Free bus rides will continue under newly approved GRTC budget

GRTC’s budget for the upcoming 2023 fiscal year includes funding to maintain its policy of not collecting fares from riders. (Courtesy of GRTC)

GRTC’s pandemic-born policy of free bus rides will continue in fiscal year 2023.

The transit company’s board of directors on Tuesday approved a $64.5 million operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year that includes funding to continue to cover the costs of bus rides.

The authority earmarked $5.5 million in the budget to sustain the policy, which was enacted in March 2020. The money comes courtesy of $4.5 million in grant funding from the state’s department of rail and public transportation as well as $1 million sourced from local funding. The state funding comes as part of an $8 million grant that will allow GRTC to offer the free rides through June 2025.

The City of Richmond’s contribution to GRTC’s FY23 budget is $7.6 million. About $4 million comes by way of Henrico County and Chesterfield County is allocating roughly $249,000, according to a budget presentation. Three Henrico County representatives recently joined the board, bringing the board to nine members from the three localities.

GRTC also expects $21.4 million in funding from the Central Virginia Transit Authority, a regional authority that allocates tax money to transportation projects. This latest budget is the first since the start of the pandemic to not include federal COVID-19 relief funding.

The FY23 operating budget is a 2 percent increase from the current FY22 budget. The new fiscal year starts in July. The final FY23 budget proposal ticked upward slightly from the original $63.7 million budget pitch earlier this year.

GRTC has budgeted funding to maintain the bus service level aligned with the current FY22 budget, though CEO Julie Timm said in an interview prior to the board meeting that hiring challenges continue and could affect implementation of bus service.

The FY23 budget funds 300 full-time operator positions, up from the 275 positions originally planned. The budget earmarks $300,000 for market adjustments to employee salaries and $112,900 for staff training and development.

GRTC’s total April ridership was about 693,000 rides, a 4.5 percent increase from April 2021 and a 29 percent increase from April 2020.

Its total ridership for FY22 to-date is about 7 million rides, up from 6.4 million in the same period in FY21.

GRTC’s budget for the upcoming 2023 fiscal year includes funding to maintain its policy of not collecting fares from riders. (Courtesy of GRTC)

GRTC’s pandemic-born policy of free bus rides will continue in fiscal year 2023.

The transit company’s board of directors on Tuesday approved a $64.5 million operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year that includes funding to continue to cover the costs of bus rides.

The authority earmarked $5.5 million in the budget to sustain the policy, which was enacted in March 2020. The money comes courtesy of $4.5 million in grant funding from the state’s department of rail and public transportation as well as $1 million sourced from local funding. The state funding comes as part of an $8 million grant that will allow GRTC to offer the free rides through June 2025.

The City of Richmond’s contribution to GRTC’s FY23 budget is $7.6 million. About $4 million comes by way of Henrico County and Chesterfield County is allocating roughly $249,000, according to a budget presentation. Three Henrico County representatives recently joined the board, bringing the board to nine members from the three localities.

GRTC also expects $21.4 million in funding from the Central Virginia Transit Authority, a regional authority that allocates tax money to transportation projects. This latest budget is the first since the start of the pandemic to not include federal COVID-19 relief funding.

The FY23 operating budget is a 2 percent increase from the current FY22 budget. The new fiscal year starts in July. The final FY23 budget proposal ticked upward slightly from the original $63.7 million budget pitch earlier this year.

GRTC has budgeted funding to maintain the bus service level aligned with the current FY22 budget, though CEO Julie Timm said in an interview prior to the board meeting that hiring challenges continue and could affect implementation of bus service.

The FY23 budget funds 300 full-time operator positions, up from the 275 positions originally planned. The budget earmarks $300,000 for market adjustments to employee salaries and $112,900 for staff training and development.

GRTC’s total April ridership was about 693,000 rides, a 4.5 percent increase from April 2021 and a 29 percent increase from April 2020.

Its total ridership for FY22 to-date is about 7 million rides, up from 6.4 million in the same period in FY21.

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BT_Westfall
BT_Westfall
1 month ago

What a fantastic way to stimulate the economy from the bottom up rather than the top down! I am so happy GRTC is able to do this for Richmond.

SA Chaplin
SA Chaplin
1 month ago
Reply to  BT_Westfall

The simple math of subsidy: With an annual budget of $64.5 million and monthly ridership of 673,000, that means (roughly) $8 per ride. If each rider pays $2 per ride (and many don’t), that comes to a taxpayer subsidy of $6 per ride. 

Arnold Hager
Arnold Hager
1 month ago

I admit to not having been on a GRTC bus in 30yrs. I don’t know what the fare is today for those that pay, if anyone. Who are these people getting free rides? Are they just joy riding? Are they going to school? Work? 50 yrs. ago when I often rode a bus to high school, the bus company sold discount booklets of tickets. I cannot understand someone taking a bus for work not being willing to pay bus fare. 64 million dollars to cover bus fare would go a long ways to helping fix real problems. A society will… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Arnold Hager
Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
1 month ago
Reply to  Arnold Hager

I think in the case of GRTC they are most likely spending more money collecting the far and enforcing the fair then the far would collect. Also at the rate it’s not much compared to all the car and oil subsidies they give out. Also it takes $9.00 to buy a two gallon of gas. I wish the Richmond Streetcar system could have had something like this happen to it if it had manged to live past 1948 and into the 1960’s and this kicks in to give out free Trolley Roads. The Richmond Streetcar system would have allowed someone… Read more »

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
1 month ago
Reply to  Arnold Hager

How greedy can someone be to expect free transportation while pocketing a salary from working? Sooner or later the gov’t is going to run out of other people’s money.”

Do they not also pay taxes from those salaries?

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
1 month ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

They do indeed, and I’m sure at a much higher % than  Arnold Hager. In case you didn’t know, giving millions to already wealthy developers in the form of tax breaks is “good common sense incentives”, but giving a “free” bus ride to an unemployed person looking for a job, or an elderly person who needs to get to the hospital or a doctors appointment, or some one who is making minimum wage to try and get a foot on the ladder out of poverty, is “socialism”. I mean we all know absolutely NOTHING has changed in the 30 years… Read more »

Arnold Hager
Arnold Hager
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

I hear you. Those decisions are being made by people elected to office at City Hall. Someone riding the bus for free medical care should not feel burdened for paying bus fare. They would, I hope, feel compelled to pay the fare, for needed care. I can remember as a teenager, riding the bus to MCV for dental care, and yes, I paid the fare. Now look at me all these years later taking pride with my small contribution to the general welfare of the community.

Arnold Hager
Arnold Hager
1 month ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

Yes. We all pay taxes on most anything. My point is while they are able to go to work and earn a salary, by taking free transportation while not contributing towards the cost, they are actually taking from the gov’t kitty, money that could go to help people unable to work or in more dire circumstances. Which in turn will help keep their taxes lower. If we all contribute what we can to the general welfare of our community, we all benefit. That free fare has to come from somewhere. Some of that money could go to GRTC employees’ salaries.… Read more »

Deon Hamner
Deon Hamner
1 month ago
Reply to  Arnold Hager

I lived in Chapel Hill for 4 years before coming back to Richmond. They offered a free bus service for the community and they offered a free bus ride between UNC and Duke’s campuses. It had nothing to do with US Government. Sometimes it make for the local government to help its citizens with services that are being paid for by other entities and taxes. Surely Chapel Hill, NC is not a struggling area if anything our leaders could learn what is working there and apply some changes here. As for your free lunch analogy, sometimes that lunch is the… Read more »

Arnold Hager
Arnold Hager
1 month ago
Reply to  Deon Hamner

Is free education a hand up? If one refuses that hand up, then they will have a hand out. “A mouth full of give me and a hand full of much obliged.”

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
1 month ago
Reply to  Arnold Hager

We get it, Billions in corporate welfare and the poor people can walk to minimum wage jobs, because YOU had to pay bus fare 30 years ago.

Arnold Hager
Arnold Hager
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

lol. No. You don’t get it. Why don’t you stop riding the backs of poor people to make some senseless political point. I’d be willing to bet most people taking the bus are not poor. Most-meaning more than 50%.

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
1 month ago
Reply to  Arnold Hager

So busses are an evil socialist plot?
Like flouride in the drinking water?

Arnold Hager
Arnold Hager
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

You said that, not me. I suggest you go to a gov’t conspiracy website to get your answers. I can’t help you.

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
1 month ago
Reply to  Arnold Hager

See this thing—“?”. Its a question mark.