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Could more bus rapid transit systems pop up in Virginia?

City leaders in Richmond are considering expanding its Pulse bus rapid transit system.
Mallory Noe-Payne
Radio IQ
City leaders in Richmond are considering expanding its Pulse bus rapid transit system.

Local governments across Virginia are considering a variety of proposals to enhance bus service.

Richmond has a bus rapid transit system known as the Pulse, and city leaders are considering expanding it. Similar systems are also currently under consideration in Fairfax County and in Arlington and in Alexandria.

Monica Backmon is executive director at the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

"Oftentimes we hear, ‘Well, you know, I'm not going to take the bus for various reasons. I can get there faster in my car.’ But local bus service versus BRT, they are two different services," Backmon explains. "And we want something that’s high-capacity that can compete and incentivize people getting out of their single-occupied vehicles."

Jullia Wallerce at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy says the key to getting people out of their cars is to offer a better commute using dedicated bus lanes.

"By giving the bus priority, we can dismantle the perception that the bus is a last resort or that if you ride the bus you’re somehow less important a member of society," Wallerce says. "That if you choose to ride the bus you are actually making the smart decision because, you know what, it's going to be faster than driving your car because you’re not going to hit traffic."

Dedicating bus lanes can have some downsides that create opposition: removing travel lanes currently used by automobiles or using eminent domain to acquire property to build new lanes.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.