50+ years of GRTC history

The transit company is celebrating five decades of ridership and looking towards the future with a ten-year plan survey.


Public transit has a long history in Richmond.

Photo courtesy GRTC

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The Greater Richmond Transit Company is turning 50 this year. The public service company was founded in 1973 when federal, state, and local funds were pooled to purchase the assets of the Virginia Transit Company — but there’s a long road of history even before that.

🚌 Transit history

Richmond’s public transit endeavors made headlines in 1887, when it opened the first public electric streetcar system in the world. Decades later, buses would replace streetcars as the primary form of public transit.

In 1944, the Virginia Transit Company took the reins in Richmond and Norfolk and would continue to operate the fleet until the 1970s, when the Greater Richmond Transit Company was born.


Fred Brown, Herman Marsh, Larry Richie, and Granville Smithers celebrate GRTC’s first anniversary in 1974.

Photo courtesy GRTC

The next few decades would see continuous change and expansion as the system grew into the GRTC Richmonders would recognize today. At first, the company was wholly owned by the City of Richmond. In 1989, Chesterfield County came on board as part-owners. The company’s purple and black color scheme was introduced in 1995.

A new millennium saw a new name as the company became officially known as GRTC Transit System. The change was meant to reflect the expansion of services offered by the company; however, GRTC announced this month that it will be known simply as GRTC going forward.


Electric GRTC buses began operating in 1996.

Photo courtesy GRTC

🚏 The road ahead

The name change announcement came with reminders about the future of GRTC. The company is eyeing a westward expansion and a North-South version of the Pulse bus rapid transit line. GRTC also teased a soon-to-be-announced microtransit brand.

Help shape the future of GRTC by completing the Transit Priorities Survey. Rider responses will help design GRTC’s 10-year plan for improving service — and it should only take around five minutes to complete. The survey will be open until Friday, July 14.