Charlottesville City Council has taken action to allow the firm Veo to continue operating personal vehicles across the City of Charlottesville. On January 3, they voted to extend the company’s dockless mobility permit.
“This dockless mobility permit is how we have managed the for-profit scooter and bike-share programs around the city since 2019,” said Ben Chambers, the transportation planning manager for the city.
The current administration of the City of Charlottesville has inherited a city government that has struggled to turn ideas for road and multimodal improvement into completed projects. For instance, the Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded three Smart Scale grants to the city in 2016, but none of them has yet gone to construction. The city saved up millions for a West Main Streetscape project that was canceled last year with the money reprioritized for the renovation of Buford Middle School.
The task of reforming the city’s transportation process has fallen to Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders. Last year, he worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation on a plan to fix the city’s broken process, including the cancellation of a couple other projects. Last year, the city did not submit any applications through the Smart Scale process. That was one concession to VDOT officials who have become impatient with the city’s inability to deliver.
The transit agency that operates a daily bus between Staunton and Charlottesville has announced plans to expand the service in 2023. BRITE Bus and the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission launched the Afton Express in September 2021.
“The new schedule will include more frequent stops at some of the Charlottesville and Albemarle stops as well as a 5th trip in the evening to provide access to individuals with varied work schedules,” wrote Lucinda Shannon of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission in an email to area transit stakeholders.
Tonight the Charlottesville City Council will meet for the final time of 2022 and with that event will come the final monthtly report from interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. Often these items are discussed at the meeting, but sometimes they are not. So, here are some of the highlights:
There are a few more days to fill out the National Community Survey if you live in Charlottesville. The input will be used to inform the strategic plan that will soon get underway. (link to survey) (story)
A new person has begun work as a grants analyst to manage funds that flow from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Anthony Warn’s position is within in the Office of Community Solutions. The position of housing manager has not been filled. That person will ensure that the city’s affordability provisions are actually being met.
Charlottesville Area Transit is seeking ways to move forward with route changes, or at least expansion of service to the Center at Belvedere on Route 11. In a follow-up, CAT Director Garland Williams said service would begin in May 2023. However, other routes that went through a public process in 2021 will be delayed until later on in 2023.
Charlottesville Area Transit also continues to get ready to provide microtransit service in Albemarle County. Williams said that service will launch in late summer or early fall.
Staff is also working to expand the bus stop at Midway Manor which will a require an easement from the property owner.
The city is ready to take possession of plastic bags to provide eligible households with enough in advance of the plastic bag tax that goes into effect on January 1, 2023. Are people ready for this to occur?
Outgoing interim Police Chief Tito Durrette has ordered a State of the Department to be ready by the time Michael Kochis takes over as police chief.
“The audit’s goal is to provide stability within the organization ensuring an orderly and efficient transition of command. Some of the tasks that will be accomplished include conducting inventories of the property and evidence room; all firearms (including ammunition) and less-lethal weapons in our possession; the quartermaster’s space; our motorized and bicycle fleet; our communications and electronic systems, including all phones, radios, computers, and audio/video surveillance equipment; all badges and sworn credentials; and of all other fixed assets that are within the main facility and any of our offsite offices.”
Twenty percent of city employees participating in a phishing email campaign failed according to a report from the Department of Information Technology.
The Route 250 bypass fire-station is perhaps $1 million over estimate even after value-engineering.
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.
The Virginia Land Conservation Foundation has awarded nearly $15 million in grants across the Commonwealth to help preserve land from development. That includes $175,000 for Charlottesville to purchase 8.6 acres of land in Albemarle County along Moores Creek. That falls under the “Open Spaces and Parks” category of the program.
The money can be used to purchase property, acquire conservation easements, or some other method of preserving land. In this case, Charlottesville will use the funding to buy land currently used by the International Rescue Committee for an urban farming project. That use would continue.
“This property is a priority for developing the Moores Creek Greenway as it allows a shared use path and the [Rivanna Trail] to stay on the same side of Moores Creek as the trail upstream and means we don’t absolutely have to build a bridge, which could cost as much or more than the land itself,” said parks planner Chris Gensic in response to a question.
This past July, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority began running a second Amtrak service between Roanoke and D.C.’s Union Station. This additional train had been planned for many years, but it took negotiations with Norfolk Southern to make it work.
“We negotiated a second train on that route because ridership in 2019 actually hit record highs on that route, one of the best routes in the county in terms of a cost benefit analysis so we added a second train starting July 11,” said Michael McLaughlin is the chief operating officer of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority.
A key ingredient in plans to both reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions is public transportation. In Virginia, there’s a brand new person heading up efforts to improve bus and train routes throughout the Commonwealth. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation has named Zach Trogdon to be the new Chief of Public Transportation.
“Trogdon will lead the evaluation, assistance, and execution of a $4.7 billion portfolio of public transportation, commuter assistance, and congestion management programs throughout the Commonwealth,” reads a press release from the DRPT.
“We are just beginning the planning for the 2050 long-range transportation plan which is the high level plan that all of the projects that we’ll submit to Smart Scale and build will come out of,” Stolzenberg said. “It will be a roughly two year process, lots of community engagement, lots of stakeholder groups.”