Walter Chidozie Anyanwu, Contributing Writer
Following a Dec. 11 announcement, VCU discontinued its Campus Connector bus route Jan. 2 in favor of an express system as part of a year-long pilot program that allows students, faculty and staff to ride Richmond public transportation for free.
The partnership between VCU and the Greater Richmond Transit Company — a government-owned transit company based and operating in the Richmond metropolitan area — began last August.
“We recognize how important it is to collaborate with riders and the city on improvements to the new network while remaining budget-conscious,” said Gary Armstrong, chair of the GRTC board of directors in a statement. “This kind of partnership allows GRTC to evaluate service enhancements that were not possible without VCU’s investment.”
Spokesperson with VCU Parking and Transportation Jonsette Calloway said the partnership came as “a recommendation in a campus-wide parking and transportation study.” It is, according to Parking and Transportation, an opportunity to provide the VCU community with greater access and different means to explore the city.
However, this change hasn’t been popular with some students. VCU student Shanice Hicks, who lived in Cabaniss Hall — a dorm located on the MCV campus — in 2016 was one of several students who expressed dissatisfaction on Facebook following the launch of the new system earlier this month.
“Students are also going to be forced to have to pay for transportation such as Uber & Lyft to get to specific destinations that the Campus Connector doesn’t even come close to,” Hicks said in a Facebook post. “Attempting to rely on the RamSafe/GRTC could potentially increase the risk for safety issues as well.”
The new route leaves five of the original stops: James Branch Cabell Library, One Capitol Square, 8th and Main streets, Sanger Hall and J. Sargeant Reynolds. The express route does not include any stops between the Monroe Park and MCV campuses, while the original Campus Connector route did. Hicks said the remaining stops are some of the least-used by students.
The original route included a stop in front of the School of Business, located at 301 W. Main St. The closest stop to that building is now a half mile away at Cabell Library. VCU student Belton Harris — a freshman living in Cabaniss Hall who takes classes at the School of Business — said he spends 12-15 minutes waiting for the Connector, only to arrive at the library and walk 10 minutes in the opposite direction to attend classes.
“I feel like [VCU] could easily take a poll for people at [Cabaniss] or people that ride the bus often,” Harris said about the potential for a different system. “There are better places [stops] could be placed.”
The response from other members of the VCU community has been “overwhelmingly positive,” according to VCU Parking and Transportation spokesperson Jonsette Calloway. She said several students and employee say they utilize the service “multiple times per week.”
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