GRTC learns good news, bad news

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/16/2018, 10 a.m.
The start of the Pulse bus rapid transit system and the overhaul of bus routes appears to be a good ...

The start of the Pulse bus rapid transit system and the overhaul of bus routes appears to be a good news-bad news story for GRTC.

The good news: Early returns indicate that ridership on Pulse is exceeding projections.

The company reported that 15,834 passengers rode Pulse in the first four days after fares went into effect Sunday, July 1, or an average of nearly 4,000 people a day.

The first four days included both a Sunday and the July Fourth holiday, when ridership is generally lower.

GRTC had projected 3,500 people a day would catch the Pulse.

While it is still too soon to call the service a success, the strong ridership numbers follow the huge response between June 24 and June 30 when nearly 57,000 people took advantage of free rides. The number of opening week riders was 2.5 times the company’s goal, according to GRTC spokeswoman Carrie Rose Pace.

The bad news: GRTC is receiving serious blowback from its revamped routes and shutdown of bus stops.

People turned out Monday for a special meeting of the Randolph Neighborhood Association to vent their concerns to GRTC representatives and City Councilman Parker C. Agelasto.

The two buses that previously served the area have been reduced to one, with service starting later and ending far earlier.

Participants criticized GRTC for sharply reducing the number of bus stops in the Randolph and Maymont neighborhoods.

They also said that GRTC is making it harder to get to work on time or get to medical and other appointments, according to Takita Small, a Randolph resident who attended the meeting of more than 60 people.

One person spoke of having to walk from Meadow and Broad streets after dark because the Cary/Maymont 78 bus stopped running at 7 p.m.

Another resident complained about the increased difficulty of using GRTC to get to a 9:30 a.m. appointment. She said she had to catch a bus between 6:30 and 7 a.m. to reach her destination, but was so early that she had to wait outside the office for more than an hour until it opened.

Ms. Small said that GRTC was scolded for shutting down virtually all the bus stops in Randolph and limiting service while having multiple lines run through Carytown.

GRTC also heard from elderly residents living in senior housing at 700 S. Lombardy St. who criticized the public transit company for shutting down the bus stop in front of their building and forcing them to walk six blocks to catch a bus.

Ms. Pace urged elderly people to consider shifting from regular buses to use of the CARE van service that provides door-to-door rides.

Ms. Small noted that the van service is only available to elderly and disabled people who meet certain criteria and costs $3 to $6 one way compared to $1.50 for a one-way bus ride.

Mr. Agelasto told meeting participants that city decisions to have GRTC spend 70 percent of its funding on faster service and 30 percent on neighborhood coverage are behind many of these changes.

Many of the speakers, Ms. Small said, expressed concerned about how they would make out in the fall and winter when it gets darker earlier, the temperatures are colder and inclement weather is more frequent.

Ms. Small said a man told the group he called GRTC and asked if an ambassador could meet and help him at 7 a.m. and was told no, which came as a surprise to Ms. Pace.A young woman also complained the GRTC mobile phone app isn’t working properly.

Mr. Agelasto urged people to send letters with their complaints and experiences to him so that he can present them at City Council.

While GRTC has reported on Pulse ridership, it has provided no results for ridership on regular routes in the wake of the revamp.

To Ms. Small, its seems GRTC has put effort and money into creating the Pulse line that runs between The Shops at Willow Lawn and Rocketts Landing while ignoring all the people who depend on GRTC regularly for transportation.

“It isn’t helping us,” Ms. Small said.