– Tri-Cities working on transit development plan

Richmond Times Dispatch

By Luz Lazo

The Tri-Cities Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is working on a transit development plan that would help identify needs for services provided to the public.

The plan, which costs nearly $70,000 and is paid for with federal and state grants, could serve eventually as a foundation for funding requests.

Demand for public transit could increase over the next few years as the area continues to see growth resulting in part from the expansion at Fort Lee. Base-related growth alone would mean an addition of about 15,000 residents to the area by 2011, many of them soldiers without their own transportation.

KFH Group, a Maryland-based consulting firm that specializes in the transit industry, is conducting the study for the Tri-Cities MPO. The group is doing a rider survey aboard Petersburg Area Transit buses and a survey of nonriders to gather input about public transportation needs and services in the Tri-Cities MPO area.

The firm is also holding focus-group sessions with members of the business community to get their opinion of the area’s transit needs. A draft of the plan is expected to be ready by the end of the year.

Joe Vinsh, secretary of the Tri-Cities MPO, a department of the Crater District Planning Commission, said some local governments have been asking for a review of the region’s current transportation needs. Hopewell and Fort Lee, he said, have expressed interest in getting expanded public transit services into their jurisdictions.

Hopewell is seeking federal and state funds to extend the Petersburg Area Transit bus service to downtown and other neighborhoods. Currently, the service has a line from Old Towne Petersburg to Fort Lee and the Crossings Shopping Center near the Hopewell-Prince George County line. An extension could add as many as six stops inside Hopewell.

Vinsh said Fort Lee is interested in getting more service from the installation to Southpark Mall.

The study, he said, aims to highlight the possibilities of how the current transit system can grow in terms of ridership, provide a financial forecast for Petersburg Area Transit and show how the public reviews future transit needs in the region.

The Tri-Cities MPO area covers Petersburg, Hopewell, Colonial Heights, Fort Lee and portions of Chesterfield County, along with the counties of Dinwiddie and Prince George.

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