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GRTC plans daily trips to Kings Dominion from downtown Richmond

Richmond Times Dispatch

Original Article »

May 17, 2011

Kings Dominion visitors and seasonal employees soon will be able to take a $5 bus to the Doswell theme park, avoiding the headache of navigating interstate traffic and paying for parking.

The GRTC Transit System this summer will begin a pilot program offering daily transportation from downtown Richmond to the theme park, which is located just off Interstate 95 in Hanover County.

The public bus system will offer eight trips a day to and from the park, starting Memorial Day weekend until Sept. 5. The buses will make nine stops on the days the park is open until 10 p.m. GRTC also will offer the service this weekend.

"This is totally an untested market for us," said Larry Hagin, director of planning and government affairs for GRTC. "From what we understand, there could be a good market here."

Hagin said the express route will cost GRTC about$270,000 annually, but he said the transit system expects the $5 fare each way to cover the operating costs of the route.

If, after a few weeks, ridership isn't close to anticipated, GRTC will scale back on the service to lower costs. Money from the company's operating budget will be used to make up any losses, Hagin said.

The nonprofit GRTC Transit System is owned by the city of Richmond and Chesterfield County and servesRichmond, Henrico County and a small portion of Chesterfield; it also operates express routes to Petersburg.Richmond supports the system with an annual $11 million operating subsidy.

Kings Dominion is not sharing in the cost of operating the buses. However, the park worked with GRTC to time routes around workers' shift changes and is providing a place for the bus to stop. GRTC and Kings Dominion have kicked around the idea for a while, said John Pagel, Kings Dominion marketing manager.

"We have a lot of employees — seasonal staff — that come from the greater Richmond area," Pagel said. "It's something they ask for."

He said three other companies are currently running shuttle services from the Richmond area to the theme park. The park has more than 3,000 seasonal employees, about 75 percent of whom are from the greaterRichmond area, Pagel said.

He said the bus service also will provide greater access to Richmond for the park's 300 international student workers who live in a dorm on the theme-park grounds for the summer.

Riders will be able to board the 37-seat bus at all westbound bus stops on Broad Street between 12th Street and Belvidere Street for express service directly to the Kings Dominion gate.

About 2 million people visit the park each year. Kings Dominion charges $12 for parking.

Hagin said GRTC has the ability to use the fleet's coach buses, which can serve up to 56 passengers, if the need arises. "We'd love it, of course, if it got to that point," he said.

The addition of the Kings Dominion express route comes just a few months after GRTC ended bus service to Fredericksburg. Hagin said the company had a ridership goal of 140 trips per day but only achieved an average of 90 trips per day.

Hagin said he is not concerned because the new Kings Dominion route serves a different type of commuter.


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