TJPDC board discusses RideShare, Zion Crossroads plan, Route 29 corridor study

For many of us, the pandemic has meant working from home. When this time ends, many of us may be looking for a different way to get to and from our workplace. On March 4, the person who runs a service that seeks to get people out of their cars told members of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission about her work. Sara Pennington explained Rideshare.

“We are a program that was established actually in 1980 at Jaunt through the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to provide carpool and vanpool matching services and support,” Pennington said. “The program later moved to the TJPDC and then in 2009 we expanded our coverage to include the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission so we kind of work in conjunction with our folks across the mountain.” 

(download FY22 proposed work program)

RideShare also offers a guaranteed ride home program to give people who may have to get home at a different time the occasional option when there are sudden changes of plan. 

“That is a great comfort and always what we hear as the first deterrent that keeps folks from taking that alternative transportation,” Pennington said. 

RideShare also assists with helping companies with teleworking logistics, and is currently conducting a survey to gauge interest in coworking. Pennington said Rideshare has continued to operate during this last year. 

“Even though things this year have been weird with the pandemic there are still some folks who are going into work and who may still need those commute services, so none of that has stopped,” Pennington said. “But we have pivoted a lot of our direction and our resources and information sharing into the field of telework.” 

Transportation studies

The TJPDC is currently working on several transportation studies, including a small area plan for Zion Crossroads and a look at the U.S. 29 corridor north of Airport Road in Albemarle County to U.S. 33 in Greene County. Jessica Hersh-Ballering is a transportation planner. 

“The overall purpose of this corridor study is to develop broad transportation recommendations that complement the existing land use designations in the study area,” Hersh-Ballering said. 

There are several new developments either under construction or in the planning stages in both Albemarle and Greene.

The TJPDC is also supporting efforts to expand non-motorized infrastructure. Sandy Shackelford is the director of Planning and Transportation.

“One of those is the expansion of the Virginia Capital Trail from Richmond through our region, through the Charlottesville area and even west into Staunton,” Shackelford said. 

Shackelford said the current task is to identify an alignment for such a trail. 

“It could be right now kind of looking at maybe some of these are on-street connections with a goal in the future to maybe have a set-aside shared-use path kind of facility, but that’s what they’re starting to work towards now

Shackelford said her staff also supports the Regional Transit Partnership, which is at the beginning stages of creating a regional vision for public transportation. 

At the end of the TDJPC meeting, Commissioners had the chance to give updates on what’s happening in their community. City Councilor Michael Payne said new city City Manager Chip Boyles is settling in.

“The major thing for us in Charlottesville especially over the next year is really rebuilding our organization and getting it to a better place,” Payne said. “Chip has entered on with a daunting task but perhaps not surprisingly to some of the people here, the work has already started. I’m optimistic that we’re moving into a much more stable place.” 

Payne also mentioned that the city is considering a one-cent sales tax to help cover the costs of reconfiguring the schools. That would take approval by voters in a referendum after passage of enabling legislation by the General Assembly. 

“And all that revenue would go strictly to school facilities,” Payne said. “What we’ve heard from our representatives is that it will be much more likely to happen and happen quicker if we have a groundswell of many localities saying this would be a useful power for us to have.” 

The Louisa County recently banned the practice of people asking others for money within medians. Bob Babyok is the board’s chair. 

“On Monday, 1 March, we also approved the panhandling prohibition so no more panhandling in Louisa,” Babyok said. 

Jesse Rutherford of the Nelson Board of Supervisors told the TJPDC that there’s a lot of activity happening in that county.

“Here in Nelson we have a lot of opportunity coming as it relates to revitalization of Lovingston and hopefully we’re going to get some good efforts moving forward on some housing development,” Rutherford said. 

Nelson County currently has a population of about 15,000 according to the most recent estimates from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. 

Rutherford also raised an important issue worth considering as the pandemic recedes.

“You know we haven’t had foreclosures in almost a year,” Rutherford said. “Since March there has been a prohibition on any foreclosure that is related to a loan that is insured by the federal government which sets a dangerous precedent potentially this summer when that foreclosure ban is raised.” 

Certainly an issue to know more about. The moratorium in Virginia is currently scheduled to end on June 30.

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the March 10, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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