GRTC stands to get more money under mayor’s proposed budget

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 3/17/2017, 8:09 p.m.
GRTC turns out to be one of the big winners in Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s proposed budget. The mayor is ...

GRTC turns out to be one of the big winners in Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s proposed budget.

The mayor is asking Richmond City Council to boost the total GRTC subsidy by about $1.65 million from the current level in a bid to keep the transit company solvent as it prepares for a major overhaul of its routes and to subsidize the new GRTC Pulse or Bus Rapid Transit service.

The 2017-18 fiscal year budget plan includes $14.69 million for GRTC, compared with the $13.04 million the city is providing in the current budget year.

If approved, that would represent a 12 percent increase, one of the largest proposed increases in recent years.

It also would be good news for riders as the extra money likely would ward off any prospect of a fare increase or further reductions in service resulting from the changes in bus routes now under consideration.

It also includes the $190,000 the city provides to allow GRTC to offer lower ticket prices for retirees and people with disabilities on its regular routes and about $540,000 to cover GRTC’s borrowing for equipment.

The lion’s share of the $1.65 million in additional money, 53 percent, would cover the cost of Pulse operations that are expected to begin in October, according to GRTC spokeswoman Carrie Rose Pace.

Based on GRTC’s percentage, the city’s subsidy for Pulse’s first eight months of operation is projected at $884,000, a bit higher than the city’s estimate of $717,000.

The rest of the new money would go to pay for wage increases and higher costs for health insurance for drivers and other staff, Ms. Pace said, and increases for other operating expenses. Labor and health costs are going up as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement that was approved last year.

Jim Nolan, the mayor’s press secretary, said the increase is needed because GRTC “did not receive an increase in operating assistance” in the current budget or in the previous 2015-16 budget.