Charlottesville could soon join Waynesboro in footing part of the cost for a bus line connecting the city to the Shenandoah Valley.
The Augusta County Board of Supervisors and the Waynesboro City Council have approved financial backing to the Afton Express and Charlottesville City Council will consider a similar commitment during its meeting on Feb. 3.
The bus would be run by BRITE, which services Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro.
Charlottesville stops would include the University of Virginia, UVa Medical Center, downtown and the Amtrak station on West Main Street if requested by a passenger. A passenger also could request to be dropped off at the Waynesboro BRITE hub.
Staunton, Charlottesville, UVa, and Augusta and Albemarle counties, have agreed to support the proposed bus route.
“The need for transit service to connect the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville has been discussed for many years and has been identified in various transportation planning documents,” said Nancy Gourley, transit manager for the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, which also manages the BRITE public transportation service.
The financial commitment is a local match for a grant by the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.
Operating costs are expected at $1.15 million over the next four fiscal years. The Charlottesville area will provide $104,529 over that timeframe, with $69,655 from UVa and $17,437 from the city and county.
The CSPDC began posing the idea of a bus service from Harrisonburg to Charlottesville in 2016, but Harrisonburg, Rockingham County and James Madison University were hesitant to provide funding, according to the Daily News-Record.
Officials in that area were concerned that a 2017 feasibility study only received responses from 600 commuters.
The study found that about 1,500 UVa employees commute from the Valley, with most living within a 5-mile radius of the park-and-ride lots in Waynesboro and Staunton.
According to city documents, about 4,500 workers travel to the Charlottesville area from Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County.
Most commuting trips to Charlottesville begin or end in Waynesboro, Staunton, Fishersville or Stuarts Draft, with Waynesboro being the highest trip origin and destination spot, Gourley said. Officials expect the Afton Express will serve about 90 riders a day.
Officials are considering future stops in Crozet, 5th St. Station and Pantops in the future.
The goal is to obtain three 32-passenger buses, two of which would run daily, leaving one as a spare. All buses would be ADA-compliant, equipped with wheelchair accessibility, and clean diesel engines, Gourley said.
Four trips would be made during morning peak commute periods, between 5:15 and 9:25 a.m., and four more during peak evening periods, between 3 and 7:10 p.m. The buses would pick up or drop off passengers at designated stops once an hour.
The first 30 days of service would be free for commuters to try the system before fares of $3 for one-way transportation would be implemented. Discounted passes would be available for frequent users of the Afton Express.