GRTC gears up for route changes effective Nov. 12

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 4/13/2017, 6:16 p.m.
Love it or hate it, GRTC is moving ahead with a major revamp of its city bus routes. The proposed ...

Love it or hate it, GRTC is moving ahead with a major revamp of its city bus routes.

The proposed changes to routes are expected to be finalized this week and go into effect on Sunday, Nov. 12, Amy Inman, the city’s transportation planner, told a Richmond City Council meeting Monday.

As part of the education process, she said GRTC would plans to offer “trip buddies” to accompany riders and tell them what specific changes the new plan would make to their current rides.

Ms. Inman said that riders could have three opportunities to ride with a trip buddy before the new routes go into effect.

She said final tweaks are being made based on comments from riders and city residents from 14 community meetings that GRTC held in recent weeks.

The goal of the revamp, according to GRTC, is to improve service without adding to costs.

The route changes also are aimed at better connecting regular bus service with the GRTC Pulse, the bus rapid-transit line being installed primarily along Broad Street and that is anticipated to be in operation in October.

The Pulse is to have only 14 stops, with buses running every 10 to 15 minutes on the 7 miles between Rocketts Landing and The Shops at Willow Lawn, or faster service than regular buses provide.

Councilwoman Cynthia I. Newbille, who represents Church Hill, has faced some of the greatest concern over the changes as the largest number of bus rides live in her district.

“I am looking forward to seeing whether the concerns that were raised were addressed,” Ms. Newbille said Monday.

She said plenty of concern still is being expressed about the changes that were to be made, particularly to bus stops. She said a number of senior citizens are concerned they would have to walk extended distances to catch a bus when the changes are put in place.

Councilwoman Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District, said she has not heard many concerns from regular riders in her district, but she said that she expects that if there are complaints, she’ll hear them after the changes go into effect.

A review of the information about the route changes indicates that most of GRTC’s 25 routes will have buses running on 30- to 60-minute schedules.

Only three will have faster 15-minute service, two to the Fulton area of the East End and one running between Whitcomb Court and Carytown.

However, it appears the revamp will end the practice of having every bus stop at the temporary transfer station near City Hall. According to route maps on GRTC’s website, www.RideGRTC.com, the plan calls for more direct service, with passengers who want to go to City Hall transferring to the Pulse.

At least three routes will serve Church Hill in addition to the Fulton lines. The proposed routes appear to address a complaint that Church Hill would have reduced service and be harmful to public housing residents, the biggest group in the East End that is reliant on transit service.

The proposal appears to show separate routes that would address the service needs of residents of three other public housing communities, Creighton, Fairfield and Mosby courts.

All of the familiar route numbers also will be changed.

Ms. Inman said once the plan is completed, GRTC will spend the time until November creating schedules, advertising changes to bus stops and handling other details before changing the service.

GRTC initially balked at trying to get the service changes in place by November instead of waiting until 2018. However, after talks with Mayor Levar M. Stoney and the city administration and promises of additional funding, GRTC agreed to speed up the work.