Once upon a time I ran a news site, now I just have opinions on the news. 

Good morning, RVA: A fatal crash, school district goals, and Virginia syrup


Good morning, RVA! It's 60 °F, and the cooler, fall vibes continue. Expect highs in the mid to upper 60s—maybe in the 70s. While yesterday was great jeans jacket weather, today may be a bit too warm for your favorite denim.

Water cooler

WTVR reports that a pedestrian was hit and killed by a GRTC Pulse driver yesterday evening. The Richmond Times-Dispatch talked to the police who said that the pedestrian “was crossing Broad just west of Bowe Street, from south to north, when she was struck by an eastbound Pulse bus.” Other than that, I haven’t seen any more details; the buses have cameras on them, and I’m sure that GRTC, the police, and City officials will all review it.

The whole situation is so awful and sad and infuriating. I’m having a hard time processing it in a coherent way, but here are a couple of jumbled-but-related questions: Will the City look at this fatal crash and implement actual changes to the street to keep it from happening again? Are there GRTC policies or procedures that need to change? Why did this person decide to cross mid-block? Does the alternative of crossing at Broad and Lombardy feel safe (no)? Should we paint the bus lanes red to alert drivers and pedestrians to the existence of the Pulse (yes)? If the City does decide to implement infrastructure or policy changes after this fatal crash, will they do something at the many, other places across the city where drivers have killed people with their cars? Will anything change at all?

I mean, look at these two maps. The one on the left is Richmond’s high-injury street network (where most folks get hurt or killed on our roads), and the one on the right is Richmond’s bus network. They’re basically the same map. Bus riders are inherently pedestrians, and walking to and around bus routes should be safe, inviting, and comfortable. We must do a better job of (re)building our streets to make them safe for people first, and, then useful for vehicles—public transportation or otherwise—second.

Justin Mattingly at the RTD has the word on high school graduation rates from around the region 💸. If you want to dig in to the data you can download this enormous and terrible spreadsheet from the Virginia Department of Education, or, once again, look at the same data but for humans over on the School Quality Profiles. The short of it: Richmond City’s graduation rate fell from 75.4% to 70.6%. This was expected and clearly communicated by the Superintendent after the District eliminated some shenanigans that were artificially inflating graduation numbers. Remember that great PDF of RPS goals and targets I linked to yesterday? Goal #2 is Graduation, and, with the new baseline of 70.6%, the District will aim to increase the on-time four-year graduation rate by 10% by the 2022–2023 school year. I love that these specific goals and metrics exist! Now we know the goals for the next couple of years (a 2% increase next year, for example) and we can hold the District accountable to them.

I got the audio from City Council’s most recent North of Broad work session up on The Boring Show podcast. You can listen on the aforelinked website, or subscribe to the show here. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I heard Councilmembers had a bunch of interesting questions and I’m excited about the PDFs those questions inevitably generate.

There’s another Richmond 300 meeting tonight! Join the whole team and their big maps over in the Main Library basement (101 E. Franklin Street) from 6:00–7:30 PM. While we’re talking about it, now’s a good time to fill out another Richmond 300 survey. Last time, I had you fill out a survey for the neighborhood in which you work, this time, let’s fill one out for the neighborhood in which you live. It’ll take just a couple minutes of your time and will get you good and involved in the City’s master planning process—which sounds boring, I know, but is super important.

I’m into this new rebrand from Sauer’s. And, before you freak out, Gregory J. Gilligan at the RTD says “The company’s Duke’s Mayonnaise brand is not getting a makeover.”

Climate change is real, we all know that, but did you know it’s impacting Virginia’s maple syrup production? Did you know Virginia had maple syrup production?? Sarah Vogelsong at the Virginia Mercury has a great story about it all and opens with this perfectly Virginian sentence, “For years, the chirping of the spring peeper frogs was one of Valerie Lowry’s signals that the maple sugar season was coming to an end.”

This morning's patron longread

Leaked Audio Reveals How Legislators Are Taught to Get Away With Gerrymandering

Submitted by Patron Brian. This is so terrible and gross but not entirely surprising.

The idea that Republicans are simply fighting similarly skewed Democratic gerrymanders has been debunked. According to a University of Southern California study, 59 million Americans live in states where at least one chamber of the state legislature is controlled by the party that won fewer votes in 2018. In every case, Republicans drew the lines, and hold minority control. That the process is inherently political has been disproved as well: Several states, including California, Iowa, and New Jersey, use independent commissions or various neutral or bipartisan processes that have successfully created fairer and more competitive maps. Three-quarters of the seats that flipped during the 2018 U.S. House elections were drawn by commissions or courts. Studies show that maps become more representative and equitable when more parties have a seat at the table.

If you’d like your longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol’ Patreon.

Good morning, RVA: Distracted driving, a competitive race, and A Focus on the 5th

Good morning, RVA: A few schools updates, clean air, and some pics from the Noog