Get an up-close look at the GRTC Pulse service
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The long-awaited GRTC Pulse transit service is just days away and on Wednesday members of the media got a first-hand look at the buses and new routes.
Service for the Pulse service begins Sunday with free rides through June 30.
The operation's motto is "More Time For Life", but is it really going to save people that much time?
Officials with GRTC said right now the current travel time on a bus from Willow Lawn all the way down to Rockett's Landing is about an hour and 15 minutes.
When the new Pulse system launches, the goal is to make that trip in roughly 40 minutes.
"It's high quality, it's high capacity and it's rapid," said Carrie Rose Pace, Director of Communications for GRTC. "So that means it's going to have time savings through a variety of design and technology features."
Pace said they've incorporated Smart Technology into the rapid transit system in an effort to stay on schedule, and riders can even track their rides here.
The technology includes both visible devices on the bus and at the 53 traffic signal intersections.
"This bus can be in constant communication with the traffic signals making sure we maintain that every 10 minute or 15 minute frequency," Pace said. "So when you're waiting at the platform you know that the next bus will be there in 10 or 15 minutes… or if we're delayed the bus can holler ahead and get some green lights."
The 7.6 mile route starts at Willow Lawn and runs to Rockett's Landing.
The buses will be in regular travel lanes, but also in a specialized lane, running 3.2 miles.
"If you see a bus only lane marking, that's not a lane for you," Pace said. "Especially in the middle of the street."
Those lanes also have special signals.
"So the [cars to the right] are stopped," Pace said. "We'll approach [the intersection] with caution because this is new and we want to make sure that drivers are aware. Then we'll go through [thanks to our signal]."
Many people had concerns whether the new Pulse buses would fit in their designated lanes. Using a tape-measure we found out the buses are nearly eight-feet wide, compared to the 11-foot lanes.
You'll also see new Pulse station platforms along the route to assist with the timing.
"The bus will kiss the curb, dock with it and open up both doors to let people get on and off," Pace said. "That saves time."
The buses are expected to idle at the platforms for roughly 15 seconds, according to Pace.
GRTC's Pulse service will also speed up the current trip thanks to riders paying ahead of time at the ticket vending machines.
"You just pay with credit or debit, cash coin, you can get change - or our new mobile payment app which will be deploying this summer," Pace said.
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.
The public is invited to a grand opening for the Pulse system at 10 a.m. Monday at the Maggie Lena Walker Memorial Plaza.
NBC12's Karina Bolster rode along the new routes on Wednesday and will have a full report on 12News at 5 and 6. Be sure to click play in the video above to see more!
Also check out NBC12's Candice Smith giving a preview on Facebook on Wednesday morning:
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