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Local health systems invest $6.4M in GRTC Pulse service

RICHMOND, Va. – Signs of the GRTC Pulse project’s completion are everywhere, and soon there will be signs of the two new partners who have bought joint sponsorship rights of the high capacity rapid transit system.

Bon Secours Richmond Health System and VCU Health System have partnered to secure joint sponsorship rights of GRTC Pulse, citing access to health care as one of the most important things faced by the community.

“In our 2016, Bon Secours health needs assessment, residents identified transportation as the number two issue facing region,” said Tyler Agee, program manager of community health services at Bon Secours. “Transit, by increasing infrastructure, helps to increase access to things like education, jobs, housing, health care, which are critical to the health and wellbeing of an individual.”

The two organizations have partnered before and said they identified an opportunity with the bus rapid transit (BRT) Pulse platform.

The naming rights agreement will generate up to $6.4 million in non-fare revenue for GRTC operations over a term of up to 15 years. That’s a joint investment of $425,000 annually, to be paid three times over five year periods.

The new partnership will be more than simple ad placement.

Cynthia Schmidt, Chief of Marketing at VCU Health, said they have fun things planned, like using the opportunity for community health education. Bus stops can be used to encourage riders to learn about health screenings and reducing risk factors for conditions such as heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes.

GRTC spokesperson Carrie Rose Pace called the BRT naming rights sponsorship the most lucrative in the country, to date.

“It tells Richmonders that this service is not just important locally, but it is recognized as an extremely important asset anywhere in the United States,” she said.

The two health organizations emphasize community over competition with a partnership like this.

“Transportation is such an unmet social need and by being two health systems we can work together to improve transit access and the overall health of the community,” Agee said.

The Pulse is a high-capacity rapid transit system serving activity centers on a 7.6 mile route along Broad Street and Main Street, between Rocketts Landing in the City of Richmond and Willow Lawn in Henrico County. This first Pulse line is the new spine of GRTC’s transit system, with other routes connecting to it across the area. Ten new 40-foot buses running on compressed natural gas will operate along the route when it is complete. The modern buses will have 38 seats as well as room for 15 standees. Bike capacity in the front will be slightly increased to hold three.

There will be 3.2 miles of dedicated bus lanes over the route. The buses will run every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15 during off-peak hours. There are 14 station locations; five median and nine curbside.

The service is anticipated to launch this summer. Contractually, the project must be done by June 30, 2018. GRTC needs 90 days to test routes, they said.

Lane Construction won the bid for the project. The federal government is contributing close to $25 million, the city will cover $7.6 million, state funding equals $32 million and Henrico County will contribute $400,000.