Chesterfield and GRTC are launching a pilot program to extend Route 1A five miles westward along Midlothian Turnpike.
Chesterfield and the Greater Richmond Transit Co. (GRTC) are working together to implement a pilot program for local transit service along a 5-mile stretch of Midlothian Turnpike.
The one-year project will extend GRTC’s Route 1A westward from its current terminus, just east of Buford Road, to Walmart Way.
It is expected to include the installation of 12 new bus stops on Midlothian Turnpike, eastbound and westbound, as well as construction of a bus layover pad at Walmart Way.
At its August meeting, the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors appropriated $1.88 million from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and the required $470,000 local match, to fund the transit pilot.
“Chesterfield has been a long-standing supporter of GRTC, and we are proud of the transit expansion into the county,” said Sheryl Adams, GRTC’s acting chief executive officer. “We believe transit means business, and this investment is a strong indicator of support for public transportation options for businesses in the county. The additional stops along Midlothian Turnpike bring about an optimistic upside in getting residents to work. We expect this route will continue to expand the economic development footprint of Chesterfield.”
Chesterfield staff will work with GRTC to identify a ridership goal, and an extensive marketing and outreach campaign will be conducted prior to service commencing – potentially as soon as fall 2023.
Service is anticipated to be provided every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Sundays, although details related to operations may be adjusted during the pilot to best respond to riders' needs.
The new route will be evaluated on a quarterly basis using established transit performance measures – including ridership, revenue miles, revenue hours, operating expense and on-time performance -- to track performance over the pilot program’s one-year duration and benchmark it against similar routes in the GRTC system.
Because of the high volume of commercial and residential properties located either immediately adjacent to or within proximity of Midlothian Turnpike, the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO)’s long-term Transit Vision Plan identifies the heavily traveled corridor as a prime candidate for expansion of mass transportation.
The full-service bus route that currently terminates just across the Richmond-Chesterfield line already is among the busiest in GRTC’s regional network.
Extending Route 1A westward will increase access to Johnston-Willis Hospital, office parks, hotels, restaurants and many retail businesses along Midlothian Turnpike, including Chesterfield Towne Center.
Danielle Fitz-Hugh, president and CEO of the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce, noted that will mutually benefit employers who are having difficulty finding workers in a tight labor market and job-seekers who live beyond walking distance and don’t own a vehicle.
“Anything we can do to bring additional workers into the market will help our businesses,” she said.
While the majority of GRTC’s riders use buses to get to and from jobs, local service hasn’t been offered along the county’s stretch of Midlothian Turnpike since Chesterfield Link was launched as a pilot program in 2001.
Development patterns in Chesterfield have changed considerably over the past two decades, with increased demand for multifamily housing and projects that provide for a walkable mix of residential and commercial uses. There also is greater demand for mass transit, particularly among residents in the Millennial and Gen Z demographics.
In January, the Board of Supervisors authorized county staff to apply for Demonstration Project Assistance from VDRPT for local transit service on Midlothian Turnpike.
Staff also hired the Southeastern Institute of Research (SIR) earlier this year to conduct a market research study and collect feedback from citizens about extending a GRTC bus route into Chesterfield.
Of the 1,931 survey respondents, 56% agreed or strongly agreed that a bus route on Midlothian Turnpike would be a benefit to the overall community.
Another potential game-changer for mass transit in Chesterfield was the General Assembly’s approval of legislation in 2020 creating the Central Virginia Transportation Authority (CVTA), which established a dedicated funding source for GRTC.
By raising the sales tax 0.7% and increasing taxes on wholesale fuels 7.6 cents per gallon in Chesterfield, Henrico, Richmond, Hanover, Powhatan, Goochland, New Kent, Charles City and Ashland, CVTA generates millions of dollars in revenue annually for transportation-related projects.
Half of the money collected is returned to the localities. Another 35% is allocated to CVTA for regional projects and the remaining 15% is earmarked for GRTC.
“As GRTC is looking for more regional manners to serve all citizens in high-traffic corridors via fixed-route or micro-transit opportunities, we look forward to further working with them and their CVTA funding sources to help achieve regional goals,” said Chesterfield County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey.