Radford Transit Rolls Out Buses to Acclaim


Reed Imhoff, a junior theatre and communication major from Pittsburgh, doesn’t have a car on campus, but that doesn’t slow him down. He is a regular rider on Radford Transit (RT), which began service in August with a fleet of red and white buses serving the Radford University campus, the city of Radford and beyond.

“I started using it at the beginning of the semester, and it has been a very pleasant surprise,” Imhoff said. He rides the bus to his classes, to visit friends across campus and to get to Christiansburg and Blacksburg on weekends. 

Affordable, convenient public transportation around town has been embraced by the RU community. “I use it several times every day,“ said Callie Newcomer, a junior psychology major from Covington, as she rode a bus on the University Express route to campus from the Green Hill Apartments on a drizzly fall day.

Newcomer said her morning bus rides with other RU students are sometimes crowded, making the trip to campus “cozy.” However, she is glad she no longer has to circle the campus in search of elusive commuter parking spots. 

RT began rolling Aug. 1 with a ribbon-cutting. Speaking at the ceremony, President Kyle hailed the new service as one “that will bring benefits to us all, far and wide,” and a step toward “a much greener way to live our lives.”

A feasibility study in early 2009 demonstrated the need for a public bus system. Implementation was made possible by a $1.7 million grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.  Charles Manyara, associate professor of geography, prepared a study in 2009 of the commuting habits of the RU community as part of RU’s climate action planning efforts. He describes the service as an “added value to the effort to reach our carbon footprint goals.”

The five-route bus service, which has more than 100 stops, connects the RU community and citizens of Radford to transit systems across the region. The RT University Express route serves the RU campus and was the most popular route during its first months of service. Other destinations are the Radford Recreation Center, the Fairlawn shopping area, the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg, and Blacksburg.

“The new system has been wildly successful,” said Josh Baker, general manager of the RT project for New River Valley Community Services, operator of the transit system. He said early ridership numbers—a nearly 30,000 a month on average—show the RT to be the third-busiest transit system in Southwest Virginia and among the top 15 in the state. The service is free to university students, faculty and staff with a valid identification card. The fare is $1 for the general public. Children under 12 ride free.

“We have been thrilled by the reception regionally and locally,” Baker said. “It has been surprising to hear how it is used to bring folks to Radford and the university or take them to Blacksburg on
the weekend.”