RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University is eliminating its campus connector service because of an agreement with GRTC Transit System.
The buses will stop running on July 1. VCU signed a new three-year multi-million dollar deal with GRTC earlier this month that will provide students and employees with unlimited rides through the pulse system.
Under the new agreement, VCU will pay GRTC $1.42 million for services in the first year, $1.57 million for the second year, and $1.65 million for the third year to cover the cost of ridership for students and employees.
Because of the high cost of the program, VCU has decided to phase out the campus connector. 8News spoke with students and employees. For some riders, the change will be a major adjustment to their schedule.
“It was a little bit more reliable than the GRTC,” a VCU graduate, employee said. “I liked that I lived near it as well. It did drop me off like right near where I go to work.”
The switch is also prompting questions for riders who say they don’t know how they will make it to the bus stops, especially on snow days.
“I’m moving a little further away from campus and the buses don’t cater to there and I don’t have a car,” a VCU graduate, employee said. “So it’s like ok now am I going to have to Lyft to a bus stop. Am I going to have to bike to a bus stop? What am I going to do when it’s snowing?”
A pilot program between VCU and GRTC started last summer. The University says a recent survey shows 95 percent of students and employees would like to see the agreement continue.
“I never got this survey,” a VCU graduate, employee said. “I never got the email announcing that the buses were going to stop.”
VCU told 8News that 1,906 members of the campus community filled out the surveys.
The new three-year agreement will start on August 1. VCU students and employees will present a ‘go pass’ and university ID to ride the pulse rapid transit, local routes or express routes.
“To promote more efficient intra-campus travel, GRTC will relocate its stop at Pine and Main streets to Laurel and Main streets,” VCU said in a release.
They will also add two stops on Leigh Street near VCU’s School of Nursing and a stop at Ninth and Broad streets.
The campus connector took students straight from Cabell Library to VCU’s Medical Campus dorms. Now riders will have to adjust their routes in order to get from the library to MCV. Safety is a concern for those who stay on the Monroe Campus late at night.
One rider told 8News they are scared of men harassing them late at night.
“There have been many times I’ve had to call my dad and pretend I’m on the phone with a friend or something,” a VCU graduate, employee said.
The university told 8News that VCU Police and GRTC are working to form a safety committee in order to address any concerns students may have.
8News also reached out to Campus Connector drivers who say they don’t know if they will have a job once the change goes into effect. VCU told 8News the drivers are employees of Groome Transportation and they do not know how drivers will be impacted.
A VCU spokesperson, Michael Porter, could not provide the number of riders in June as they won’t have the figure until mid-July but did share the number of riders in May.
“In May, there were 11,223 riders on the Campus Connector (compared to 41,557 riders on Pulse.) I should note that ridership has been increasing each month on Pulse and declining each month on the Campus Connector as more of the community has switched over to using Pulse,” Porter wrote in an email. “For example in January, there were 17,926 riders on Pulse and 22,759 riders on Campus Connector. That shows you how much the community has embraced GRTC ridership and reinforces why the survey results were so positive.”