RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) has announced a study of four new Pulse routes that could form the basis for a new North-South bus service.

Currently, GRTC operates one Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route that travels from Rockett’s Landing to Willow Lawn, on an East-West Axis. The success of that route, which features dedicated raised stations, red-painted bus-only lanes and a dedicated fleet, has pushed GRTC to explore options for an expansion.

Where To?

But the key question is where, exactly, the route will go. In January, the Greater Washington Partnership published a preliminary study that identified four promising ‘alignments’ that could form the basis of the North-South corridor. Now, the GRTC is conducting its own study to determine which of the four will best serve residents, and ultimately “advance into the environmental clearance and design phase.”

This map shows the existing East-West Pulse route (grey) and the four corridors under consideration by GRTC. (Map: Jakob Cordes/WRIC via MetroDreamin)
  • Green: North from Downtown along Route 1 (Broad — Chamberlayne — Brook Road) to Virginia Center Commons
  • Blue: South from Downtown along Route 60 (Mayo Bridge — Hull — Belt Boulevard — Midlothian Turnpike) to Midlothian Village
  • Red: South from Downtown along Route 360 (Mayo Bridge — Hull) to Commonwealth Center
  • Yellow: South from Downtown along Route 1 (Broad — Belvidere — Route 1) to Brightpoint Community College

It’s also possible that the GRTC will combine sections of different corridors to create the final route.

Detail of the downtown corridor alignments. (Map: Jakob Cordes/WRIC)

GRTC has contracted Michael Baker International, a Pittsburgh-based engineering firm, to complete the new study.

Making the Choice

The Greater Washington Partnership study already suggests that some areas are more likely to succeed than others.

For example, the Route 1 corridor North to Virginia Center Commons in Henrico is promising — but only up to the county line. The study found a sharp divide, with the portions within Richmond proper offering high density and strong existing bus ridership, while the county portions are low density and unlikely to yield a large number of bus riders.

Evaluation of the North Route 1 corridor (Green). (Source: Greater Washington Partnership)

Likewise, on the Blue, Yellow and Red lines above, the study found that the portions within city lines were the most suited to a new Pulse route, while density in Chesterfield County wasn’t yet sufficient.

And if the existing Pulse route is any indication, the most likely outcome is that the majority of bus service will be within city limits, with one or two stations on either end of the route bringing service to the counties.

In the meantime, residents shouldn’t hold their breath for a quick expansion. The study that enabled the first Pulse route to start took the GRTC four years, and it took another four years for it to begin operation.