RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Board of Directors for the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) gave the greenlight on a proposal that would bring more benches and shelters to their 1,609 active bus stops across the city.

Many people in the community rely on the free bus system for transportation. David Nixon of Richmond rides the bus every day, Monday through Friday — regardless of weather conditions.

“Right now, I’ve been out here over 45 minutes waiting on a bus,” Nixon said.

The sun, rain, darkness and rush-hour traffic can all make smaller, more discreet bus stops dangerous. Nixon said he’s interacted with many elderly bus riders who couldn’t handle long periods of exposure to the sun. Transit riders are often forced to stand uncovered along the street, which are often obscured by natural occurrences, making them sometimes hidden from drivers.

GRTC bus stop
The GRTC bus stop at Navy Hill Drive and E. Jackson Street is one of many that have neither a bench or shelter for riders. (Photo: Olivia Jaquith)

“In the evening time, dusk, dark-time and when it’s raining,” Nixon said. “Those two scenarios right there combined are pretty dangerous.”

In addition to seeking protection from reckless drivers and nearby traffic, Nixon hopes the GRTC’s proposal would also improve already existing shelters. He notes the pandemic exasperated safety concerns, adding another layer to the stress that comes with waiting for a bus.

“Right now, this bench here holds maybe about four people,” Nixon said. “But with COVID-19 you don’t want to be that close to nobody.”

An “ideal” bus shelter, according to the GRTC. Photo: Tim Corley / 8News

The GRTC’s new plan aims to gradually implement more benches and other critical forms of infrastructure to common bus stops over the course of five years. Spokesperson Sam Sink said this project has been a long time coming.

“There’s been lot of interest in providing more dignified places for our riders to wait,” Sink said.

A “satisfactory” bus shelter, according to the GRTC. Photo: Tim Corley / 8News

With only 26% of current bus stops having a place to sit or coverage in place for passengers awaiting their rides, the GRTC hopes the plan will bring about significant change. The team aspires to convert many stops to shelters, a move that would provide more standing stops with protective infrastructure.

The project is evaluated through three differing tiers: attainable, moderate and aspirational. The “attainable” plan would have 50% of bus stops improved, while aspirational raises the bar to 75%. While the cost of the project will fluctuate as the plan comes closer to fruition, it will rest between $9 million and $28 million.

Even though this plan will progress over a period of five years, a spokesperson for the GRTC said residents could notice more shelters, benches and other pieces of critical infrastructure popping up at stops as early as next summer.