Why Scott’s Addition needs better sidewalks

In two images.

From TransitCenter’s Who’s On Board 2016 report comes this graph that shows if someone can walk to transit they are more likely to be a frequent transit rider.

image

And then, from the Richmond Transit Network Plan’s High Ridership concept, comes this map of bus lines near Scott’s Addition:

image

Most of Scott’s Addition is within walking distance of either BRT (the black line) or the #10 (the red line). It’d certainly help encourage transit ridership in and out of the neighborhood if the sidewalks weren’t all crumbly and nonexistent.

Say something nice

Transportation people work hard at their jobs, too. We should say thanks.

From Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit:

When I redesigned Corvallis, Oregon’s bus system in 1995, the local newspaper’s coverage of the change focused on one senior housing complex, where people were enraged because I’d moved their bus stop around the corner to a different side of their building. Nobody in the local media cared about the dramatic improvements to mobility that the new network would provide. There are two morals to this story: (1) If your transit agency proposes a service change that looks to you like an improvement, send them a positive comment, because regardless of the proposal’s benefits, they’ll probably be bombarded by negative ones from people objecting to any kind of change. (2) We need better tools for making the benefits of a transit proposal visible to the ordinary citizen, so that a larger share of the population can make self-interested judgments that will weigh the advantages of a change, not just its inconvenience.

I realize Jarrett Walker (the very same Jarrett Walker who’s rejiggering our bus system as we speak!) is coming at this from a policy perspective. We need the folks with decision making power to hear from the people who support these projects, because they’re definitely hearing from the people who don’t.

But I think there’s more to it than that! It’s super draining to work long and hard on something you believe in only to end up with an inbox full of angry, grammatically-incorrect emails. I empathize! And, at least for me, while my brain knew that there existed people who were supportive of what I was doing, the casual “you suck” emails stuck with me—especially in the absence of a resounding number of “you’re great!” emails.

With that in mind: Here’s a (extremely short and totally incomplete) list of local folks pushing Richmond’s transportation systems forward (with all of their might!), and they deserve your kind words!

Who else am I missing? Who else do we need to shower with praise for their hard work?

And, as always, you can contact your elected officials (here are all of their email addresses plus the email addresses of everyone running for office) to tell them how much you love the Floyd Avenue Bike/Walk Street, or how excited you are about the impending bike share program, or how you just can’t wait for BRT to launch next fall. Those cats are on the receiving end of a lot of negative vibes, so a kind supportive word would be well received. Plus it lets them know that real people really do support these projects.

Update(s)

  • Sam reminds me to say thank you to your bus driver as you get off the bus.

WANTED: Someone to read the PDFs

Do you have what it takes to decipher endless and inscrutable city finance-related documents?

From the Richmond Forward blog (which you can and should totally get by email):

More than money, we need to elevate this conversation and understanding of our City’s finances. We need a Teresa-Cole-like investigation to “decode Davenport” and provide analysis from a neutral source on the long-term financial future of our city. I’ve received input from those on [Multi-Year School Investment Funding Team] committees that further scrutiny was needed to evaluate numbers provided by Davenport. Please contact us today if you want to take the lead or be involved in this effort.

Although, maybe if we all just bought Teresa some beers (or gave her stacks of American currency) she’d do this for us…

Bring a full plan to the table

Will this past week’s awful events change the local political conversation?

Amy George on her Facebook:

City council members/candidates and mayoral candidates need to bring a full plan to the table.

I want to know how you’re going to actively work to make our schools less segregated, our courts and policing more just, and ensure economic growth benefits those who need it the most.

I need to know what plans are in place to ensure residents of public housing are not carelessly scattered when places like Creighton Court are redeveloped. I want to see great bus access between high poverty communities and areas with high concentrations of jobs.

And most of all, I want to know what review procedures are in place to ensure that any misconduct by the Richmond Police Department sees the full light of day.

I’m really interested to see if any of the awful events of this past week push the local political conversations beyond cutting the grass.

Busin’ to books

How would a ridership-focused GRTC affect access to Richmond’s libraries?

I read this eye-opening thing about libraries, shared by Hayley, and immediately thought about how Richmond’s Transit Network Plan would affect access to our libraries.

image

If we adopted something akin to the High Ridership Concept of the Richmond Transit Network Plan, seven of nine of Richmond’s libraries would sit on top of frequent (every 15 minutes) service. Compare that to today (see below), where most of the libraries are accessibly by 30-minute service.

