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Bus Service Available to Only One New Mall

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Want to catch a bus to one of the new, upscale shopping centers?

At Stony Point Fashion Park the bus stops approximately 14 times a day, Monday through Friday. There are 12 stops on Saturdays and nine on Sundays. The Richmond mall opens Thursday, Sept. 18.

But the buses don't stop at Henrico County's Short Pump Town Center, which opened two weeks ago.

In the high-profile marketing game that has become Richmond shopping, public transportation is one of the most striking differences between two centers desperately trying to differentiate themselves. The Greater Richmond Transit Co. sends buses to Stony Point but not to Short Pump.

Henrico pays GRTC $3.6 million a year for service that sends buses throughout the county, including Regency Square and Virginia Center Commons. Buses also run on West Broad Street, with the last stop at Pemberton Road, which is about three-and-a-half miles from Short Pump Town Center. What would it take to extend buses to Short Pump?

“If there was an interest from the retailers and the developers for service then the county would be willing to look into it,” says Todd Eure, a transportation development engineer for Henrico who acts as a liaison between the county and GRTC. “At this point to my knowledge, Short Pump has not asked for bus service. And that, essentially, is the first step.”

There's also the issue of funding. It would cost the county anywhere between $50,000 for very minimal service and $500,000 for full service, Eure says. “Right now, we don't have the funding in our transit budget to provide service,” he says.

There may be funding alternatives, but the county isn't likely to take on the bus extension by itself. Bus service at Stony Point was much easier and cheaper, says Rollo Axton, chief executive of GRTC, because of the extensive bus routing already in the city.

Stony Point Fashion Park's developer, Taubman Centers, also expressed interest in getting bus service. “Often times malls are not as transit friendly as Stony Point Fashion Park has been,” Axton says.

In Henrico, the buses that run between Regency Square and Virginia Center Commons Monday through Friday make about 70 stops. In its second year, ridership of the new route has almost doubled, from about 600-700 riders a month last year to 1,000-1,200 riders a month this year.

With traffic congestion already an issue at Short Pump, bus service would make sense, Eure says. It's a matter of finding the funds — and the support.

Thomas E. Pruitt, co-developer of Short Pump Town Center, says it sounds like a good idea. “I would think bus service would have to be very positive,” he says. “I'd be happy to consider it.” — Scott Bass

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