Three takeaways from the first three weeks of Pulse service

This week, GRTC sent out some interesting data from the first three weeks of Pulse service. Below you’ll find three quick thoughts, but feel free to download the PDF here and dig into the data yourself.

Ridership consistently exceeded goals

With a weekly goal of 22,600 rides (that’s six days of 3,500 and one Sunday of 1,600), the Pulse consistently exceeded expectations with weekly ridership totals of 56,952; 27,617; and 29,407 during the first three weeks. That huge first week definitely shows what fare-free public transit can do. Regardless, the next two weeks showed strong ridership with the third week seeing a 6.5% increase compared to the second. So ends the argument that “no one will ride the Pulse.”

The high ridership numbers shouldn’t be too surprising, though. We’ve replaced a serious chunk of the City’s east-west buses with the Pulse. If you move across the City from east to west or west to east you more than likely will use the Pulse. It is a serious workhorse bus—which was the entire point of the thing!

Lots of folks are connecting at Willow Lawn

I’m not sure there’s a better argument for expanding public transit west into Henrico County than the boarding and alighting numbers. The Willow Lawn station is, by far, the #1 spot folks get on and off the Pulse. Every day about 1,000 people get off the Pulse at Willow Lawn heading west and about 900 get on heading east. That’s a lot of folks!

The East Riverfront station sits at the very bottom of the station popularity list, which makes sense. Other than Stone Brewing, there’s not much else near this station. The low numbers for this station (especially on weekdays) compared to some others—like Government Center, Convention Center, Science Museum, and even Staples Mill—really point out that this bus’s primary job is to get people to work.

The Pulse is a fast way to get across town

If everything goes as planned, the Pulse should make its entire trip headed east in 35 minutes and in 37 minutes headed west. The crush of humanity trying to use the new BRT during the first week made those goals...hard to achieve. But, after a couple of weeks, things have settled down and the trip times are pretty dang good.

At its worst, headed east during the afternoon and into the evening, the Pulse takes about 40 minutes from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing. Headed west, the 37 minute runtime estimate looks pretty good, with trips averaging just a minute or two slower during the morning rush hour. Keep in mind the signal priority system, which will hold a green light for an incoming bus, is still gathering data and not yet operational.

These are impressive numbers, but we should still keep our eyes open for ways to further prioritize the Pulse and speed up the trip for riders—dedicated bus lanes on E. Main Street, I’m looking at you.