GRTC board OKs service expansion to Short Pump, airport and Amtrak station

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 8/30/2018, 6 a.m.
GRTC is promising faster daily service on the Pulse bus rapid transit line, new service to Short Pump and more ...

GRTC is promising faster daily service on the Pulse bus rapid transit line, new service to Short Pump and more service to Richmond International Airport effective Sunday, Sept. 16.

The GRTC board approved changes last week that also will provide upgraded service to the Maymont-Randolph area and some tweaks to routes in Richmond, including improved service to the Philip Morris operations center and cigarette factory in South Side.

What impact the changes will have on addressing complaints from riders about making connections is uncertain.

Pulse service will increase to 10-minute runs between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. in mid-September as the result of a one-year, test-of-service agreement with Virginia Commonwealth University and runs every 15 minutes until 1 a.m., GRTC spokeswoman Carrie Rose Pace announced.

VCU is paying GRTC $1.2 million to provide free service to students, faculty and staff and those with IDs for Virginia Premier, VCU’s health insurance company, during the one-year test that includes improvements to service, as the university seeks to determine whether to end its independent bus operation.

Ms. Pace stated the changes would mean the Pulse would start a half hour earlier and offer 10-minute service throughout the day, not just during the morning and evening rush hours.

A new city program to provide free bus passes to Richmond high school students also is to start when school begins Tuesday, Sept. 4. GRTC officials will go to schools and provide the passes to students who provide permission slips signed by a parent or guardian.

The major regular bus route changes will expand service into Henrico County, thanks to the county’s decision to spend more money on public transit.

By expanding the Pemberton Route 19 by seven miles, GRTC will offer regular service to Short Pump, including Short Pump Town Center and Wegmans supermarket at West Broad Marketplace for the first time. Service on the route will run every 30 minutes and longer at night. On weeknights and Saturdays, service will continue until 11 p.m., instead of ending at 7:30 p.m., and run until 10 p.m. on Sundays.

Henrico County’s increased investment also will cut the bus fare on Route 19 from $2 to $1.50 per one-way ride. That price cut also will lead to a reduced fare for Richmond CARE van riders. Instead of $6, city CARE van riders will have to pay only $3 for a one-way for trip, instead of $6, to destinations along West Broad Street in the county out to Short Pump, Ms. Pace stated.

Also the Nine Mile Henrico Route 7, which connects Downtown and Richmond International Airport, also will have expanded service, with runs continuing until 11 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays and until 10 p.m. Sundays. Current service ends around 7:30 p.m. As part of the change, the Nine Mile Richmond Route 8, linking the Henrico County Eastern Government Center on Nine Mile Road to Downtown, will be discontinued Saturday, Sept. 22.

GRTC also is changing the Staples Mill Route 18 at Henrico County’s direction to improve service to the county government center on Parham Road, Henrico Doctors’ Hospital-Parham Road and the Amtrak station on Staples Mill Road.

In other changes, Three Chopt Route 75, Patterson Route 76, Grove Route 77 and Cary/Maymont Route 78 will have added service during the morning and evening rush hours and Route 78 will run an additional three hours, until 10 p.m. weeknights.

GRTC also will extend service on Belt/Bells/Ruffin Route 88 to 11 p.m. to improve service for Philip Morris employees, Ms. Pace stated.

The Laburnum Connector Route 91 also will have night and weekend service that is now not available as part of Henrico County’s increased transit spending, Ms. Pace stated.

In addition, routes that connect to the Pulse at Willow Lawn, including the Route 76, Route 77, Broad Street Route 50 and Patterson/Parham 79, will lay over at the Willow Lawn shelter, instead of on Markel Road, to be closer to the Pulse station.

In other changes, Route 2B from North Avenue no longer will circle the Chippenham Hospital grounds, but instead use a stop on Hioaks Road, Ms. Pace stated, while the Route 3 buses no longer will stop at 3rd and Marshall streets.

Bus service to Kings Dominion on the 102X Route also will be extended on a limited basis through the park’s new WinterFest, Nov. 23 through New Year’s Eve.