Business on board with RVA's bus rapid transit

Richmond's GRTC (Greater Richmond Transit Company) earned a big win this week, as the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce came out in support of its biggest project.

A quick recap: The GRTC won a grant from the feds last year to build a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line down Broad Street from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing. In general, a BRT system tries to create a space for buses to travel quickly down major travel corridors - like light rail, only way cheaper. The project should cost around $50 million, with half that coming from the feds and the other half shared by the city and Henrico - and, of course, bus riders. (Ross Catrow at RVANews has put together a nice history/FAQ for the project.)

Once details of the plan starting coming out, though, residents and business owners began grumbling. It started especially in April when businesses learned they'd be losing over 200 parking spaces along Broad. In June, the Fan District Association released a letter opposing the project, and then joined a coalition of other district groups asking the GRTC to put a hold on the project to collect more community input.

But while the coalition includes the Fan Area Business Alliance, the bigger voice in RVA business belongs to the Greater Richmond Chamber. The fact that the Chamber is now on board with the BRT means that GRTC has the political cover they need to say this project is not anti-business.

They're probably right: many urban planners say that investment in transit is important for urban development, and that BRT is an effective, cost-efficient way to do this. Still, you can understand if particular businesses worry about losing RVA's shoppers and restaurant goers; unless they're young people living in the Fan, mostly everyone drives. BRT might make it easy to take a bus to a downtown business, but that doesn't mean that West End suburbanites will do so. Culture changes take time, and things could get worse before they get better.

This week's news, however, likely puts to bed any ideas about delaying the project. BRT is coming to Richmond, and soon.

Now we can continue to complain about the real problem here: the BRT's name, "The Pulse," is still pretty lame. (Although it could have been much, much worse. Blynx?)