House Joint Resolution 542, passed during the 2021 General Assembly session, required the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to complete a needs assessment study. Furthermore, this study would focus on the modernization of transit and how to best serve the underserved and underrepresented communities in Virginia moving forward.
The overarching goal of the Virginia Transit Equity and Modernization Study is to assess current conditions, identify some of the findings associated with the study and develop an action plan that seeks to move towards a more modernized and equitable public transit system in the Commonwealth. This study relies heavily on stakeholder engagement as shown through the 3,500 plus interactions between DRPT and the transit-riding population, transit agency leadership and professional staff. The DRPT created a detailed and comprehensive story map on the current transit related data points in Virginia, which can be found here.
The DRPT, through all of the stakeholder engagement and initial data, identified 10 key findings that account for the current state of transit equity and modernization across Virginia. These findings serve as the basis for the Study. Through these findings, the DRPT then could pursue an action plan that promotes transit modernization and equity across Virginia.
Findings of the study include:
- Many bus stops are poorly placed and not well-connected to sidewalks
- Basic transit infrastructure is inconsistent
- Transit riders have limited opportunities to be a part of the decision-making process
- There is strong interest in transitioning to zero-emission fleets across Virginia transit agencies
- There is increasing interest in piloting zero-fare service to overcome barriers to transit access
- The availability of transit in Virginia is high, but gaps exist
- There are unique needs for and barriers to adopting new and emerging technology among Virginia’s transit agencies
- Transit is among the safest ways to travel, but there is room to improve both perceived and actual safety for transit riders, operators, and employees
- More data with better precision is needed to make informed decisions
- Equity and accessibility must be more heavily considered in guidance, requirements, and funding programs for transit agencies
The last part of the Virginia Transit Equity and Modernization Study is the aforementioned Action Plan. The Action Plan outlines work that DRPT and local transit agencies can undertake to modernize transit and expand access and transit availability to all communities throughout the Commonwealth. The Action Plan organizes these specific approaches by the anticipated implementation time frame of near-term (1-3 years), mid-term (4-6 years) and long-term (6+ years). This full plan can be read in the full report which can be accessed here.
Many Virginians use and depend on transit in their everyday lives. Transit services are a powerful tool that can enhance communities, connect people to their surroundings and promote a healthier and more sustainable life. Transit is and has always been a necessity for low income individuals to access the things and services they need where otherwise don’t have the means to. This study identifies where we are in regard to transit modernization and equity and where we can go to make sure Virginians have reliable, safe and effective transit options throughout the Commonwealth.
VACo Contact: James Hutzler