RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmonders will have access to free public transportation through June 30, 2025 following the a grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. During that time, a study will be conducted to determine how fare-free transportation impacts the Richmond community.
According to a release from GRTC, the grant is for $8 million and will be matched with funds from the City of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University. The transit company said that the three years of Zero Fare travel will cost around $20.4 million. The city has pledged support over the three years and VCU’s contribution will be around $3.9 million total.
GRTC is still looking for other institutions and businesses to help fund the free transportation efforts.
During the study, most GRTC services including local, express, Pulse and CARE will remain free. There will still be costs for CARE On-Demand services.
Fare collection for GRTC buses ceased in March of 2020 when the pandemic started to help keep contact low between drivers and riders.
The grant funding kicks in on July 1, 2022. In the meantime, GRTC rides will be funded by federal COVID relief dollars.
The release states that most GRTC riders make less than $25,000 a year and a quarter of riders make under $10,000 a year. Prior to the Zero Fare efforts, riders were paying around $20 a week to access local GRTC routes. Many express route users were given free access by their employers.
“Pre-COVID, GRTC collected approximately $5 million annually from local bus riders commuting to or from essential jobs – many of whom were living at or below poverty. Transit fares maintained a very real barrier keeping these members of our community from accessing critical resources such as food, health care, education, and better paying jobs,” said GRTC Chief Executive Officer Julie Timm. “Under Zero Fares, our most vulnerable neighbors have no longer been forced to choose between the cost of transportation and the cost of food or medicine. They now have ready access to these essential resources through transit service, and they have the opportunity to spend their hard-earned dollars directly at the grocery store, the doctor’s office, or the pharmacy instead of the GRTC farebox – putting those dollars directly back into the local economy.”