and design. There is also significant opportunity for infill development along the corridor between The Boulevard and Willow Lawn.
One major land use within the corridor is Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Currently, VCU enrolls about 28,000 students with about 3,800 living on campus and many more living nearby. By 2013, VCU expects to enroll over 31,000 students and house 6,500 on campus. Other special generators in the corridor that may add to potential ridership include:
Environmental Justice:Environmental justice populations, which are specifically low income and minority populations, are an environmental concern and are also likely to be transit-dependent populations. As part of the GRTC COA, a ridership survey was conducted which found that the typical rider is an African-American female who resides in the City of Richmond and uses GRTC service to travel between home and work 5 days per week. The survey results strongly indicate that due to the dependency of the entire GRTC bus network on the performance of this corridor, enhanced transit service on Broad Street would directly benefit environmental justice populations across the entire service area.
Air Quality: The Richmond Metropolitan Area is currently classified as a Marginal Non-attainment Area for ozone as classified by the EPA. Any transportation project seeking to consolidate service into a trunk line would have the effect of reducing the amount of transit vehicles in such a concentrated location. Removing a significant amount of the 700 buses that travel along Broad Street daily would most likely improve traffic flow, mitigate congestion, and in theory reduce vehicular carbon emissions.
Major east/west roadway with the highest transit ridership Consolidation of service:
Increase transit ridership: