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GRTC’s ridership numbers continue to rise

A green and blue bus that says "GRTC pulse" moves quickly through an intersection
Ryan M. Kelly
For VPM News
A Pulse bus drives through downtown on June 7, 2023 in Richmond, Virginia.

Ridership numbers for the Greater Richmond Transit Company continue to increase.

The Pulse — GRTC’s rapid transit line — saw more than 164,000 riders last month. That's a 14% increase from the same period last year, according to a Ridership Performance Review sent to VPM News.

“The Pulse continues to grow and grow and grow,” said spokesperson Henry Bendon, adding it’s the most popular route. “It serves the key frequencies. It was built to carry the load and we think of it as the spine of the network.”

But it’s their newly expanded 1A line, which runs along Midlothian Turnpike into Chesterfield County, that has Bendon most excited.

“Last month in April, the 1A carried 58,000 passengers as a point of comparison,” Bendon said. “In December, it carried 38,000 passengers. So that's a 20,000-person increase, which is way over 1,000 people a day.”

The 1A started its eight-mile expansion past the Chippenham Parkway to Walmart Way in January.

“We're talking about a pretty meaningful improvement in service made possible by no increase in frequency, just increase in access,” said Bendon. “We know that from the month of March, there were 12,000 rides along the extension itself.”

Bendon said a separate extension is in the works for Northside riders who use Bus Route 1, from the downtown transfer station on Chamberlayne Avenue to Wilmer and Azalea avenues.

“We're excited because the 1 is actually getting extended to Reynolds Community College later this June, and to Virginia Center Commons this October,” Bendon said. “You're looking at a bus that already has 86,000 monthly riders. [And] for these community college students, the 1 [will] now go from campus to campus.”

In addition to the extensions, GRTC has also expanded their LINK Micro-Transit service to include Goochland, Hanover, Chesterfield and Powhatan counties — where bus service is not available.

The transit company is getting closer to hitting its goal of having 10 million riders for the first time in years, said Bendon. He said so far this year, GRTC has serviced almost 9 million riders, which is higher than last year’s nearly 8 million.

“We are very hopeful about hitting 10 million riders this fiscal year for the first time since before Uber,” said Bendon. “We're really in a good position to continue investing in our riders and have them continue to join us on board. The best bus is a full bus and a lot of our buses are pretty full.”

All GRTC bus services have been fare-free since March 2020. GRTC’s Ridership Performance Review will be presented to its board of directors on Tuesday, May 21.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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