Naomi Ghahrai, Contributing Writer
VCU has discontinued a university bus service that transported students between the MCV and Monroe Park campuses and entered a three-year contract with Richmond’s public transit system, which allows students and employees to ride for free.
VCU first entered a one-year, $1.2 million contract with Greater Richmond Transit Company, or GRTC, in 2018. VCU will pay a total of $4.65 million for the three-year contract that took effect in June. As a result of the high costs, VCU cut the Campus Connector.
“I disagree with the removal of the Campus Connector because I know students who depended on it as their transportation to class, work, or volunteering,” sophomore Amanda Freitas said, “and now have to pay for a car service or walk long distances to get to where they need to go.”
According to VCU Transportation and Parking’s April 2019 meeting minutes, VCU and VCU Health students and employees accounted for 22% of the GRTC Pulse ridership and 12% of GRTC ridership. VCU Transportation was unavailable to comment for this story.
University spokesman Mike Porter wrote in an email to ABC8News that 11,223 people rode the Campus Connector and 41,557 rode the GRTC Pulse in May. Porter added there was a trend of increased Pulse ridership, and a decrease in ridership for the connector.
Senior Ashley Leahman said she used to use the Campus Connector but has yet to use the GRTC buses.
“However, I do think that it is a good resource that they offer to VCU students,” Leahman said.
This year, no first-year students are living in Cabaniss Hall, a residence hall on the MCV campus. Students who lived in Cabaniss used the Campus Connector for transportation to the Monroe Park campus. With the proposed demolition of Cabaniss Hall as part of the Master Plan, the Campus Connector would no longer be needed to transport students living in Cabaniss.
“I understand why some people may not like the removal of the Campus Connector, but I’m a senior who still commutes, and I have never used it once,” senior Daniel McNamara said.
Students taking health classes often need transportation between the Monroe Park and MCV campuses.
Pre-med sophomore Aesha Amin said she wished there were improvements to the GRTC app.
“As pre-med student, I had to use the Campus Connector regularly to go to the MCV campus,” Amin said. “With Campus Connector, I could get to the MCV campus in about 15 minutes, but going to the MCV campus through GRTC is much more time-consuming. To have a better time estimate, I wish the GRTC bus app could show the locations of the buses similar to the RamRide app for Campus Connector.”
Launched in 2004, VCU initially partnered with GRTC to create the Campus Connector, a VCU-branded shuttle that transported students between the Monroe Park and MCV campuses. In 2012, Groome Transportation took over management of the Campus Connector, Porter told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
On the other hand, some students who live closer to the Pulse stop near campus are indifferent to the change. Shirly Shen, a third-year nursing student said the change doesn’t affect her.
“My apartment is closer to the Pulse stop, so I prefer taking the Pulse rather than the Campus Connector,” Shen said.
To learn more about the GRTC routes, download its free app.