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The Pulse turns 3: Successes, challenges, and future of Richmond's Bus Rapid Transit

Posted at 5:31 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 18:28:50-04

RICHMOND, Va., — Considered the spine of the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) system, Pulse Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) marked its third year in operation on Thursday.

More than 4.94 million passengers have hopped on a Pulse bus since the system went online on June 24, 2018, according to GRTC Director of Communications Carrie Rose Pace.

The system aimed for a goal of an average of 3,500 passengers during the weekday.

“We are just proud that the Pulse has far exceeded even our hopes and expectations,” she said.

The 7.6-mile Pulse line connects Willow Lawn Shopping Center in Henrico County with Rocketts Landing near along the eastern Henrico-City of Richmond line.

The GRTC never stopped service even during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have really tried to preserve our service for those who need the service to connect to critical jobs, services, food, healthcare, and all those things during the pandemic,” Pace explained.

The entire bus system has committed to remain fare-free through Summer 2022.

Driver Shortage

But driver shortage remains an issue.

The industry was struggling with a shortage across trucking and busing before the pandemic started.

Pace said applicants who have applied to drive for GRTC but lack a Virginia CDL license have struggled to get an appointment with the DMV.

“We have been working with the DMV to a solution to that,” she said. “We will welcome people into our training program and get them through their DMV process. It’s three different steps to get that CDL license, so we can get them in the driver's seat and reliably deliver service.”

She expected that program to begin sometime this Summer.

Environmental Advantages

Dr. Jeremy Hoffman, the chief scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia, considered himself a frequent rider of the Pulse.

“I live in Scott’s Addition. I work at the Science Museum. I’m able to take advantage of the BRT system virtually whenever I need it,” Hoffman said via Zoom while waiting for his Pulse bus.

He sees the environmental advantages of the Pulse.

“Really it is transportation that’s driving our contribution to global climate change. What’s one way that we can tackle that? It’s investing in reliable, frequent, public transit,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman hoped GRTC and neighboring counties eventually expand the Pulse bus line to connect the Southside with the city's Northside. He also encouraged everyone to ditch their personal four-wheels.

“They take up space in our urban environment and they’re very dangerous for passengers and cyclists,” he said.