Decreases in frequency of GRTC services prompt residents to stop taking the bus

RICHMOND, Va -  GRTC has decreased the frequency of bus service in portions of Richmond's East End and Fulton neighborhood.  Last month, a VCU study found that while the reroute of many buses following the launch of the Pulse service brought greater access to economic and job hubs, the changes decreased accessibility to public transit for many low-income families.

Regina Robinson said she has stopped taking GRTC buses since the routes changed because she is scared she will not make it to her intended destination.

"I stopped taking the bus because I can't read," Robinson said.  "I'm scared to ride the bus because the last time I tired to ride the bus on my own I was in the county somewhere, and I didn't know where I was."

Robinson lives on Williamsburg Rd., just three blocks from the routes GRTC has changed.

Route 4A and 4B wind through Fulton and the East End utilizing mainly Government Rd. and Main St.  Following the launch of Pulse, GRTC's bus rapid transit system, the transit company tested running buses every 15 minutes along both routes.  Both routes connect link up with the Pulse system near 23rd St. and Main St.

GRTC switched the frequency of buses along both routes to every 30 minutes on January 6th because they said ridership numbers did not support running buses every 15 minutes.

"[Route 4A and 4B] get at their best about 2,200 riders a week each.  That's a pretty low ridership for a 15 minute frequent route," said Carrie Rose Pace, Communications Director for GRTC.  "Our other 15 minute frequent routes are seeing 8,000; 9,000; 10,000 a week."

Pace said 15-minute frequent routes include the Chamberlayne corridor and the Hull St. corridor.  The changes would save GRTC $750,000 each year, and the company is operating the new system that includes on the same fixed budget number from previous years, Pace said.

The study released in December by VCU researchers found that the Pulse system and reroutes increased accessibility to the bus system across the region.

"However, the results also show the number of residential units within one-quarter mile of transit stops decreased by about 22 percent after the reroute; units within a half-mile decreased by 3 percent. About half of residential units in low-income neighborhoods are not served by transit stops with high connectivity," the researchers wrote in a statement.

GRTC said a federally mandated study they produced found changes to route 4 A&B showed "no disparate impact" to low-income or minority communities.

Vance Purnell lives in the East End and said he too has stopped trying to take GRTC buses after the reroutes.  Purnell said all of the changes do not seem to help riders in his neighborhood.

"I mean everybody is frustrated about it," he said.  "It's a problem for everybody, especially the older people."

Pace said GRTC is constantly reviewing ridership numbers and rider complaints.  If a rider is frustrated with the frequency of the routes in their area, Pace urged them report that information to GRTC because the company plans on continuing to tweak route frequencies where warranted.  Contact GRTC.