Tonight the Board of Commissioners of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will see the final version of a plan intended to show the way for a more frequent and more reliable public transportation system.
“The Regional Transit Vision plan is a 28-month $350,000 project supported by the [Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation], the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and the [Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission],” said Lucinda Shannon, a transportation planner with TJPDC. “We used data and community engagement to establish a unified long-term vision for transit services in the Charlottesville area.”
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.
For much of the past year and a half, planners at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and hired consultants have been crafting a Regional Transit Vision intended to make public transportation be a more effective option for people to get around the broader community.
Now, some of those consultants are working with the TJPDC on a study to recommend how to move from a system of multiple transit agencies to something more unified. This is the second attempt to create a regional transit authority in the area.
Stephanie Amoaning-Yankson with AECOM said the study will recommend strategies to expand governance opportunities for localities in the entire region and to identify new forms of revenue. The main idea is to create a government entity similar to the Central Virginia Transportation Authority which receives tax dollars related from transportation spending.
“This is going to be a year-long study and we kicked-off a few months ago so this will carry on through December 2023,” said Amoaning-Yankson.
One big topic in the Charlottesville Community Engagement newsletter and podcast is planning. There are Comprehensive Plans, Long Range Transportation Plans, Regional Transit Vision Plans, Climate Action Plans, and so much more. There are also strategic plans, and Albemarle County is in the midst of creating one to guide the next five years.
“We have many plans in our community that drive work and progress and we really want to connect those things better and be able to align that work, so this big picture thinking allows our services to remain adaptable as our community environment changes,” said Kristi Shifflett, the director of performance and strategic planning for Albemarle County.
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation has awarded a $1.552 million grant to Charlottesville Area Transit to operate a demonstration project for microtransit service in Albemarle County. That includes a match of $388,000 in local funds. The service could take up to a year to get underway, according to Lucinda Shannon, a transportation planner with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.
Similar projects have been implemented at various stages across the nation. The city of Wilson, North Carolina with a population of around 50,000 people replaced its fixed route service with on-demand shuttles in September 2020.
Fiscal Year 2023 is just over a month old, but the budget process in Virginia never really stops as local governments seek to provide services. In April, Council adopted a $212.9 million general fund budget that was 10.76 percent higher than the one for the year before. That’s built on increased assessments for both real estate and personal property as well as a one-cent increase in the real estate tax rate. That was the first such increase in several decades.
There are about 30 weeks until whoever is City Manager in March 2023 presents a recommended budget and 36 weeks until Council is expected to adopt their amended document. Council got a briefing this past Monday and learned about some of the factors coming up and some suggested the schedule be moved up. (view the presentation)
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.
Consultants hired by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission are moving into the second phase of a community engagement effort for a $350,000 plan to create a regional transit vision to make public transportation a more attractive option.
They have developed both a constrained plan that would anticipate around $26 million funds that might be generated through becoming a regional transportation authority with taxation power, as well as one that assumed funding would be found to increase the frequency of service. That has an estimated annual price tag of $70 million.
Work is nearing completion on a conceptual study for how public transport might work better across the entirety of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. Today the Board of Supervisors will get an up close look at the $350,000 Regional Transit Vision.
Last week, an appointed body consisting of elected officials and transit officials got an update on the Regional Transit Vision.
“The project is a collaborative effort to evaluate and establish a clear long term vision for transit service in the region, and not just the urbanized area but also the rural areas surrounding Charlottesville and Albemarle County,” said Tim Brulle of AECOM is the project manager for the vision plan.
Consultants hired by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission to craft a vision for how public transportation might work better in the Charlottesville area will present more details next Thursday.
The firm AECOM is the lead consultant with Jarrett Walker and Associates serving as a subcontractor. The study may recommend the eventualtransition to a unified regional transit authority. (meeting info)
“There will be a 90 minute presentation from the consultants to go over what we’ve done so far, survey the results of the first round of public engagement, and then also what they found for the vision for the community,” said Lucinda Shannon, a transportation planner for the TJPDC.