RICHMOND, Va. – A major plan has found its pulse after the Richmond City Council voted 7-1 Monday night to approve GRTC’s $49 million dollar Bus Rapid Transit.
The project, nicknamed Pulse, will transform Broad Street into a seven-mile stretch of frequently running buses, stretching from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing. The plan includes 14 station locations and three and a half miles dedicated to bus-only lanes.
"This whole spine is going to improve the way that they get around town,” said Carrie Rose-Pace, who represents GRTC.
The spokeswoman says construction on this multi-million dollar project is scheduled to begin as early as April of this year, and wrap up by October of 2017.
Pace said that drivers won't see a change in the traffic pattern right away, and that the public will be notified before construction is complete.
And some Broad street businesses with parking spaces along the Pulse line will be moved to off-street sites.
Monday night's vote came after seven years of planning and intense debate. While the project has already been approved by the city's Planning Commission and Urban Design Committee, there had been several hurdles and concerns that divided the community and city leaders.
Even Governor Terry McAuliffe warned city leaders that they risked losing funding with every delayed vote.
Along Jefferson Davis Highway in South Richmond, an area of low-income residents who rely on public transit, bus riders said they feel shafted.
"We need the bus,” said Yvonne Claiborne.
Claiborne wonders why GRTC neglected bus riders on her side of town.
"We don't have the support for the buses because a lot the people need jobs around here,” she said. “They're out of jobs because they don't have transportation.”
GRTC operates multiple bus lines throughout South Richmond, with multiple stops and pickups.
"If you're coming in from Southside and you connect onto the Pulse, the whole part is to make your trip time shorter to make it easier, faster, more frequent for you to get from where you are to where you need and want to be,” Pace said.
Pace said the BRT project will be operational in October of 2017, and that this is just the first step of an even larger Regional Transit system that will expand to Ashland, Petersburg, and the surrounding counties.
She added that the public will be a huge part of that plan.