Virginia Breeze intercity bus ridership rebounds

DRPT and Virginia Breeze


April 25, 2022

Department of Rail and Public Transportation

Contact: Amy Friedenberger


Phone: (804) 573-5270

Virginia Breeze intercity bus ridership rebounds 

~ Ridership increasing on all four routes after decline from the COVID-19 pandemic ~

(RICHMOND): Ridership on the Virginia Breeze intercity bus service has been rebounding, with overall ridership up 56% from March 2021 to March 2022.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) launched the Virginia Breeze intercity bus program in 2017, providing a vital transportation connection between rural Virginia communities and the national bus network. The Virginia Breeze started with the Valley Flyer (Blacksburg-Washington), and then added two new routes — the Piedmont Express (Danville-Washington) and Capital Connector (Martinsville-Richmond-Washington) — in summer 2020. The Highlands Rhythm route connecting Bristol and Washington launched in November 2021.

“The Virginia Breeze opens the doors for people who don’t have cars or don’t drive, who have limited means, to connect to other parts of Virginia and beyond,” said Jennifer DeBruhl, Acting Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. “Intercity bus services are essential transportation infrastructure because they operate in areas that lack transportation options for Virginians.”

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the intercity bus industry hard, including the Virginia Breeze halting its service for almost four months from April to July 2020. Since then, ridership has steadily increased on all four routes. In March of this year, 4,834 people traveled on the Virginia Breeze across the Commonwealth.

Ridership for the Valley Flyer, which runs along Interstate 81 in western Virginia and is the busiest Virginia Breeze route, has returned to levels seen prior to the pandemic. In March, the Piedmont Express had its highest ridership since beginning service in August 2020. The Capital Connector also saw year-over-year growth. And the Highlands Rhythm has nearly doubled its ridership since the route started.

The Virginia Breeze program is funded through the Federal Transit Administration’s Intercity Bus Program. Additionally, the Highlands Rhythm, which travels along most of Interstate 81, was among the first multimodal projects to receive funding through the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program. The program aims to make infrastructure and safety improvements to Interstate 81 and support alternative modes of transportation to get more cars off of the crowded highway and reduce the number of incidents. The Interstate 81 funding offsets a portion of the Highlands Rhythm operating costs and will fund improvements at some stop locations.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is currently conducting a study to explore the possibility of adding a fifth Virginia Breeze route, serving eastern Virginia.

For more information on the Virginia Breeze, including how to purchase tickets, visit


About the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

DRPT’s mission is to improve the mobility of people and goods while expanding transportation choices in the Commonwealth through rail, public transportation, and commuter services. DRPT is committed to ensuring that no person is excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of its services on the basis of race, color, or national origin as protected by Title VI of the Civil Rights.