The Henrico Citizen

Survey finds strong support for expanded Pulse BRT line to Short Pump

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Richmond’s bus rapid transit line, the Pulse. (Sarah Vogelsong / Virginia Mercury)

Nearly three-quarters of the 1,378 respondents to a recent GRTC/PlanRVA transit survey would use public transit to commute between, to or from the West Broad Street corridor in Henrico’s West End if it were more available, data from the survey shows.

The survey is part of an ongoing study by the two groups to determine the feasibility of extending GRTC’s Pulse bus rapid transit along the West Broad Street corridor into Short Pump. The Pulse currently provides frequent service (typically every 10 or 15 minutes, depending upon the day and time) along a 7.6-mile loop at 14 stops between Rocketts Landing and Willow Lawn.

Just more than 72% of survey respondents said they would use enhanced public transit options along the corridor, while nearly 41% said they would walk the corridor more if enhancements were made and about 34% said they would bike it more often, pending improvements.

Perhaps most significantly, slightly more than half of all respondents indicated that they never, rarely or only occasionally use public transit now, but more than 75% said that an expanded Pulse line would impact how they consider traveling along the corridor.

If Pulse service is expanded in the region, survey respondents hope it will include stops in Short Pump (253 respondents) and Innsbrook (71). West Broad Village, the Parham Road area, Libbie Place and various shopping centers along the corridor also received votes.

Most respondents (just more than 80%) indicated that they currently travel the corridor on both weekdays and weekends, with shopping (nearly 77%), work (about 45%) and residential (33%) destinations topping the list of reasons.

About 22% of respondents said they travel the corridor at least daily, while about 30% said they do so only weekly and nearly 28% said they do so occasionally.

Eighty-six respondents indicated that lack of transportation has prevented them from finding work or keeping a job, either because of lack of transit to potential job sites (45%) or lack of transit options near their homes (36%).

Among respondents 527 cited public transit enhancements in the corridor as their top transportation desire; 198 favored reducing traffic congestion; and 190 picked enhanced corridor safety.

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Survey respondents identified more than 3,600 barriers to transportation along the West Broad Street corridor in Henrico County. (Courtesy PlanRVA)

The survey also invited respondents to identify transportation barriers that they witness or experience along the corridor currently, and they identified more than 3,600, including inadequate crosswalks, bicycle facilities and lighting; missing sidewalks; lack of parking near transit stops; aggressive driving; and a lack of bus stop shelters or benches, among others.

Hundreds of respondents left comments about their ideas for the corridor, with some saying that more frequent service in the area would convert them to transit users.

“I’d love to ride more,” one wrote. “With more consistency I could see myself become a daily or weekly rider.”

Wrote another: “Frequent, reliable service is key. A missing bus = a missed interview, medical appointment or job start time (and a last minute Uber ride).”

Wrote a third: “I hardly ever go out that way now. If I could take the Pulse, I would definitely go there more frequently.”

Respondents who left comments often indicated that transportation enhancements – in any form – are needed along the corridor to make it safer and more inviting to a range of travelers.

“There is a massive overhaul that needs to be done in order to make Richmond/Henrico anything but car centric,” one respondent wrote. “In its current form, this area does not feel safe, accessible, or welcoming for pedestrians or cyclists. This change would require some massive changes throughout the corridor, but they are necessary in order to progress as a city/county. Car-centric infrastructure was developed to be exclusionary; it is time for RVA to reform this and create infrastructure that is accessible for all.”

“Short Pump is often a traffic nightmare, I think most people would agree on that,” one respondent wrote in asking for better bicycle and pedestrian access. “To get around the Short Pump area by any means other than a personal automobile is nearly impossible. Considering how many people are now living in the area, there absolutely should be better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure to make the plethora of commercial offerings accessible to people without having to add cars to the streets.

Others said they feared the extension of the Pulse service deeper into Henrico.

“I do not want any (more) public transportation routes into Short Pump,” one wrote. “These do nothing but import crime and trouble.”

“The last thing Short Pump needs are more bus routes or people,” another wrote.

Some respondents expressed concerns that BRT lanes (which in some parts of Richmond are dedicated bus-only lanes) could complicate the already-congested corridor. It’s unclear, though, whether officials would propose dedicated lanes for some or all of the proposed extension.

“Where BRT is built partially determines a route’s design and features,” according to the PlanRVA survey report. “For example, only the most congested areas call for dedicated transit-only lanes. However, things like platform-level boarding and off-board fare collection are more key to BRT.”

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