Study finds job access limited for bus riders

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Many people rely on the bus to get to work. But a study says a lack of buses in the counties is preventing lower income workers from getting jobs there.

Go to a bus stop, you'll likely meet some riders who say they couldn't apply for some jobs because buses don't go there.

"There was one over in southside, by Dupont I believe, and I checked the routes to see if I could get there for an interview.  I had to call back and cancel because I couldn't get out there," said rider Marilyn Mitchell.

"Jobs that I was qualified for and I could make more money on, but I couldn't do it because I don't drive right now," said Earl Boatwright, another bus rider.

The Brookings Institute released a study pointing out that most of the GRTC buses run in the City of Richmond, and only a few lines run into the surrounding counties. The study says people who can't afford cars and depend on the bus, can't get many jobs in outlying areas, because there are no buses to take them there.

"It's a situation where we know regionally jobs have expanded, but the service hasn't gone with it because the outlying jurisdictions haven't decided to pay for it. It's just not a priority I guess," explained GRTC Planning Director Larry Hagin.

"Our busing only provides transportation to about 27% of the available jobs in the area. So that leaves a big gap in terms of people being able to access employment," added Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones.

GRTC bus lines are funded through money from the city and counties. The counties are already paying a few million for the bus lines they have, and say, in this tough economy, they simply don't have money to add more lines.

"We have pursued this on occasions in the past and we've gotten very little interest from employers, not employees, and I think that's simply because they didn't see a large demand," said Henrico County Manager Virgil Hazelett.

Henrico County tried some additional routes but didn't have enough riders.

"They were costing us $34 and $35 a rider per trip, not reasonable," said Hazelett.

"It's a matter of providing the services that are needed by the people," responded Mayor Jones.

The counties say they'll consider more funding in the future as needs arise. Meantime, some riders say they're waiting for the bus, in more ways than one.

GRTC is currently working on a rapid transit bus line on Broad Street from Rocketts Landing to Willow Lawn.

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