RVA Pulse Points: Pulse Launch Brings Unexpected Safety Concerns

GRTC Pulse, Richmond’s new 7.6 mile rapid transit bus system launched on Sunday, June 24, 2018 with rider volume more than double what was expected. Some may call this a success, but many Richmond residents who depend on public transportation disagree.

In addition to the inconvenience of full buses being unable to stop to allow more passengers to board, the growing pains associated with the Pulse that were discovered during its first day in service raise new concerns for rider safety.

Median Stations Struck by Cars

In the week leading up to the Pulse launch, the Science Museum Station, a median station on Broad Street expected to be a high-volume stop, was struck twice by cars traveling both east and west on the busy thoroughfare.

No one at the station was injured during the collisions, but many bus riders, especially residents of the William Byrd Senior Apartments across the street, have growing concerns that the marked bus lanes, metal railings, and the bollards that form a barrier at the ends of transit stations may not be enough to protect them from a careless driver while on the platforms.

Speed is suspected to have been a contributing factor in one of the crashes, and reduced visibility due to weather is reported to have contributed to the other. These two incidents indicate that no matter how familiar drivers become with sharing the road with buses and respecting the bus-only lanes, collisions with median transit stations are still likely.

A car crashed into a Pulse station stop at the Science Museum location this morning. This is the second time in more than a week a car has crashed into the station at this spot on the route. Karina Bolster – NBC12 has more.

Posted by NBC12 on Friday, June 22, 2018

Overcrowded Buses

The popularity of Pulse in its infancy raises concerns that overcrowded buses may lead to extended time on station platforms. Longer time spent on platforms means a greater likelihood of injury caused by passing vehicles or vehicles colliding with stations, attempted robberies, or assaults – especially after dark or in conditions with reduced visibility like rain or fog.

Crowded buses also mean that a high number of passengers are required to stand and hold onto assist handles and rails. These passengers have the highest risk of injury during sudden stops, swerves, or collisions. Head injuries, broken bones, and cuts and bruises can result from standing passengers falling under these conditions.

The Pulse expects a daily volume of about 3,500 riders, but it transported nearly 14,000 passengers in its first 24 hours of service.

Accessibility Restrictions

Limited space aboard Pulse buses for wheelchairs and other mobility devices has already resulted in many passengers being denied access to stopping buses. Several passengers report having to wait for two or three additional buses to stop before encountering one with room for them.

Again, this limited space leads to extended time on station platforms for those with mobility challenges, and that time increases the risk of injury to these vulnerable passengers.

Parking Conflicts

Many Pulse passengers are expected to be commuters from outlying areas of Henrico who plan to use the high-speed bus route as an alternative to expensive downtown monthly parking costs. Unfortunately for them and for area businesses, there are no commuter parking lots for them to leave their cars while using Pulse service.

The Shops at Willow Lawn, the westernmost stop on the Pulse route, and other nearby businesses have already reported that their parking lots were filled to capacity with commuters. With no room left for employees and customers of these businesses to park, many resorted to towing the vehicles of those using Pulse.

Inaccessible parking for commuters and full commercial lots can lead to a host of potential safety concerns including increased vehicle vs. vehicle collisions, increased vehicle vs. pedestrian collisions, and a heavier volume of pedestrian traffic between lots and transit stations on roadways not designed to safely accommodate it.

Other Pulse Safety Concerns

In order to raise community awareness of these safety concerns and the changes we all need to make to help the GRTC Pulse operate safely and successfully, Allen & Allen is dedicated to serving as an informative resource for bus riders, motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

If you have specific questions or safety concerns regarding Pulse, please let us know! Reach out to us on Twitter at @allenandallen for answers, quick tips and helpful infographics. Share your own recommendations for Pulse safety with us by using the hashtag #RVAPulsePoints.