Each February, GRTC Transit System recognizes Black History Month. Over the years, GRTC has acknowledged the Richmond region’s storied transit history to guide them toward a more equitable future. This year, GRTC highlights their ongoing initiatives and the historic leadership driving these goals.
What is now known as GRTC Transit System is a result of several companies passing the torch to create one of the longest, continuous transportation services in the nation, only suspending service during the Civil War. Predating the well-known Montgomery Bus Boycotts—sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955—were the Richmond streetcar boycotts in the early 20th Century. The Virginia General Assembly enacted laws in 1901 allowing segregation on board transit. In 1902, the streetcar operating between the City of Richmond and Seven Pines in Henrico County was segregated. Today, this service operates as GRTC bus routes 7A and 7B.
Despite the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Browder v. Gayle (1956) declaring segregation on public transportation unconstitutional, African Americans continue to face inadequate and unequal access to transportation, particularly in low-income and minority neighborhoods.
For the last three years, GRTC has operated with Zero Fare on all local, express, and scheduled paratransit services championing social and economic mobility options throughout the region. The ridership of GRTC local routes is 75% Black or African American and more than 50% of GRTC riders have an annual income of less than $25,000. GRTC ridership levels throughout the pandemic have demonstrated how bus service is the backbone for accessing jobs, education, healthcare, and caring for loved ones in the region.
GRTC’s equity efforts extend to its 1,600+ local stops with the adoption of an Essential Transit Infrastructure Plan (ETI) in 2022. Currently, only 26% of bus stops have a bench or shelter. The ETI redefined GRTC’s rubric to include an equity score instead of ridership data alone. Dependent on funding, GRTC plans to expand bus stop seating or shelter to 50-75% of all stops by 2027. The inclusion of the equity score will prioritize investment in historically low-income and minority neighborhoods. By increasing stop infrastructure and accessibility, GRTC will bring more dignified places to wait at local stops along many corridors for riders who need its services the most.
Most recently, GRTC’s Board of Directors made history by appointing Sheryl Adams as the seventh Chief Executive Officer and first African American woman to lead the organization. Adams has spent over 20 years at GRTC serving in different capacities and impacting the experiences of countless GRTC employees and community members. “I am grateful that the board has continued to place its trust in me to lead this organization. I have great pride in GRTC as we continue to provide clean, safe, and reliable transportation options.” Adams stated earlier this month.
GRTC’s Marketing Department
GRTC is a public service corporation providing mobility services in the Greater Richmond area. GRTC’s current operational budget (FY23) of $64.5 million primarily funds daily mobility operations and vehicle maintenance. GRTC provided 8.2 million trips during FY22 (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022).