Interactive Transit Tool Helps Residents Visualize Change

August 31, 2016

Michael Baker Experts Develop First-of-its-Kind Map as Part of Project to Evaluate and Redesign Richmond Transit System 

Residents in Richmond, Va., are helping city officials to rethink the design of the local bus system to ensure a more connected transit network. To assist individuals in visualizing different transit options and in identifying a more effective system, planning experts at Michael Baker International have developed a unique Geographic Information System (GIS) tool – an interactive isochrones map of the city’s transit system. A typical isochrones map is a static image depicting transit travel times within a given area.

Michael Baker partnered with the City of Richmond and subcontractor Jarrett Walker + Associates to engage city leaders and daily commuters in the task of assessing several concepts to redesign the way the bus system operates. The team presented the three options for a new transit program – a familiar model, a high-ridership model and a high-coverage model – and laid them out within a unique type of isochrones map. The Michael Baker team developed the map as an interactive tool, rather than in a typical static form, to help residents better understand the effects and benefits of each potential plan. This interactive map allows users to enter a specific address or use the “Click a Place” feature to calculate travel times and see how each concept affects transit access from home, work, the grocery store or any other point within the city.
Michael Baker experts developed an interactive isochrones map to display travel times (transit + walking) of 15 minutes, 15-30 minutes, 31-45 minutes and 46-60 minutes using the three concepts.
 “This tool is the first of its kind in the industry and will be a major asset to the project overall, which already includes many unique approaches and techniques,” said Scudder Wagg, project manager and senior planner at Michael Baker. “Our team is excited to work on this project with the city, its residents and other project partners to help find new ways of keeping people and places connected.”

The three-phase project intends to analyze the current Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) Transit System bus network in the city and reconsider the design of the bus routes in the context of a changing city and the new Pulse Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), another project from the Michael Baker team. The project team held public and online forums as the first phase of the project to survey bus riders about high-level and fictional ridership options. For phase two, the Michael Baker team presented the three model concepts and encouraged residents to vote on which option they would most like to see implemented. 
Residents at the public meetings used a triangle diagram and stickers to prioritize the changes they’d like to see for the transit system.

Any of the three options could be implemented within the expected 2017-2018 budget for bus operations in the city and have been planned for seamless connections to the Pulse BRT. The familiar model is very similar to the existing system and includes shorter walks to bus service along more streets. The high-ridership model includes frequent bus service concentrated along the major corridors with the highest density of people and jobs. With this concept, trips will be faster with less wait times. The high-coverage model provides service that is spread out to reach more people and provides shorter walks to bus service along more streets.

Residents can use the isochrones map, participate in in-person meetings and vote on the concepts via an online or paper survey. The results of the survey will directly impact the implementation plan and proposal to be developed by the Michael Baker team as phase three of the project. 

“Keeping the residents engaged and giving them an active voice throughout the process truly demonstrates our commitment to the community and that ‘We Make a Difference’ with our work,” added Wagg.

The project began with phase one in January of this year, with phase two running from June to mid-September. The final phase of the project will begin with drafting the proposal in mid-October and seeking support from City Council on the implementation of the plan in early 2017.