The Transit Access Program (TAP) is a new initiative to allow for tax-deductible donations to support continued fare-free transit operations in the greater Richmond region.
GRTC began zero fare service in March 2020 to ensure the health and safety of bus operators and passengers. In December of 2021, GRTC also received $8 million in state grant funding from the Virginia Department of Rail & Public Transportation (DRPT) to study Zero Fare, which, combined with local matches from the City of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, has funded fare-free service through June 30, 2024.
Ridership demographics, post-pandemic growth, and equity concerns all demonstrate the effectiveness and necessity of GRTC’s fare-free program. A vast majority of GRTC riders are low-income and transit-dependent: 74% have a household income below $40,000, and riders rely on transit for essential trips: commuting to work, school, or medical appointments they cannot afford to miss.
Thanks to fare-free service, those riders stayed on GRTC buses through the pandemic. Transit ridership rebounded much faster in Richmond compared to nationwide trends, confirming that essential workers rely on transit, and that our most transit-dependent passengers are in constant need of our services.
GRTC ridership is up from pre-pandemic numbers, and fare-free also brought new riders and increased demand into the system: 28% of 2023 riders did not use GRTC before fare-free, and 41% of all riders ride more frequently thanks to fare-free service.
Prior to the pandemic, GRTC spent $1.2 million to recoup $8 million in fares, a small fraction of our $68.3 million operational budget at the time. Additionally, higher-income riders often took advantage of multi-ride or employer-sponsored passes, leaving lower-income riders dependent on single-ride tickets to bear the burden of farebox recovery. Zero Fare removes this burden from our most price-sensitive and transit-dependent riders while representing a very limited portion of the budget – a true win-win.
21 percent of U.S. adults without access skipped needed medical care. Individuals with no car but access to transit were less likely to skip needed care (only 9%).
5 percent of All U.S. adults reported skipping healthcare due to transportation barriers.
Black adults (8%), adults with low family incomes (14%), and adults with public health insurance (12%) were all more likely to forgo needed care due to difficulty finding transportation.4
Adults with a disability (17%) were more than three times as likely to report skipping care due to transportation concerns.
Per the World Health Organization (WHO), car crashes are the leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds worldwide.
Public transit users have “significantly higher levels of physical activity than drivers.”
Transportation is also key for access to education – impacting what schools kids attend, whether they do extracurriculars, what jobs or internships they might have, and more. In Minneapolis, students with free transit access earned GPAs .28 higher than students without it.
According to UCLA, taking public transportation reduces CO2 Emissions by 45% compared to driving alone, decreasing pollutants in the atmosphere, and improving air quality.
Crude asthma-related death rates are 250% of the national average – and 480% higher for black residents. Limiting air pollution is a health and equity issue that fare-free transit is uniquely positioned to solve.
Taking public transportation reduces CO2 per mile emissions by 45% or more compared to driving alone, more when riding a full bus
Every $1 invested in public transportation generates $5 in economic returns.
Every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates approximately 50,000 jobs.
Traveling by public transportation is 10 times safer per mile than traveling by automobile.
The average car costs $13,000 to maintain – per capita income in Richmond is $38,132, meaning the average car costs more than a third of the average yearly income.
We believe that fare-free is a critical component of the greater Richmond region and are looking for support from our community to maintain the program beyond the duration of the state grant. Your tax-deductible donations, made possible through a partnership with Ridefinders, a registered 501(c) 3 affiliated with GRTC, will help ensure that service remains fare-free, ensuring access to jobs, healthcare, and education for the constantly growing transit rider population that serves as the foundation for our regional economy. The TAP program will allow GRTC to dedicate resources to other critical investments, including route expansions, regional microtransit service, and expanding the Pulse network. This combination of investing in service and riders will provide a boost for the entire region, regardless of transit ridership. GRTC welcomes partners at all funding levels. In addition to providing critical funding for fare-free transit, TAP participants will be entitled to a variety of creative ways of recognizing their support (different and expanded packages will be available based on contribution level).