State, city leaders celebrate opening of GRTC's Pulse service

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - State and Richmond city leaders celebrated the opening of GRTC's Pulse system Monday, as packed buses traveled nearby.

The new rapid transit system officially launched to the public Sunday, but a grand opening ceremony was held at Maggie Lena Walker Memorial Plaza Monday.

The 7.6-mile corridor between Willow Lawn and Rocketts Landing saw dozens of riders Monday. Buses packed so full some riders couldn't even hop on!

"There were a lot of people," said Kyle Estrada. "I wasn't able to get on the bus, people were pushing and shoving, arguing. I think the more they work on it, it will get better."

Estrada said he first tried the Pulse services Sunday night and didn't have any issues with it.

GRTC spokeswoman Carrie Rose Pace said while official numbers from Sunday's launch weren't immediately available, there were at least 55 people aboard the buses at any given time during the afternoon.

The Pulse launch also coincides with the launch of new routes for regular GRTC buses. Several frequent riders were out and about Monday getting used to the new lines.

"It's confusing right now, but I'll get used to it," said Alphonso Jones.

It's still confusing for some other drivers out on the road as well. A delivery truck accidentally turned into the bus only lane trying to turn on to Broad Street following the ribbon cutting ceremony.

"Anything that starts out new has its kinks," Estrada added. "I think it will be fine."

Monday Governor Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney remarked on the progress this transit system will bring to the city.

"We take for granted sometimes when we have a vehicle to get from point A to point B and there are a lot of people who don't one or choose not [to have one]," Northam said. "For those folks we want to make sure they can take part in our educational opportunities, our business opportunities."

"We now have a modern transportation system that will support our citizens, businesses, the growing population and economic development that continues to thrive in our great city," Stoney said.

Northam added this system will also help save people time in their commute.

"I spoke with a rider this morning who was waiting to go to work and she said she rode yesterday to and from work and was able to get home 45 minutes faster because of the Pulse," Pace said.

"The hope and the vision for the entire region is a comprehensive transportation network that goes North and South, East and West and takes citizens in this great city to places in the County for work and pleasure too," Stoney added.

In order to get riders acquainted with the Pulse service, there are several "outreach ambassadors" who will be at the stations answers questions and helping riders connect to the regular GRTC bus routes.

GRTC has also extended call center hours for any riders with questions. That center will be open from 4:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for the time being.

"Richmond has always had a great heart," Stoney said. "But today it has a real pulse too!"

The Pulse ride costs the same as other GRTC buses, $1.50 per ride or $0.75 for reduced fare customers.

All GRTC drivers have been trained on the new Pulse buses. Pace said this new service added more jobs to the company in order to staff the service. There are now 260 operators with GRTC.

During the week and on Saturdays, Pace said they anticipate having eight to nine Pulse buses on the roads. On Sundays and holidays they anticipate six buses.

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