Making Sense of Greater Richmond’s Transit Governance

The tagline for this video is “No wonder we don’t get much done.”
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What is Transit Governance?

First and foremost — what is transit governance? Think of it as Government+, like how Disney+ is Disney plus a few other networks. So for governance, in additional to elected officials, laws and ordinances, and other formal institutions of the state, governance also can include “elected and non-elected government officers, nongovernmental organizations, political, parties, interest groups, …and other relevant actors in the decision-making processes that produce government action”. For example, bus riders, political parties, RVA Rapid Transit, and city officials all fall into the umbrella of transit governance.

  • Greater Richmond Transit Authority (GRTC) in Purple
  • Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority (RMTA) in Orange
  • PlanRVA in Yellow
  • PlanRVA’s transportation arm, the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RRTPO) in Brown
  • The newly created Central Virginia Transit Authority (CVTA) in Blue

Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC)

GRTC - Role

Whether it’s the Pulse, a regular bus route, or a CARE Van, GRTC is the singular transit operator in Greater Richmond. Their main role is to operate bus service in the region. They run a multitude of fixed (31 routes) and express bus services throughout Richmond, along with parts of Henrico and Chesterfield Counties. They also run one Bus Rapid Transit line, the Pulse, along Broad Street; and CARE, which provides service to those with disabilities. Petersburg City, Virginia Commonwealth University, Henrico County, and Chesterfield County also purchase bus service directly from GRTC.

GRTC - Planning

While PlanRVA (discussed later) handles the long range planning for transit in Greater Richmond, GRTC handles short-to-mid range planning. GRTC is constantly refining things and examining how to best serve the community, reevaluating their routes and perform adjustments quarterly.

GRTC - Funding

GRTC gets their funding from no less than 9 sources as shown by the green arrows.

Lots of players fund GRTC that do not have a say in how it is run.
  • CVTA (est. $20 million)
  • VA DRPT ($11.9 million)
  • Federal ($8.2 million)
  • Richmond ($8.1 million)
  • Bus Riders (Fare Revenue) ($5.7 million)
  • Henrico ($4.3 million)
  • VCU ($1.7 million)
  • Chesterfield ($1.2 million)
  • Petersburg ($200k)

GRTC - Governance Structure

Visualizing GRTC’s funding and board representation.

Central Virginia Transit Authority (CVTA)

CVTA - Role

The role of the CVTA is to provide a dedicated source of funding to transit and transportation projects in Greater Richmond, funded with two new revenue sources: a sales tax and a gas tax. Previously, GRTC had no dedicated revenue stream, and was reliant on federal, state, and local dollars year after year, providing a lack of financial stability that is vital to a transit system’s success.

CVTA - Governance Structure

  • Four Votes: Chesterfield, Henrico, Richmond
  • Three Votes: Hanover
  • Two Votes: Goochland, New Kent, Powhatan
  • One Vote: Ashland, Charles City, State Delegate, State Senator, Commonwealth Transporation Board
  • No votes: Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, Commissioner of Highways, CEO of GRTC, and CEO of RMTA.

CVTA - Incoming Funding

CVTA In Funding

CVTA - Outgoing Funding

  • 15% directly to GRTC.
  • 50% returned to the 9 localities that belong to the CVTA, proportional to the tax revenue each raised. That money can be used only for transportation purposes, which includes transit.
  • 35% to Regional Transportation Projects.

Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority (RMTA)

RMTA - Governance

The RMTA currently has 16 members on its board. Chesterfield and Henrico have equal Representation as Richmond even though all three toll roads are exclusively in Richmond. With that being said, the Downtown Expressway and Powhite Parkway are primarily to facilitate county residents working city jobs.

  • Richmond City: 5 Appointees
  • Chesterfield County: 5 Appointees
  • Henrico County: 5 Appointees
  • Commonwealth Transportation Board: 1 Appointee

PlanRVA (The Regional Commission)

PlanRVA - Role

PlanRVA, formerly known as both Richmond’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), and Richmond’s Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), is our regional Planning District Commission responsible for the long term planning policy goals and outcomes in Greater Richmond. PlanRVA has three main branches: the RRTPO, the Emergency Management Alliance of Central Virginia, and one focused on Community Development & Environmental Planning.

PlanRVA - Governance Structure

Source: PlanRVA.com

PlanRVA’s Funding

PlanRVA gets it’s funding from Federal, State, and local sources, with Federal dollars making up a strong majority of the total. The following figures are for 2019.

  • Federal Funding: $2.03 million
  • State Funding: $392,000
  • Local Funding: $795,000

PlanRVA Staff

It should be noted that the staff members of PlanRVA do not work just on PlanRVA. They also perform work for the RRTPO and the CVTA. This means if these differing agencies are working on similar projects independently, it will actually be the same staff working on these separate projects. This strange phenomenon is shown on the chart.

Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RRTPO)

RRTPO - Role

The Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization is the transportation arm of PlanRVA. They focus on long term planning for the Richmond Region through a transportation lens. But they don’t just look at transit, or vehicular traffic. They also account for airports, freight, and the Port of Richmond. Their current Long Range Transportation plan (LRTP), plan2040, covers all of the aforementioned aspects of transportation and more.

RRTPO - Governance Structure

Even though the RRTPO is a part of PlanRVA, and the same staff works for both of them, the board structures are separate. Even though the same localities are on both PlanRVA and the RRTPO, the board members appointed to each board are distinct. Furthermore, the RRTPO’s board has more members than PlanRVA. There are 17 members in total, 13 with voting power, and the voting structure is variable as shown below.

RRTPO Governance & Voting Structure source: planrva.com

What Do We Make of All This?

The first and most understandable conclusion is that this our current organizational structures are quite a mess, and arguably messier than it needs to be. One litmus test is who do you approach to inquire about transit questions (for example: Asking for a new bus route)? We aren’t sure, and the way things are currently organized, it would discourage anyone from trying to figure it out.

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