Next steps for Charlottesville Area Transit route changes outlined at partnership meeting 

Before the pandemic, Charlottesville Area Transit hired the firm Nelson Nygaard to take a look at its routes to suggest changes to optimize service. The study was done but nothing has been implemented so far. The Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership got an update at their meeting yesterday.

“CAT planned on implementing that system optimization plan last year but they’ve been dealing with driver shortages like every other transit agency in the country so that’s been postponed,” said Jim Baker of Nelson Nygaard. 

An overall look at the route changes proposed in the Nelson Nygaard work (Credit: Charlottesville Area Transit

CAT director Garland Williams directed Nelson Nygaard to revisit the route changes to identify how it might be phased into service over time rather than be done all at once. This would include restoring service to pre-COVID levels, expanding service areas in both Charlottesville and Albemarle, and expanding Saturday and Sunday service. Since the pandemic, CAT has run no service on Sundays. 

“We felt like that’s a pressing need to get some level of Sunday service back on the streets,” Baker said. “So we’re proposing to get the trolley back online, the Route 12 which ran pre-pandemic up the U.S. 29 corridor, and to get service down into Avon Street past the CAT garage for Sunday service. 

Baker said three routes would see changes as part of the first phase.

  • The Center at Belvedere would finally be served by the northbound journey of Route 11. To make up for the time, there will no longer be service on a loop that runs through the Locust Grove neighborhood.  
  • Route 2 would be split into two services with 2A serving Fifth Street Station and the Willoughby Shopping Center and 2B serving Mill Creek in Albemarle County for the first time on its way to Piedmont Virginia Community College. This would also serve Monticello High School. 2A would run for some of Sunday
  • A second bus would be added to the current Route 6 to improve frequency to 30 minutes

The second phase would make changes to services along the U.S. 29 corridor.

  • Route 7 would be expanded to the Wal-Mart and would travel bi-directionally along Hillsdale Drive and through Seminole Square Shopping Center. Baker said the goal here is to link downtown Charlottesville with Wal-Mart, which is a major shopping destination. 
  • Route 5 would no longer travel to the Wal-Mart but would instead have a northern terminus at Fashion Square Mall. Its new southern terminus would be the UVA Hospital. 
  • The Sunday-only Route 12 would be eliminated in favor of Route 7 going seven days a week 

The third phase will implement the rest of the changes. Here are some of them:

  • Saturday service would be introduced to Route 1 
  • Route 3 would be broken into two routes with one traveling solely between downtown and Willoughby Shopping Center 
  • A new route, tentatively known as Route 3E, would travel around Belmont and downtown
  • Route 6 would no longer serve the University of Virginia Hospital via Prospect Avenue. It would also be routed along South First Street as it travels between downtown and the Willoughby Shopping Center. This would add additional service to Crescent Hall.
  • Route 8 serves Stonefield and would be altered to travel south to the University of Virginia Hospital and down to Willoughby Shopping Center via Prospect Avenue. This service would no longer travel downtown. 
  • Route 9 would also no longer serve the UVA Hospital and would instead travel to Fashion Square Mall 
  • Route 10 would be altered to no longer travel on Stony Point Road and instead would travel bidirectionally through the Pantops Shopping Center on its way between Downtown Charlottesville and Sentara Martha Jefferson

When will the phases be implemented? According to the presentation, that’s all going to depend on drivers. 

Six more drivers are needed for phase one, a total of 12 are needed for phase two, and a total of 27 are needed for phase 3. There’s an additional “phase three plus” that’s perhaps not worth detailing because it would need a total of 46 additional drivers. That’s a much higher number than six. 

“Assuming we can get the pay scale to be comparable to Jaunt and [University Transit System], and we can get six more drivers, that should not be [beyond the reach] and then we can begin phase 1,” Williams said. “The jump, though, is getting authorization from the city and the county to fund us to make the additional resources.” 

The Regional Transit Partnership meeting was held a couple of hours before a public meeting on the Regional Transit Vision Plan. which is $350,000 in the making. The following illustrates confusion that can come from having planning processes not tied to actual logistics. 

City Councilor Brian Pinkston asked what the proposed CAT changes had to do with that study.

“Is this sort of like a first step towards that larger vision?”

