GRTC plans speedier service

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 1/20/2017, 7:37 p.m.
Plans for speedier GRTC bus service that would slash 15 to 30 minutes from trips Downtown and other parts of ...

Plans for speedier GRTC bus service that would slash 15 to 30 minutes from trips Downtown and other parts of the city were introduced to passengers and the public this week.

In some instances, the plans have Fairfield Court riders reaching Downtown in 30 minutes, instead of the current 45 minutes, while Highland Park residents could cut their commute to the West End in half — from an hour to 30 minutes.

The changes are designed to dovetail with the speedy service to be ushered in this fall when GRTC Pulse — the new bus rapid transit system now under construction — starts operating and begins 10- to 15-minute service mostly along Broad Street.

Among key ingredients of the proposed bus service overhaul: Creation of six routes that would operate every 15 minutes, from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays. It would be a dramatic change for GRTC, which offers 20-minute service only on two lines and only during rush hour.

However, service would be reduced weekday evenings, on weekends and holidays.

The faster service would be available to residents in South Side as well as North Side. Among other changes, the proposal calls for a new route that would enable South Side passengers to bypass Downtown to get to Carytown.

The plans also promise more consistent service, improved connections to the Pulse and development of a second, temporary bus transfer station on Broad Street between 2nd and 3rd streets in Downtown to end the transfer congestion on 9th Street, according to officials and consultants involved in developing the proposal.

The plans were announced Tuesday at a press briefing.

Overall, consultants F.E. Scudder Wagg and Michelle Poyourow, who have been deeply involved with GRTC in crafting the plans, said the best news is that the transit service changes could be made without requiring an increase in the current city subsidy of around $12 million a year. The changes would only affect city routes, not those that go into Henrico County and for which that county pays.

A series of public meetings will be held during the next two weeks to allow riders and others to take a closer look at the revamp and provide feedback.

The full proposal can be found on the Richmond Transit Network website, RichmondTransitNetwork.com. Riders who go online also can see how the proposed plan would impact their current service.

Assuming continued public support, Mr. Wagg said that it would still take GRTC months to implement, possibly pushing the overhaul into 2018.

The hope, though, is to have the changes in place when the Pulse begins to run in October or early November between Rocketts Landing to the east and The Shops at Willow Lawn to the west.