VCU to turn over its bus service to GRTC
Jeremy M. Lazarus | 6/7/2019, 6 a.m.
Students, faculty and employees of Virginia Commonwealth University will continue to ride free on GRTC buses, including Pulse, local and express service for at least three more years.
The Richmond-based transit company and the university on Tuesday announced the deal after months of talks to extend a one-year pilot program through 2022. The extension is effective Aug. 1.
The agreement will allow VCU to end on July 1 its separate transit system, called RamRide or the campus connector. VCU has operated RamRide since 2012, after dropping an eight-year arrangement with GRTC to provide campus transit service. Since January, VCU has sharply reduced its campus connector operations.
The new agreement ends a friction point between VCU and the City of Richmond, which provides the lion’s share of financial support to GRTC. For years, members of City Council have been urging VCU to drop its separate system and return to partnering with GRTC.
“VCU’s partnership with GRTC reflects our shared commitment to the Richmond community as a whole,” said Dr. Meredith Weiss, VCU’s vice president for administration.
“Consistent and reliable transit contributes to a healthy and active community by improving accessibility, connectivity and mobility — goals of our One VCU Master Plan.”
In a recent VCU survey, 95.4 percent of students and employees expressed support for a continuation of the latest GRTC agreement that began in August 2018. Since January, VCU riders have accounted for approximately 12 percent of GRTC’s total ridership, averaging 87,400 trips a month and allowing GRTC to buck the national trend of declining transit ridership.
“This longer-term agreement with VCU solidifies the great partnership we have been building over the past year,” said Gary Armstrong, chair of the GRTC Board of Directors.
“The continued investment and partnership between GRTC and VCU is a win for our city, ” said Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney.
Under the new agreement, VCU will pay GRTC $1.42 million for services in the first year, a $220,000 increase over the current $1.2 million contract.
VCU will pay $1.57 million for the second year and $1.65 million for the third year to cover the cost of ridership and to maintain 10-minute headways for the Pulse.
Express fares will continue to be billed separately based on VCU ridership data provided by GRTC. Students and employees of VCU and VCU Health System, including Virginia Premier, will ride without charge.
The only extra transit service VCU will maintain is a shuttle to remote parking, while GRTC will adjust a few bus stops at the school’s request.