Bus Rapid Transit: Access for those who need it most

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Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 11.55.08 AM

The City of Richmond is hard at work on planning out Bus Rapid Transit (AKA "BRT"), a way to improve accessibility around greater Richmond. I've found myself amidst this planning process and it's wonderful to see that God is at work. He is uniting communities, putting believers in seats at public meetings, and has put in place a GRTC with a staff that is, from what I see, very effectively caring for those who are marginalized. I never thought I'd leave a City public meeting feeling like God was in the room.

In 2011, my wife Lauren and I organized a community back-to-school event called the Gilpin Games in Gilpin Court, at housing project north of Jackson Ward. During planning, we sat down with Gilpin residents and asked "What's the number one roadblock for Gilpin residents who are motivated to form an exit strategy from Gilpin?" The clear answer was:

"Long-term gainful employment is so difficult. The jobs are out west and we can't get to them."

That has stuck with the Mathewses all these years. Fast forward to this past summer when Dominic Carter, a BRT employee, presented information about the proposed bus-line to City Church members.Dominic emphasized that a fast, regional transit system would provide new opportunities for meaningful work to many low-income families who don't own cars. After that presentation, I agreed to be City Church's liaison with Bus Rapid Transit.

Serving as a liaison with BRT first meant reading a lot of reports and maps. At first, I thought it was my job to pick apart every detail and decide whether BRT was either a bad or good thing. WRONG. Yes, becoming generally versed about BRT was important, but God showed me that having every skeptical question answered would be impossible. I should instead look for God's hand and see where that leads.

So, I've simply been encouraging others to learn more about BRT and inviting them to City's public BRT meetings. I've been attending those meetings and listening to God in my seat. Some of the meetings have been pretty negative. Not everyone sympathizes with the underprivileged, at least not enough to give up a parking space in front of their businesses. Some bus riders voice their opinions with an air of discouragement because their past includes so many broken promises. City staff even said they were discouraged. And so I've made it a point to simply be a positive voice.

I'm excited to have found a real need that City Church members can help meet! Many who depend on public transit don't use the Internet and may not be aware of the BRT project, but the City wants to know what riders' commuting needs are. During the last couple Saturdays, City Church members partnered up with Victory Life Fellowship (a church near Gilpin Court) to engage the Gilpin community We knocked on doors, handed our informational flyers, explained the BRT plans, LISTENED AND LOVED, and pointed residents towards resource to voice their transportation wants and needs. I aim to organize another effort like this in the Spring, but in the meantime, please contact me at nathan.t.mathews@gmail.com if you have questions about the BRT project and want to to discuss other outreach opportunities. If you want to learn more about BRT, there is information a plenty, including announcements for public meetings--visit ridegrtc.com/brt and grtcpulse.blogspot.com to learn more.