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.
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.
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.
In April, transit officials from Vermont briefed the Regional Transit Partnership on efforts in the Green Mountain State to use public transportation to get students to their schools. (read the story)
That has led to further discussion on the matter in Albemarle County. Charmane White is the new director of the transportation division for Albemarle schools and she spoke at the partnership’s meeting on May 26.
“I am having conversations now with our my supervisors and the Superintendent to look at how we would roll this out and of course we would have to get our community ready for this and parents and the administrators because this is just a different approach to what we have taken,” White said.
Albemarle County acted unconstitutionally when it demanded the developer of the Hollymead Town Center begin making $50,000 annual payments for a transit route operated by Jaunt. That’s according to a Virginia Supreme Court opinion issued this morning by Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn. (read the opinion)
“While a state, under its police power, may regulate land use to further legitimate state interests, it may not use this power as a cudgel to coerce concessions from a land-use applicant who seeks to repurpose her property,” reads the opinion.
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.
The city of Charlottesville has planned and built most of the transportation infrastructure projects within city limits since 2005. Soon after Deputy City Manager for Operations Sam Sanders took on the role last summer, he noticed there were some performance issues that require a total reboot of the way the city undertakes this work.
“Some initial assessments when I first arrived here was that the development review process within [the Department of Neighborhood Development Services] needed some attention,” Sanders said. “And in doing that work since I’ve been here I’ve discovered it was more than just that. It was also looking closely as the Public Works / Engineering side of the house.”
Skepticism of bus lanes, support for roundabout, more data needed on road diet details
On Tuesday, Charlottesville’s elected officials met with the appointed Charlottesville Planning Commission to give feedback on a set of proposals to slow down traffic on Fifth Street Extended.
Several groups have called upon to Council to take action to increase safety conditions on the roadway following a string of fatal crashes in 2020.
“Our consultant team and staff have been working for the last couple of months to expedite a design plan to improve transportation safety,” said James Freas, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services.
It has been nearly a dozen years since Amtrak running daily service through Charlottesville and we are perhaps months away from when a long-awaited second train will begin work. This week, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority’s Board of Directors met and got an update from executive director D.J. Stadtler, who said a deal with Norfolk Southern has to be closed. He expects that to happen next month or early in July. (meeting material)
“It’s only when that close takes place that we can start the new service,” Stadtler said. “There are three trains waiting for that close. One is the new Roanoke train which would be the second-round trip. One is the [third] Newport News train that was paused due to COVID/Amtrak staffing issues. And then the third one is the new Norfolk train.”
A new partnership has formed between the City of Charlottesville and an entity that secures open space easements in Virginia, and that will slightly increase the cost of land transactions.
“We have a property owner that we’ve been negotiating with and we have a granting agency in the Virginia Outdoors Foundation that’s providing the funding which has already been appropriated,” said Chris Gensic, a planner in the Parks and Recreation Department.