RICHMOND — This week, the Department of Rail and Public Transportation received the Commonwealth Connectors Award at the annual American Planning Association Virginia conference. The award recognizes DRPT’s successful planning and implementation of the Virginia Breeze intercity bus service

The Virginia Breeze recently announced two new routes, making three total – including the Piedmont Express from Danville to Washington, D.C.

“This recognition underscores the Commonwealth’s commitment to providing essential travel connections for all Virginians,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “As our first public intercity bus service, Virginia Breeze is supporting mobility and economic opportunity for communities across Virginia.”

In December 2017, DRPT launched the state’s first publicly operated intercity bus program with service between Blacksburg and Washington, D.C. Branded as the Virginia Breeze, it operates seven days a week with at least one daily trip northbound and southbound. With nine stops along the route, the Virginia Breeze provides underserved rural communities with vital connections to urban areas.

“DRPT continues to solve the Commonwealth’s transportation challenges through extensive research, planning, and strategic implementation,” said Jennifer Mitchell, Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation. “We thank the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association for this distinguished award and commend our Virginia Breeze planners at DRPT.”

The program is funded through the Federal Transit Administration’s 5311(f) Intercity Bus Program, which allocates funds to states for services that fulfill intercity travel needs of rural areas. Eligible bus service must have luggage capacity, limited stops and regularly-scheduled service, and must make connections to the national intercity bus network.

“The 2020 Awards Committee selected Virginia Breeze for the Commonwealth Connectors Award for successfully reimplementing intercity service to Virginia. We see the service as an exemplary model of state-wide transportation planning,” said Nick Rogers, APA Virginia Vice President of External Affairs. “By connecting underserved rural communities and institutions of higher education with access to health care, air travel, and tourism opportunities, Virginia Breeze has charted a sustainable, vital path forward to achieve Virginia’s mobility needs.”

Virginia Breeze schedules successfully interline with connecting services such as Megabus, Amtrak and other national providers of intercity bus service, offering myriad travel destinations to its passengers. Since its launch, the service has been exceptionally successful, with a farebox recovery rate of 81 percent and 19,300 riders in its first full year of operation.

This surpasses initial annual ridership projections of 7,125, demonstrating how an unmet need is fulfilled through this service.

At the time of the nomination, the Virginia Breeze provided a single intercity bus route. Following the outstanding performance of the pilot route, DRPT announced a program expansion with the introduction of two new routes in August 2020: Danville to Washington, D.C., and Martinsville to Richmond, with express service to D.C. The two additional daily buses provide vital connections to underserved areas across the state and align perfectly with the award’s theme of “Connecting the Commonwealth.”