Henrico’s New GRTC Plan is a Win-Win

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Henrico’s New GRTC Plan is a Win-Win

Adam Sachs, Staff Writer

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Henrico County’s Manager, John Vithoulkas, recently proposed an $871.9 million annual budget for the county—it includes raises for teachers, school renovations, and improvements at fire stations and parks.

However, the most notable addition to Henrico’s 2018-19 budget is the historic expansion of Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) bus service to West End Henrico and Short Pump. The GRTC is Richmond’s only affordable public transit service, and offers bus routes all around the City of Richmond, with limited service into Chesterfield and Henrico counties. The proposed budget allocates $1.2 million to expand operating hours of buses and includes the extension of one bus route—the 19 Pemberton—into the Short Pump area.

Although this may seem insignificant, it’s actually a historic moment in Henrico’s history. Henrico County government has historically shown discrimination to African-Americans and other minority groups, as well as lower-income and homeless people. Beginning in the late 1950s, Henrico County Public Schools was a key participant and player in the movement known as massive resistance—a group of laws that attempted to contradict the US Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education by blocking integration of schools. The movement was led by Virginia Governor and US Senator Harry F. Byrd, a noted racist, who, until two years ago, had a middle school named after him in Henrico County.

Henrico County Government has also shown discrimination toward lower-income people through its consistent refusal over the past three (or more) decades to expand GRTC bus service into the more affluent areas of the county. It’s widely believed that Henrico Government simply does not want lower-income and homeless people from the City of Richmond traveling into the West End, worrying that they will not actively participate in the booming Short Pump economy and could bring crime, drugs, and general unruliness into the area. Henrico has reinforced this ideal by refusing to expand bus service into Short Pump and making it difficult or nearly impossible for anyone to travel from the City into Henrico’s near West End, Tuckahoe, and Glen Allen neighborhoods.

However, Henrico’s new budget makes drastic adjustments to this unfair and misguided practice. By providing increased funding for GRTC bus service in the county, expanding routes into the Short Pump area, and increasing the frequency of bus service, Henrico has made its first step away from its antiquated approach to the GRTC system.

Henrico’s expansion of GRTC bus service into the West End and Short Pump will provide greater economic opportunity for county and city residents alike.

Both municipalities will benefit from the expansion: residents of Short Pump and other areas Henrico’s West End will be more inclined to use public transportation to go to popular restaurants, museums, and activities in the City of Richmond (many Henrico residents complain about the hassle of parking in the City), and furthermore, residents of the City of Richmond will have easier access to Short Pump Mall and other high-end shopping centers in the West End, which sometimes seem very distant and removed from the City.

Henrico’s Board of Supervisors, which, for the first time in decades, has a Democratic majority with Courtney Lynch’s election to the position of Brookland District Supervisor in a special election in November 2017, is ready for change. The Board of Supervisors will vote on the budget on April 24th after a series of public hearings.

Henrico’s GRTC expansion provides immeasurable economic opportunity for the County and the City of Richmond. Henrico County is now taking the first steps in expanding GRTC service to provide greater equity and accessibility for commuters, shoppers, and tourists all around the Metro Richmond Area.

 

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