RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Greater Richmond Transit Company is preparing to expand their Pulse bus system with a new North-South line — they just have to decide where it’s going to go.
Since the Pulse opened in 2018, it’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) model has carried Richmond residents up and down Broad Street from Rockett’s Landing to Willow Lawn much more quickly than a traditional bus route.
Now, GRTC is making plans for a second BRT line to connect Richmond residents South of the river and North of I-95 to the downtown core.
“We’ve had the funding for at least a year now, been kinda trying to get it started and finally got the project underway in November,” said Sam Sink, project manager for the North-South Study.
The new line, much like the existing Pulse line, could have several features that differentiate it from ordinary local buses, such as traffic light priority, dedicated lanes, raised stations, more frequent service and further distances between stations.
Still, GRTC must now decide between three alternative corridors to focus their efforts on.
Sink said they’ve already identified Chamberlayne Avenue as the best choice for service North of I-95, citing a number of factors that make it an ideal candidate for increased service.
“The big thing is the existing local bus ridership, that combined with a lot of the development we’re seeing around that southern end of Chamberlayne near VUU,” she said.
But South of the James there are a number of options under consideration, and GRTC has spent the last few weeks talking to residents to figure out what areas are most important to residents.
The three potential corridors essentially follow Route 1, Hull Street and Midlothian Turnpike, all of which are currently served — at least along part of their lengths — by core local bus routes.
Each segment of the proposed corridors was broken down and rated on a number of factors, including existing land use, connections to other public transit and walkability.
The study will also be used to determine how the new BRT line should cross the James River. Regardless of which direction the line goes South of Hull Street, GRTC could mix and match with the three bridges that connect downtown Richmond to Manchester — the unfortunately-named Robert E. Lee Memorial Bridge, the Manchester Bridge or the soon-to-be-rebuilt Mayo Bridge.
Sink said GRTC is currently leaning towards an option that allows the new line and the existing Pulse to overlap for a section of Downtown — sharing stations and allowing residents to hop from one to the other.
“It makes for a much more seamless connection for people transferring between those two lines,” she said.
At a May 9 community meeting held at River City Middle School, residents showed a keen interest in having a line that connected to locations like Johnston-Willis Hospital, Stonebridge Plaza, Chesterfield Towne Center and Richmond Main Street Station.
“When you see people put dots on things like Main Street Station, I look at that as kind of aspirational in a way,” Sink said. “There’s this recognition that we don’t have a lot of train service at Main Street Station today, but I think people want to use it and they want to have better access to it.”
Ultimately, GRTC aims to make a decision on their proposed route by this Fall, though it could still take years of planning before residents can hop on the line. But Sink added that regardless of which corridor is chosen now, they won’t leave the others behind.
“We want to bring BRT to all of these corridors in one form or fashion eventually,” she said.
If you want your voice heard on the project study, you can provide comments through GRTC’s interactive story map, which also provides an overview of each corridor.