Gov. Northam, Mayor Stoney cut ribbon for new GRTC Pulse service: ‘Today is a celebration of progress’

RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Ralph Northam and Mayor Levar Stoney addressed the crowd gathered at the Maggie L. Walker statue on W. Broad St. for the official ribbon cutting of the GRTC Pulse bus rapid transit service that launched on June 24.

"Today is a celebration of progress,"  Mayor Stoney said as he took the podium. "Today marks a major milestone for the city of Richmond."

Governor Northam said transportation and infrastructure growth are vital for the growth of a city.

"For any city to grow, for our economy to grow -- transportation and infrastructure are so, so, so important," Northam said.

The 14 Pulse station locations are spread out along the route that stretches 7.6 miles from Rocketts Landing to Willow Lawn. Dozens of people lined up at the bus stops Monday morning to try out the service.

"Certainly very easy -- very quick once you get on board," said India Urbach, who rode the line from Willow Lawn to VCU.

Not everyone was as enthusiastic.

"I’m just trying to keep a smile on my face but the first couple of days I’ve been really frustrated with these new bus schedules," said Janice Bates -- who tested out the service Sunday and Monday.

Bates said the Pulse itself is running smoothly, but she said the change in other bus routes is causing some confusion.

"Your time as far as waiting for your buses now are longer," said Bates. "Some buses are taking you an hour to come back around."

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.

The local routes now arrive at color-coded frequencies. A green routes come once every hour, blue routes come once every half hour, and red routes come every 15 minutes.

With the official ribbon cutting Monday, several Henrico County service adjustments began. There is now enhanced weekday service every 30 minutes to Richmond International Airport, available on the Route 7 A/B Nine Mile Henrico. Taking advantage of the efficiency provided by the Pulse, the Route 19 Pemberton will offer more frequent service every 30 minutes between Willow Lawn and Pemberton and Broad. Also in the West End, Henrico’s new Route 79 Patterson/Parham will extend farther west to Quioccasin and Gaskin Roads at the Gayton Crossing Shopping Center. Additional Henrico County transit expansions are planned for fall 2018.

Tony Fortune rode the bus for the first time Monday morning, and said he had no problems. He said it's all about knowing where you need to go and taking it one day at a time.

"It’s just a process. Everything has its bugs, so just have to be patient."

The project was completed for $64.9 million, with the majority of funding coming from federal TIGER grants ($24.9 million) and state DRPT/VDOT grants ($32 million). The city of Richmond contributed $7.6 million, and Henrico County contributed $400,000.