Blue and green bus parked at bus stop.
Since January, VCU community members have accounted for approximately 12% of GRTC’s total ridership, averaging 87,400 trips a month. (Photo courtesy GRTC)

VCU, GRTC reach multiyear agreement to provide transit access to VCU and VCU Health System students, employees

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Virginia Commonwealth University signed a three-year paid agreement with the GRTC Transit System on Tuesday to fund unlimited transportation access on Pulse Bus Rapid Transit, local and express routes for all VCU, VCU Health System and Virginia Premier students and employees effective Aug. 1.

“VCU’s partnership with GRTC reflects our shared commitment to the Richmond community as a whole,” said Meredith Weiss, Ph.D., VCU 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. We look forward to more innovative collaborations with the city of Richmond and other community partners as we implement our new master plan.” 

In a recent VCU survey, 95.4% of students and employees expressed support for a continuation of the existing transportation agreement VCU and GRTC have been piloting since August 2018. Since January, VCU community members have accounted for approximately 12% of GRTC’s total ridership, averaging 87,400 trips a month. GRTC ridership has increased 17% during the past year amid a 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. “GRTC staff's hard work to integrate VCU priorities into the agreement along with VCU's strong commitment to providing dependable and safe transportation for its students and staff has been rewarding to all involved. We believe that the VCU relationship will spur further efficiency and technological improvements for GRTC that will benefit our whole region going forward.”

“The continued investment and partnership between GRTC and VCU is a win for the City of Richmond that will improve social and economic mobility for residents, students and visitors alike,” said Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney.

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 on local routes and the Pulse 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 not incur costs to ride.

Riders will continue to present their GO Pass, receipt, and their VCU, VCU Health System or Virginia Premier identification card when riding the Pulse. A mobile pass to replace the physical GO Pass is expected to be available for students and employees for the fall 2019 academic semester.

In an effort to eliminate redundant services and contribute to the cost of the new partnership, VCU will eliminate its Campus Connector transportation service, effective July 1. To travel between the campuses, students and employees can use GRTC’s Pulse, which serves a 7.6-mile route along Broad Street, as well as Route 5, among other routes. GRTC buses servicing both the Pulse and Route 5 will display VCU branding on the exterior destination signage. Shuttle service to VCU’s remote parking facilities will continue to operate as normal.

As part of the new GRTC-VCU agreement, the Pulse will maintain 10-minute headways during weekday hours. Route 5 headways will remain at 15 minutes. In addition, to promote more efficient intra-campus travel, GRTC will relocate its stop at Pine and Main streets to Laurel and Main streets and add two stops on Leigh Street near VCU’s School of Nursing and a stop at Ninth and Broad streets.

“This is an exciting day for VCU, GRTC and the Richmond community,” Weiss said. “This agreement is a result of thoughtful planning and a coordinated effort. It is a true community partnership.”