Ensure the Involvement and Active Engagement of Transit Riders from Marginalized and Underrepresented Communities in the Transit Decision-Making Process.

Virginia’s Extensive Transit Assessment Study with Public and Transit Agency Inputs.

Date Posted
12/18/2023
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Identifier
2023-L01206

Virginia Transit Equity and Modernization Study

Summary Information

Public transit services are powerful modes of transportation with the ability to enhance communities, facilitate accessibility to jobs and opportunities, and promote more sustainable lifestyles. Transportation agencies are often under increasing pressure to make decisions about transportation, transit, and overall mobility that require challenging tradeoffs between project funds and desired mobility outcomes. This study conducted by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), which started in the Summer of 2021, assessed the existing conditions of Virginia’s transit agencies and communities, and developed a proactive action plan toward modernization of transit in Virginia by engaging the public. More specifically, this study sought input from transit riders and stakeholders from communities across the state at key milestones throughout the study through more than 3,500 interactions across Viginia, including a public survey conducted in the Spring of 2022, rider focus group meetings with 48 participants taking place in Summer 2021, and surveys with participation from all 39 of Virginia’s transit agencies, conducted in both Summer 2021 and later in Spring 2022. 

  • Establish Consistent Methods for Rider Involvement and Foster Inclusive Participation in Transit Decision-Making Processes. This study found riders currently have a limited voice in decision-making processes. It is especially important to ensure that mechanisms are in place to engage riders from underrepresented communities.Actively creating and maintaining channels for rider involvement, especially from underrepresented and underserved communities, is essential to ensure that transit systems are equitable and responsive to the diverse needs of all community members.
  • Elevate the importance of basic infrastructure within existing funding programs and provide resources and design guidance for safer bus stop placement. As revealed by this study, private property owners, state and local agencies that operate rights-of-way, and transit agencies could work together to better coordinate the placement of bus stops, ensuring accessibility and comfort for users. 
  • Make a transition towards zero-emission transit fleets and establish statewide goals. This study found there is strong interest in transitioning to zero-emission fleets across Virginia transit agencies. Electric transit vehicle adoption could be expedited by establishing goals and policies, guidance on appropriate implementation, and education/technical guidance for transit agencies to address the challenges of pursuing electrification.
  • Develop resources to assist agencies with the evaluation of their fare collection policy and practices to reduce financial barriers to transit. This will help increasing the number of agencies that are able to pilot and offer zero-fare service using/pursuing funding opportunities that support subsidized zero-fare.
  • Improve transit accessibility. The study revealed that 1.1 million people across Viginia did not have access to fixed-route transit service and approximately 570,000 jobs were not served by fixed-route transit. Expanding the reach and increasing the frequency of transit services would improve access to jobs and opportunities across all industries, leading to economic growth. 
  • Put better emphasis on equity and accessibility. These important aspects should be highlighted in all guidance, requirements, and funding programs for transit agencies.
  • Improve both perceived and actual safety for transit riders, operators, and employees. Although transit is among the safest ways to travel, transit riders have several personal safety and crime concerns, especially when traveling to and from or while waiting at transit stops. Transit agencies should communicate better how transit provides a safe travel option and to coordinate with local jurisdictions to increase security at and near transit stops.

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