Williams said these changes have nothing to do with the Regional Transit Vision Plan. 

“They didn’t even copy these routes,” Williams said. “They took a whole new approach and said the slate was clean.” 

I’ll have more from the Regional Transit Partnership and more on the Regional Transit Vision plan in future installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement.

CAT director Garland Williams directed Nelson Nygaard to revisit the route changes to identify how it might be phased into service over time rather than be done all at once. This would include restoring service to pre-COVID levels, expanding service areas in both Charlottesville and Albemarle, and expanding Saturday and Sunday service. Since the pandemic, CAT has run no service on Sundays. 

“We felt like that’s a pressing need to get some level of Sunday service back on the streets,” Baker said. “So we’re proposing to get the trolley back online, the Route 12 which ran pre-pandemic up the U.S. 29 corridor, and to get service down into Avon Street past the CAT garage for Sunday service. 

Baker said three routes would see changes as part of the first phase.

  • The Center at Belvedere would finally be served by the northbound journey of Route 11. To make up for the time, there will no longer be service on a loop that runs through the Locust Grove neighborhood.  
  • Route 2 would be split into two services with 2A serving Fifth Street Station and the Willoughby Shopping Center and 2B serving Mill Creek in Albemarle County for the first time on its way to Piedmont Virginia Community College. This would also serve Monticello High School. 2A would run for some of Sunday
  • A second bus would be added to the current Route 6 to improve frequency to 30 minutes

The second phase would make changes to services along the U.S. 29 corridor.

  • Route 7 would be expanded to the Wal-Mart and would travel bi-directionally along Hillsdale Drive and through Seminole Square Shopping Center. Baker said the goal here is to link downtown Charlottesville with Wal-Mart, which is a major shopping destination. 
  • Route 5 would no longer travel to the Wal-Mart but would instead have a northern terminus at Fashion Square Mall. Its new southern terminus would be the UVA Hospital. 
  • The Sunday-only Route 12 would be eliminated in favor of Route 7 going seven days a week 

The third phase will implement the rest of the changes. Here are some of them:

  • Saturday service would be introduced to Route 1 
  • Route 3 would be broken into two routes with one traveling solely between downtown and Willoughby Shopping Center 
  • A new route, tentatively known as Route 3E, would travel around Belmont and downtown
  • Route 6 would no longer serve the University of Virginia Hospital via Prospect Avenue. It would also be routed along South First Street as it travels between downtown and the Willoughby Shopping Center. This would add additional service to Crescent Hall.
  • Route 8 serves Stonefield and would be altered to travel south to the University of Virginia Hospital and down to Willoughby Shopping Center via Prospect Avenue. This service would no longer travel downtown. 
  • Route 9 would also no longer serve the UVA Hospital and would instead travel to Fashion Square Mall 
  • Route 10 would be altered to no longer travel on Stony Point Road and instead would travel bidirectionally through the Pantops Shopping Center on its way between Downtown Charlottesville and Sentara Martha Jefferson

When will the phases be implemented? According to the presentation, that’s all going to depend on drivers. 

Six more drivers are needed for phase one, a total of 12 are needed for phase two, and a total of 27 are needed for phase 3. There’s an additional “phase three plus” that’s perhaps not worth detailing because it would need a total of 46 additional drivers. That’s a much higher number than six. 

“Assuming we can get the pay scale to be comparable to Jaunt and [University Transit System], and we can get six more drivers, that should not be [beyond the reach] and then we can begin phase 1,” Williams said. “The jump, though, is getting authorization from the city and the county to fund us to make the additional resources.” 

The Regional Transit Partnership meeting was held a couple of hours before a public meeting on the Regional Transit Vision Plan. which is $350,000 in the making. The following illustrates confusion that can come from having planning processes not tied to actual logistics. 

City Councilor Brian Pinkston asked what the proposed CAT changes had to do with that study.

“Is this sort of like a first step towards that larger vision?”

Williams said these changes have nothing to do with the Regional Transit Vision Plan. 

“They didn’t even copy these routes,” Williams said. “They took a whole new approach and said the slate was clean.” 

I’ll have more from the Regional Transit Partnership and more on the Regional Transit Vision plan in future installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement.

Watch the June 23, 2022 Regional Transit Partnership on YouTube:


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 24, 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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