Doubling the frequency of bus service is a huge benefit of the High Ridership Concept, but also! Glory in its more grid-like structure! From my house on the Northside I would be able to get to all nine libraries with at most one transfer—while avoiding the downtown transfer plaza completely! In the current setup, to get to the North Avenue library for my house would take about 27 minutes and 17 minutes of that would be walking. It’d only take 49 minutes to walk the entire way there.

A more frequent, faster, and easier to understandable GRTC means better access to all sorts of things for all sorts of people. Just look at all of those red lines in the High Ridership Concept, and start to imagine all of the places you’ll go!

Below

Here’s the Familiar Concept of the Richmond Transit Network Plan, which is close to what we’ve got now. Notice that while you can still get to the libraries by bus, it’s not always super clear how one would go about doing that (say you want to check out a book on brewing after a visit to Hardywood?). Also note that service to the West End library is better in the Familiar Concept than it is in the High Ridership Concept. It’s an example of the types of decisions we’ll have to make as we work through adopting one of these concepts.

image

Does the City have a say when a new mural goes up?

#notallmurals

Photo by: Sky Noir

Mark Holmberg, writing for the paper, takes issue with a mural near the convention center and wonders why the City doesn’t have more control over what property owners do with their own property:

I’ve also been wondering why one artist and a building owner can change the vibe of a block or even a neighborhood, when buildings, signage and just about everything else has to go through a permitting process.

Not exactly false (signage is deeply covered in the City’s Zoning Ordinance), but the idea that anyone can paint anything anywhere is certainly misleading. Any murals done in one of Richmond’s Old and Historic Districts must go through the Commission of Architectural Review. In fact, there were three such papers in front of CAR just last week in preparation for this year’s Richmond Mural Project (1331 E. Canal Street, 11 W. Broad Street, and 708 N. Meadow Street). You can read through CAR’s nine-point mural guidelines on page 75 of the Old & Historic Districts Handbook and Design Review Guidelines (PDF)—most of the guideline ensure that folks don’t go painting murals right on top of old and original surfaces.

Btw, and this is unrelated to the legalities of painting murals, but Ron English is an internationally known artist. You’ll probably recognize his “Abraham Obama,” he’s been on The Simpsons, and he’s collaborated with Pearl Jam. The mural in question is an interpretation of Guernica. He’s definitely not just some guy with a paint bucket.

You can read more about Ron English and his involvement in the 2014 Richmond Mural Project in this interview with RVA Mag, in which he says these possibly prophetic words:

Richmond’s very nice. They have a lot of walls here. Looks like [the Richmond Mural Project] can keep expanding for quite awhile without covering mine up. Mine will be the first to get covered up, mark my words.


As Holmberg points out, Richmond’s in the midst of putting together our very first Public Art Master plan. While I’m pretty sure it’ll won’t have the authority to keep private citizens from painting their own property (remember Ham’s Recession 2009?), there will definitely be opportunities to exercise your public feedback muscle throughout the process.

It’s July, my dude

Chef Brittanny Anderson seems awesome.

The Two People Podcast, which I am in love with, interviewed Metzger chef and co-owner Brittanny Anderson on their latest episode. She talks about what it’s like for women working in the biz in Richmond, neighborhood segregation, and her new restaurant (which will serve raclette).

Sometimes people want to come in here and they want sauerbraten, and I’m like it’s July, my dude.


Coverage, Ridership, or Familiar? CHOOSE WISELY.

Richmond is in the process of redesigning its bus system. Now we get to decide how we want it to work!

Today the Richmond Transit Network Plan folks released three “concepts” of what the future of Richmond’s bus system could look like. Each concept is a different answer to The Big Question the entire Transit Network Plan process is set up to ask: “Ridership or Coverage?”

