Public meeting tonight for Regional Transit Vision plan; Fluvanna and Louisa supervisors briefed last week

The final public meeting for the development of a Regional Transit Vision will be held tonight in an online format. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is overseeing the study, which seeks to come up with an aspirational document for enhanced public transportation throughout the entire Charlottesville area including Buckingham County.

The draft document has gone before the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, as I’ve reported. But the Regional Transit Vision also has been to the outlying counties. Last week, Boards of Supervisors in both Fluvanna County and Greene County had a briefing. 

“It started in the summer of 2021 with assessing the situation,” said Lucinda Shannon, a planner with the TJPDC. The $350,000 study was conducted by the firms AECOM and Jarrett Walker + Associates.

“So they looked at the existing systems, they looked at the land use planning, and the transit market potential for the entire region and kind of assessed where would be good places for transit to be,” Shannon said. “They also worked with the public and identified goals and visions for the region plan and priorities for what this community wants to see in a vision plan.”

All of that engagement was done online, as the study got underway during the pandemic. Tonight’s meeting is also virtual. The work has resulted in a constrained plan that would be paid for through new tax powers granted to a Regional Transportation Authority, as well as an unconstrained plan that did not factor how the expanded transit service would be paid for.

For a sense of scale, the constrained plan would have an annual cost estimate of $26 million whereas the unconstrained plan would be $70 million a year. The unconstrained plan would mean buses operating at full service, seven days a week, including fixed-route service between Ruckersville between Charlottesville. 

“All day fixed-route service from Ruckersville to Charlottesville would add services to three percent of residents and it would also reach 11 percent more jobs in the county,” Shannon said. 

One Supervisor asked if the plan includes one item he would like to see. 

“Does it include light rail? Does it include those kinds of things?” asked Steve Bowman of the Monroe District. “Because I’ve always thought that down U.S. 29 would be an ideal place to put a light rail all the way down.” 

The TJDPC previously studied light rail in a 2004 report that looked at the future of passenger rail service in Virginia. By the time a few years later when there was discussion of a Regional Transit Authority, that vision had been reduced to something called bus rapid transit. Shannon said the consultants in the new vision have included that in their recommendation.

“I think that what they want to is propose things that the community will accept and can be funded so right now they are proposing a Bus Rapid Transit up and down Route 29 so there would be service up to the airport so from Charlottesville on U.S. 29 on up to the airport with 15 minute service,” Shannon said. 

Greene Supervisors did not have a long discussion of the matter. 

The 2004 report on passenger rail service included a section on light rail (view the document)

The next day, Shannon made the trip to Palmyra to speak to the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors about the plan. 

“So this is a collaborative effort to evaluate and establish a clear long term vision  for transit in our region, and not just the city,” Shannon said. “And it’s kind of like all of the things we’d like to buy and then the next study that we’re hoping to do is a transit governance study that would start in July.” 

Shannon gave more details on what the “unconstrained” vision means.

“The unconstrained vision we wanted to be ambitious and creative and come up with what we could do if there was no budget and there was no fund limit on funding for that concept,” Shannon said. 

As stated above, that would mean 60-minute fixed-route service to Charlottesville from surrounding population clusters. 

“These routes would go to Scottsville, Crozet, Lovingston, Palmyra, Louisa, and Ruckersville seven days a week,” Shannon said. 

One Supervisor said that would be an improvement for Fluvanna residents who currently use the public transit that’s available. 

“Right now people going to the city on Jaunt to the doctor’s office have to stay all day until Jaunt comes back to pick them up,” said Supervisor Mozelle Booker of the Fork Union District. 

A slide in Shannon’s presentation to the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors (Credit: AECOM, JWA, and TJPDC)

Supervisor Tony O’Brien of the Rivanna District supported the concept of expanded transit.

“I love the idea of expanding rural transportation,” O’Brien said. “So critical not just for the environment but also for those who are constrained by their finances and or ability to drive. So anything we can do to make it better for people to be able to access other areas of Central Virginia I think is wonderful.” 

Shannon said the details of how to implement the vision will come during the governance study. 

“We will be engaging you again once the governance study starts and our objective for the governance study is to really work with all the counties and be inclusive and come up with a plan for the funding of the services that works for all the counties, both urban and rural together,” Shannon said. 

Tonight is your chance to weigh in at a meeting that begins at 6:30 p.m. tonight.  Details of both visions and a link to the meeting are availale

You can also take a survey on the topic. Have you done so yet? Let me know in the comments. (take the survey)

Comments will be taken through July 15. 

Previous coverage:

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 June 23, 2022 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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