The Richmond region’s public transportation system, overseen by the Greater Richmond Transit Company, consists of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system and a traditional city bus network. Intercity bus and rail operators also provide service to downtown Richmond. This guide provides tips and information for wheelchair users planning to get around Richmond using public transit.

Pulse Bus Rapid Transit System

The Pulse BRT is a unique network of city buses that provide wheelchair accessible transportation through the Richmond city center using dedicated bus lanes that allow for an express ride.

City bus at bus station.

While the Pulse system is not a true BRT system in that its dedicated lanes cover only a quarter of the route and are not separated from vehicular traffic, it does incorporate features that make BRT systems efficient and accessible.

One feature that stands out are the Pulse bus terminals, which feature elevated boarding platforms level with the door of buses used on the service. Bus operators park directly alongside the station platform, allowing wheelchair users to board the bus just as they would a subway car — without use of a wheelchair ramp. Level entry boarding is a hallmark of BRT systems and increases the efficiency, safety and accessibility of the service.

The following GRTC promotional video provides a valuable visual (sadly, there is no representation of wheelchair users riding the Pulse):

Each Pulse bus features two wheelchair securement spaces with tie-downs and an available seatbelt. All Pulse stations have elevated platforms level with the boarding door, meaning the onboard wheelchair ramp and kneeling features will not be utilized in the normal course of operation.

Richmond’s BRT system is limited in size, servicing only 14 stations along a single route that is 7.6 miles in length. The route passes through four major areas of the city, including the East and West Ends, the Museum/Virginia Commonwealth University Districts, and Downtown Richmond.

Pulse route map.
Route map courtesy GRTC.

Fares are not currently being collected on Richmond’s Pulse city bus service, and it is unclear when or if fare collection will resume. The Pulse service is useful to locals and visitors alike, and connects many of the most visited neighborhoods in the city — the free fare is icing on the cake!

GRTC City Bus System

Like the BRT, Richmond’s traditional city bus system is wheelchair accessible. 100% of city buses are equipped with lowered floors and wheelchair ramps/lifts, as well as securement spaces, tie downs and seatbelts for wheelchair users. Each bus has space for two wheelchairs. For bus times, schedules, route maps and directions, visit the GRTC website.

Amtrak Services in Richmond

The City of Richmond’s Main Street Station, located in the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood, connects travelers to Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service. The Northeast Regional is Amtrak’s most popular route, providing service North to Boston, Massachusetts, New York City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.; and South to Newport News and Nortfolk, Virginia, with many stops in between. Additional routes are planned for the future, including a potential expansion of the Acela high speed rail service.

Main Street Station, constructed in 1901 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is wheelchair accessible after undergoing a landmark renovation and modernization. Although the station is unstaffed, wheelchair users can still depart from and arrive to the station, with boarding assistance provided by Amtrak conductors and other personnel. At the station, travelers will find accessible waiting areas, ADA compliant bathroom facilities, vending machines and an Amtrak ticketing kiosk.

Featured image courtesy Quidster4040/Wikimedia Commons.