To get a handle on what those two words mean as they relate to rejiggering a bus system, you can just read the extremely interesting and beautiful 60-page PDF entitled The Richmond Transit Choices Report, or, if you’d rather spend your time doing other things, read the following couple sentences:

If your bus system is stoked on ridership, you’re gonna be into getting as many people onto buses at the same time as possible. If you’re real into coverage, you’ll focus on making sure that everyone has access to at least some buses. These goals conflict—at least if we’re working under the assumption of a fixed budget, which, duh. To increase ridership you’d do things like consolidate lines and make them insanely frequent. To increase coverage you’d run wiggly bus routes within a couple blocks of everyone’s home. The former makes transit a lot farther away from some folks, while the latter makes the buses very slow. See, conflict! They do a much better job explaining all of this over the course of the 60 pages in the Choices Report. You should read it! Don’t be afraid of it!

Luckily, our answer to The Big Question, doesn’t have to be just ridership or solely coverage. It’ll be a uniquely Richmond spot along a continuum with ridership at one end and coverage at the other. We get to decide, informed by our values as a community, where we want to spend our bus transit money. By the way, the amount of budget allocated to ridership goals vs. coverage goals is how we’ll end up measuring all of this—our current allocation is about 50–50.

The three choices below all do different things. The first optimizes the system for coverage, the second optimizes it for ridership, the third keeps things nice and familiar.

The coolest part about this whole process is that we get to decide, together, what we want our system to look like.

High Coverage Concept

image

This guy seeks to minimize walking distance to bus stops. Somethings to notice: There are a lot more lines than and they’re all running about every 30 minutes. In this concept, the budget is still split 50–50 between ridership and coverage goals, but they’ve cleaned things up a bit from the way they work currently.

High Ridership Concept

image

Behold! This is what an 80–20 split between ridership and coverage looks like. Check out all of those bright red lines that run every 15 minutes! A system designed like this would allow you to walk out of your door to a bus stop without ever looking at a schedule. That’s the magic of high-frequency lines.

Familiar Concept

image

The status quo! Booooring. Just kidding—lots of folks ride the bus currently, and this map seeks to minimize the disruption to those people. Notice how squiggly and uneven all the lines are compared to the High Coverage concept.


Like I said earlier, we’re looking to find our place on a spectrum. None of these maps is the map. We’ll work, through the magic of public meetings and contact forms, to come to some sort of consensus and find our own This is Richmond Concept.

Public meetings and contact forms

Ways for you to weigh in:

  • Facebook
  • @RichmondTNP
  • July 26th; Southside Community Services Center; 4100 Hull Street
  • July 27th; DMV Richmond Central Services; 2300 West Broad Street
  • August 3rd; Powhatan Community Center; 5051 Northampton Street
  • August 4th; Community High School; 201 Brookland Park Boulevard

The time to raise revenue is…like a billion years ago

In order to build new things we need new money. But, like, we’ve known that?

Hot on the heels of the release of the mayor’s Triple-Action Investment Plan to raise money for Richmond Public Schools’ Capital Improvement Program, Taber writes a very much true sentence:

Nobody is going to find a way to trim 20%, or even 10%, from the city’s budget without completely crippling even the most basic public services, and we can’t take back money that’s already been spent to put towards something else.

In order to build new things we’ve got to have new money. So it’s nice to hear the Mayor finally propose increasing revenue rather than just more of the same skeptical-face-inducing words about simply increasing efficiency (aside: whatever happened to his idea for a tax-raising referendum come fall?).

But, man, we’ve know about the problems this plan attempts to address for a long while now.

We’ve been aware of the crushing lack of debt capacity since at least the Stone Brewing Co. negotiations, when we briefly wondered if the money lent to them would push us over our limits.

We just finished a budget cycle where the Mayor flat-funded schools, Council debated but declined to institute a cigarette tax that is super common across the commonwealth, and, on top of all that, we’re $4 million short on last year’s budget.

To mic-drop this plan months before the election, just weeks after the city adopted its budget makes me feel sad and disappointed. It is not a secret knowledge that the City needs to increase its revenue—not just to keep up with the Henricos as Taber pointed out, but just to perform basic grass-cutting-type services. We all knew this! There was a real opportunity for our leaders to, you know, lead and get some of these things done this year. Instead, we kicked the Richmond Money Can down the road another 12 months, compounding the problem further.

Postscript

During this past budgeting session, RPS requested about $50 million for their CIP. They were given $5 million. The mayor’s proposed changes to the debt capacity, which you can read about in this very financey PDF, would only gives schools 57.7% of what they’ve requested over the next five years. Like, you guys, this is not great. The city is taking some drastic measure here, and those measures only get us halfway there.