Pulse passenger rates dip after debut

7/8/2018, 11:55 a.m.
The crush of passengers has disappeared along with the free rides on GRTC’s new Pulse and other buses.

The crush of passengers has disappeared along with the free rides on GRTC’s new Pulse and other buses.

On Monday, empty seats returned along with the regular fares, with most riders being people without cars who were headed to jobs and other destinations.

Passengers such as Jerry Sibley are still adjusting to the changes, including new route numbers, major route revisions, bus stop relocations and ticket-dispensing machines.

“I used to be able to jump on the 73 to get over to South Side. Now I have to catch one of the three buses, and I’m still not sure which one,” he said.

Still, love it or hate it, people are getting used to it.

“I don’t think about whether I like it or not,” said Cherry Harper, who was headed to an appointment about housing. “It’s here, and I have to live with it. I don’t have a car, so this is how I get around.”

The big question is whether GRTC will see more people using the system that has cost so much. Pulse alone required $65 million in federal, state and local tax dollars to develop.

GRTC has yet to release new ridership numbers, and it could be weeks or months before it is clear whether the overhaul has been a boon or a bust in terms of public transit usage.

So far there is no evidence that the revamp is generating an increase in passengers. Several drives past stations at different hours on Monday and Tuesday showed few places with more than one or two people waiting to board.

The new transfer point at 4th and Broad streets that is a stop for multiple routes was among the most crowded locations.

Last week, it was often standing-room-only on Pulse buses making the 7.6-mile run between Rocketts Landing and the Willow Lawn shopping area when service was free. GRTC reported that nearly 6,300 people took a ride on Pulse on opening day, June 24.

About 8,500 people took a trip on June 25 and nearly 8,000 did so on June 26, the last numbers GRTC has released.

This week, a spot survey indicated Pulse buses were doing well to carry 20 to 25 people per one-way trip and were easily completing a trip from east to west in 35 to 40 minutes.