An RTC bus drives in front of Rick's Pizza and Beer on North Virginia Street on Monday, July 1.
File Photo/ Nevada Sagebrush
A Regional Transportation Commission bus drives on North Virginia St. on Monday, July 1. RTC created a free, temporary route for UNR students to explore downtown and midtown Reno on Sunday, Aug. 25.

The Regional Transportation Commission launched a new, free, temporary route on Sunday, Aug. 25, which will connect the University of Nevada, Reno to Midtown and downtown Reno. 

The free temporary route will be in place until Sunday, Sept. 8. After the free ride period, the route will be consistent with RTC bus services. The route will remain until early 2021.

“We think it will be a great, free transportation option for students who want to go to downtown or Midtown, or even grocery shopping,” said RTC Public Information Officer Lauren Ball in an email to the Nevada Sagebrush. “With limited parking in and around the UNR campus, this is a great car-free option to get where you need to go. It will also help people get to Midtown during construction.”

UNR-Midtown Direct replaced RTC Sierra Spirit, which runs from Plumb Lane to 17th St. and mainly runs through Virginia St., Sierra St., Holcomb Ave. and Center St.  

RTC plans to extend the Rapid Virginia Line Service from Meadowood Mall through midtown to the university.

“It’s important for the RTC to review our ridership data and offer convenient routes along high-ridership areas,” Ball said. “This is just one of the ways we are responding to transit needs in our community. This route is a great option for students, faculty and staff because it’s free with a UNR ID.”

The Virginia Street Bus Rapid Transit Extension Project began in in 2014. The project’s goal is to connect RTC transportation to UNR, improve safety, correct ADA sidewalk deficiencies and improve traffic operations. Around 300 trees will be added to the corridor as well.

The project has estimated $80 million and is funded by RTC Fuel Tax, Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration grant.

Construction in for the Utility Relocation has been completed but the roadway construction will be completed late 2020. 

“Right now construction is on schedule and on budget […] construction operations between Mt. Rose and Club on Virginia St. switched from the east to the west side of the roadway,” Ball said in a YouTube video. “Drivers are able to drive southbound only on Virginia St. between Mt. Vernon, Holcomb Ave. and Regency Way.”

RTC collaborated with the Associated Students of Nevada in July where they created a new U-Pass system. The U-Pass allows students, faculty and staff from the university and Truckee Meadow Community College to utilize their school IDs to ride any RTC bus for free.

A study by RTC in June 2019 discovered university students wanted a better connection to downtown and have more frequent transit. University students also expressed concerns regarding ADA, bicycle, pedestrian safety and vehicles.

“The majority of comments captured were related to pedestrian and accessibility concerns and opportunities,” the Walking Audit Report said. “Vehicle access concerns and on-street parking challenges were noted, need for transit amenities, bicycle visibility and bike lanes were recommended. Other comments highlighted landscaping issues and success, lighting opportunities and areas for improvement aesthetics.”

Taylor Johnson can be reached at or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.