RICHMOND, (WRIC) – Every day, 13 Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) Pulse buses transport approximately 7,000 passengers along West Broad Street from Rocketts Landing to Willow Lawn in Henrico County — and in an effort to satisfy a predicted increase in demand, the transit agency is expanding the line’s seating capacity.
GRTC is in the process of adding four 60-foot accordion-style buses to its Pulse fleet, which will be larger than the 40-foot buses which have been used for the Bus Rapid Transit line since it opened in June 2018.
“This means more service, better frequencies and fewer missed buses,” said Henry Bendon, GRTC spokesperson.
The buses are made on-demand by the manufacturer, New Flyer, and the roughly $1.1 million vehicles can carry up to 120 passengers, as opposed to 75 passengers carried by the 40-footers. The project is funded by taxpayer dollars through two state grants.
GRTC plans to eventually replace all 13 of the Pulse’s buses with the longer accordion-style buses.
“We’re investing in better service, more capacity and more riders on an already really successful rapid transit line,” said Bendon. “So this is something we’re excited for and think the community is going to be too.”
Approximately 1.3 million people rode the Pulse between Jan. 1, 2023 and Sept. 1, 2023. This is less than the 1.6 million ridership recorded in 2022 and the approximately 2.2 million ridership recorded in 2019, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the slight decline in ridership, the GRTC expects demand to go up in January 2024, saying that they’ll be running service at full frequencies, including weekends, and more people will be working away from home.
But with these new, bigger buses also comes construction. Alterations will be made to all 26 pulse stations along Broad Street to accommodate the larger buses.
“We don’t want to diminish the fact that this is going to be an inconvenience,” said Bendon. “These aren’t full station reconstructions by any means, it’s just changing the way the platforms work so we can open a third door onto them.”
Construction on all Pulse bus stations is expected to start this upcoming February and the four new buses should be on the roads by 2025.