Category Archives: Transit

City manager’s report: Collective bargaining process soon to begin

Yesterday’s Week Ahead newsletter was too long to feature anything from a very informative section of the agenda for tonight’s City Council. Here are some highlights from the city government in Charlottesville from the March 6 report from interim city manager Michael C. Rogers.  (read the report)

  • For some reason, the top item is an announcement of nonstop flights from Charlottesville to Orlando from the Charlottesville Regional Airport beginning on May 3. Direct flights to Philadelphia on Americans Airlines begin on April 4. 
  • The city has hired a Labor Relations Administrator to serve as the negotiator in the forthcoming collective bargaining between employees and management. Sarah Miller Espinoza has also performed similar duties in Fairfax County and the city of Alexandria. The city has hired Jimmy Morani to represent management. Espinoza will lay out the rules for the petition and election process in 21 days. Councilors are to be trained by someone from the firm Venable today. 
  • Mark your calendars for a strategic planning retreat for City Council on May 5 and May 6. The North Carolina-based firm Raftelis was hired in January to work on the document which has been delayed a few years. 
  • There’s one more week to submit a poster for a contest honoring the 50th anniversary of the City Market. Learn more about that in my story from February 15, 2023. The market season will begin on April 1. 
  • The window is open for elderly and disabled community members to apply for relief from real property taxes and will close on May 1. See the image below for criteria or visit the Commissioner of Revenue’s section of the city’s website
  • A request for proposals is expected to go out this month for a firm to assist Charlottesville Area Transit in providing microtransit service in Albemarle with service anticipated for the summer. Learn more about the program from this article I wrote on February 14, 2023.
  • Fifteen percent of city staff failed an email phishing campaign in February, the same rate as the previous training exercise. 
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Planning continues for CAT to run microtransit in Albemarle County

Charlottesville Area Transit has a contract to work with Albemarle County to provide microtransit service in the area along U.S. 29 in the urban ring as well as in the Pantops area. 

“Microtransit is an on-demand transportation solution really being implemented across the nation and here in Virginia,” said Jessica Choi, a transit planner with the firm Kimley Horn. “Folks can make real time trip requests and those trips are dynamically routed and programmed through the application and the vehicle is dynamically routed to serve those trips.” 

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UTS continues night-service pilot, should receive four electric buses this year

The University Transit Service offers 15-minute headways while school is in session. Last year, the service began to offer some late-night service. Kendall Howell is the assistant director of UTS.

“We run one route that kind of goes through most popular areas like the library, the Corner, the dorms,” Howell said. “And then we run what used to be known as Safe Ride but it has been rebranded as UTS On-Demand.” 

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Albemarle Schools continues to seek ways to address drive shortages

One of the main issues facing any transit agency is the shortage of drivers. That’s certainly the case for pupil transportation at Albemarle County Public Schools. Charmane White is the director of transportation and she said her team is preparing a strategic plan to address the issue. 

“Part of that recruitment and retention, as you know, is that we went up to $21.50 an hour,” White said. 

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Jaunt provides update at Regional Transit Partnership

Every single meeting of the RTP begins with a chance for people to speak out about transit-related issues. At the January meeting, the town manager of Scottsville put in a word for Jaunt, the only transit service to serve his community and Buckingham County. 

“I just want to represent the Scottsville neighbors who rely on this service,” said Matt Lawless. “Elders going to appointments and the few younger commuters who are really happy to use Jaunt regularly in their commuter service.” 

That cued up an update from Jaunt to begin the year. Jaunt is a public service corporation with stock held by five area localities.  (view the presentation)

“Our organizational structure is the same as [Greater Richmond Transit Company] in Richmond,” said Ted Rieck, the CEO of Jaunt. “We think we’re a good investment. Other studies have shown that every dollar spent on transit turns over seven times in the community.” 

Rieck does not shy away from acknowledging a rocky few years for Jaunt. 

“Jaunt has been set with challenge over the last couple of years,” Rieck said. “That’s no news. A couple of years ago the agency became embroiled in controversy with staff members that made some bad decisions.” 

One of those was to mix federal funds for rural service with federal funds for urban service. The Federal Transit Administration penalizes such actions. This will have a strain on the ability to purchase new rolling stock that serves the rural area. Rieck said a future Regional Transportation Authority will have to contend with many of these same issues. 

A chart from the Jaunt presentation shows that in FY21, federal funding was used to cover more of the operating budget for Jaunt in Louisa (Credit: Jaunt)  

Jaunt is planning for the future by being ready to provide microtransit service, planning for the use of alternative fuels, and recovering ridership that is still rebounding post-pandemic. They have applied for a grant to begin implementing the recommendation of a committee that suggests going electric is the answer for fixed-route service. 

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 February 14, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

Afton Express to expand service in 2023

One of the topics discussed over the years at the Regional Transit Partnership has been planning for new service in the Staunton area and the Charlottesville area. The Afton Express launched on September 1, 2021 and the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission recently issued an annual report for the first 16 months of service. 

“Despite launching the service in the midst of a global pandemic when many commuters were working from home, a small group of dedicated riders showed up and have continued riding ever since,” reads the executive summary of the report. “This group of passengers grows each month.” 

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Afton Express expanding service in 2023

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. 

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City manager report: CAT service to Center slated to start in May 2023

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?
  • Work on the city’s economic development strategic plan will begin soon. The city has announced that Resonance has been hired do the work with completion in the summer.  I had posted about the award on November 21, 2022
  • 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. 
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Governance study: A primer on regional transit systems

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. 

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DRPT names new public transportation chief

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

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