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11 things to know about long-anticipated GRTC Pulse launch on June 24

RICHMOND, Va. — The last new bus stop signs have been unwrapped, the construction is complete, old routes retired, and the great Richmond reroute will begin at 6 a.m. on Sunday — launching with a week of unlimited, free rides for passengers.

Four years ago, GRTC, along with state and local officials, endorsed a rapid transit study that was eventually funded in fall 2014. GRTC utilized state and federal grant money to retool routes that have not been updated in over a half century. The project total came to $64.9 million; the City of Richmond contributed $7.6 million.

On June 24, the Pulse bus rapid transit (BRT) system begins operations, and all new bus routes go into effect in Richmond and surrounding areas. GRTC folks will be riding throughout the day and randomly dropping off goodie bags to the first riders.

There are 14 Pulse station locations to offer faster and more frequent service along the 7.6 mile stretch from Rockett’s Landing in the east, to Willow Lawn mall at the western terminus.

The biggest change along Broad Street is that buses will move from regular to BRT service, with over three miles of dedicated lanes, limited stops, platform-level boarding, off-board fare collection, and transit signal priority.

Volunteers spent all day Friday and Saturday prepping the other routes that were retooled for the first time since 1948.

Under the reimagined system, all city bus routes have been redesigned to improve connections and access, to reflect how the city has grown and changed over the years, and in response to community input – but all tying into the Pulse, the backbone of the service. For example, there are routes to the airport, and in the fall, to Short Pump.

The updated bus infrastructure will affect residents regardless of whether they utilize public transportation; bus stops, cross walks, and travel patterns have changed and drivers will need to be aware.

14 Pulse stations

Here are the top 11 tips to help folks adapt:

  1. Check out the Greater Richmond Transit Company’s website, www.RideGRTC.com. There is a wealth of information in the form of maps, tips, videos, and other resources.

2. ALL bus routes are changing. Buses will run on entirely new routes and operate on different schedules. Routes will have different stops and be identified by name and number. Now is the time to schedule time with a GRTC “Travel Buddy,” who will help riders identify their route and take you on a test drive of that route, in both directions, so you’re completely familiar with it, in advance. You can schedule a Travel Buddy at (804) 358-GRTC.

3. The new Pulse Bus Rapid Transit system will run down Broad Street and Main Street from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing. If you’re a car commuter, as you drive down Broad and Main streets in the days leading up to the June 24 launch, begin familiarizing yourself with the new bus-only lanes and where they are, and the safety and identifying signage that is being installed. See http://ridegrtc.com/brt/frequently-asked-questions/ for detailed information on the Pulse’s route and how the dedicated lanes and mixed traffic lanes will work. ***No pedestrians, skateboarders, or bicyclists can travel in the median bus lanes.***

4. Some bus stops are in different places than they were under the old route system. Learn where your new bus stops are located, and experiment in advance with how long it takes you to get from your home to your departure bus stop, and from your arrival bus stop to your ultimate destination.

5. The new launch also brings upgrades passenger amenities. Pulse riders will not pay on board the bus, but before boarding.

Payment options include:

  • Pay at ticket vending machines located at Pulse stations – these will be similar to the fare dispensers you’d find in a train or subway station.
  • Mobile payment app – much like people already use for parking.
  • Reloadable “smart pass.” (arriving soon)
  • On non-Pulse buses, you can still pay at the fare box.

6. Use the new route comparison tool http://planningtool.ridegrtc.com/ to look at your current route and compare it to your route on the new system.

7. If you ride the bus to your job, prepare now. Learn your new route. Allow extra commute time when you first use the new system. Discuss your work schedule and start time with your employer if necessary. Be prepared.

8. If you are a business owner or a human resources manager, talk with employees who use the bus to get to work to make sure they are aware of the new routes and schedules.

9. Bike commuters have three options for biking and riding the Pulse: Load your own bike onto the Pulse, park your bike at a Pulse station, or borrow an RVA Bike Share bike, with bike rental areas conveniently located near several Pulse stations. See https://rvabikes.com/ in advance for specific additional information.

10. Plan to take advantage of Free Rides Week, to be offered the week the Pulse and the new bus routes take effect (June 24-30). Free Rides Week is an excellent, no-cost, low-stress way to sample the new Pulse service and the new routes, which will give you an up-close-and-personal look at how the new service can work for you.

11. If you don’t usually ride the bus, consider giving the new system a try. Perhaps you could experiment with the Pulse to get you from Point A to Point B on Broad Street, or try one of the new bus routes. You don’t have to use transit every day to reap some of the convenience and environmental benefits of riding the bus.