The launch of a new bus system has left University of Richmond staff and faculty members scrambling to get to work.
On June 24, the Greater Richmond Transit Company unveiled the GRTC Pulse, a 7.6 mile-long bus rapid transit system.
The Pulse has caused multiple route changes for the GRTC bus system that in turn have affected UR’s own shuttle network. This has left faculty and staff members who rely on public transit struggling to adjust their schedules in the wake of the Pulse's release.
With the Pulse line in service, GRTC has changed all of its routes -- either merging lines or simply discontinuing them.
One of these discontinued lines is line 16, which formerly provided direct access from downtown Richmond to the West End, with a stop at UR.
Line 16 provided riders 18 opportunities each day to travel the route, starting runs at 5:25/5:55 a.m. and ending them at 7:07/6:32 p.m. (The time varied depending on whether one was traveling east to west or west to east.)
Now that line 16 is gone, the only way to get to campus using the GRTC is to use a mix of these lines, or to combine use of these lines with the UR shuttle system:
- The Pulse
- Line 5
- Line 75
- Line 77
- Line 79
Only line 75 offers a stop at the University of Richmond, six times a day.
This is a drastic reduction in comparison to line 16, especially now that the GRTC no longer offers a weekend route to campus.
Faculty and staff members who relied on line 16 say they find the new Pulse system convoluted and restricting.
“By the time the Pulse gets to Willow Lawn, I’m missing my 10:15 [bus to campus] a lot," Joyce Williams, Heilman Dining Center line attendant, said. "So I've got to get up extra early to actually get on the right time Pulse, 'cause you never know what time it will come. Once you do get up there, you still have to get up to Willow Lawn to catch that shuttle bus."
One issue that staff and faculty members raised was a lack of publicity and communication from the university with regard to the Pulse and the changes in the GRTC system.
Irina Rogova, project archivist at Boatwright Memorial Library, emailed questions she had about the changes to the director of parking services, Natalia Green, on June 6.
Although Rogova said Green had been fast to respond and had given her thorough explanations of the changes taking place, she expressed concern about the lack of outreach to the campus community as a whole.
“I got concerned that I was getting this information privately, but it wasn’t really going out in SpiderBytes or emails to a larger staff,” Rogova said.
Green said in an interview that GRTC had not released specific timetables of the new routes until May 17, so the department had not had enough time or details to share with the campus community as it had worked on revamping its own routes.
“So what we didn’t have was the information on the buses," Green said. "They didn’t release that until later."
But university leaders had knowledge of the Pulse and the general changes it would create as early as the summer of 2017.
On Aug. 8, 2017, Carrie Rose Pace, a representative of GRTC, and Green presented updated information about the Pulse at a University Staff Advisory Council meeting.
Pace gave the attendees project fact sheets that contained information regarding the transit system and a map that showed preliminary route changes.
On June 22, 2018, Green sent out the first campus-wide email that detailed changes taking place to the shuttle system in light of the Pulse's arrival.
The next day, June 23, Green sent out an email with updates and an announcement of a town-hall meeting to discuss the new transportation options.
The meeting was held June 26, two days after the launch of the Pulse.
“The routes were already in place and the Pulse had already started, so what were they going to change?” Michelle Taylor, assistant to the director of residential dining/payroll personnel, said with regard to the meeting.
Despite her frustrations, Taylor said she was thankful for Parking Services and all the effort the department had made to provide shuttles that aid staff and faculty members in getting to work.
“It’s a great thing the university provides a shuttle for us or we’d be lost," Taylor said. "Our employees would really be struggling.”
Contact news writer Josh Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.