Interstate 95 winds past Main Street Station in Richmond. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)
After a state-run bus line between Blacksburg and Washington beat ridership estimates by more than 200 percent, state officials are planning to introduce two new routes connecting Southside Virginia with points north.
The Virginia Breeze debuted at the end of 2017. The 50-seat buses run seven days a week, and tickets cost between $15 and $50.
When it began service, officials expected about 7,000 riders a year. The actual number came out to 19,300, according to the Department of Rail and Public Transportation.
“To say it has exceeded expectations is an understatement,” said Chief of Public Transportation Jenn DeBruhl.
To operate, the line requires about $200,000 in subsidies after fare-box revenue, which works out to an average of about $10 a ticket — a rate DeBruhl said compared favorably to similar projects.
The two new lines would serve Martinsville, Danville, South Boston and Lynchburg by providing connections to Richmond and Washington. The areas were selected in part because they are no longer served by Greyhound, DeBruhl said.
The department is aiming to launch the routes in spring or summer of next year.
Officials estimate the Danville to Washington line would draw 10,050 riders annually and require about $537,358 in subsidies to operate. They estimate the Martinsville to Richmond line would draw 5,500 riders and cost about $427,487 in subsidies to operate.
The price of all the lines is covered through Federal Transit Administration grants at no cost to the state. The goal of the program is to meet rural transportation needs, supplement private transit providers, and provide alternatives to personal vehicles for households without cars, students and the elderly and disabled.
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