The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation launched a new government-subsidized bus route that’ll connect Blacksburg to Washington, D.C., stopping in major Virginia towns and cities along the way, including Harrisonburg.
The route, called Virginia Breeze, will begin operating on Friday, with tickets ranging from $19 to $50. A trip from Harrisonburg to D.C. is $34.99 each way.
Buses will depart every day from Blacksburg at 8 a.m. and arrive in D.C. at 3:30 p.m. They’ll make additional stops in Christiansburg, Lexington, Staunton, Harrisonburg, Front Royal, Dulles Airport and Arlington.
Virginia Breeze is the state’s first intercity bus route, according to DRPT. It was proposed in 2012 by Terry Brown, DRPT special assistant to the chief of transit.
“We wanted to create this route the right way,” Brown said. “We commissioned a study and held public meetings around the state, and came up with a list of 14 or 15 different routes that had needs for an intercity bus. The top needs were from Blacksburg to D.C., so that’s why we selected this exact route.”
Many of Virginia’s major universities are along the Virginia Breeze route, and DRPT hopes students and professors will utilize the new service.
Neal Dora is a senior computer science major from Arlington. He used to ride the student bus, Home Ride of Virginia to Northern Virginia from JMU. He believes the Virginia Breeze bus will be a better option for riders because it’s open to the public in addition to students and runs more frequently to more areas in Virginia.
“Students who aren’t used to traveling on their own can use this bus,” Dora said. “It’s also a reliable option for both students and professors to use if they ever need to get home on a weekday — they can just hop on the bus and get to D.C. or another part of Virginia.”
While many riders are expected to be college students and professors, DRPT hopes travelers of all kinds will utilize the bus.
“We welcome anybody and everybody,” Kelsey Webb, DRPT public relations and marketing specialist, said. “Because the bus will be stopping in a lot of college towns, we’re looking a lot at college students. We’re also looking to expand to connect any leisure traveler to whatever city in the state they want to visit.”
Although the route is meant to link major areas in Virginia to each other, DRPT partnered with Megabus to also take riders to metropolitan areas including Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston.
To help potential riders get familiar with the bus, DRPT held tours of the bus along its route on Wednesday and will continue through today. The bus will visit JMU today.
“People can go on the bus, take a handout of our schedule,” Webb said. “Plus, we’ll make sure people know they can go to our website to buy tickets to get home in time for the holidays.”
The Federal Transit Administration funded the development of the route and requires that several million dollars of federal funds be applied toward the success of the route per year. Depending on the success of Virginia Breeze, DRPT may consider an expansion.
For now, DRPT expects the route to allow riders to explore the businesses in other towns, impacting economic growth and helping people see more of areas they might not have previously explored.
“I like that this gives people, especially students, the option to see more,” Dora said. “I’d love to get a group of friends together now and just travel and explore somewhere new for a weekend.”
Contact Peyton Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.