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Public input sought on potential transit expansion in Albemarle

Albemarle County-area residents can now give feedback on possible recommendations to expand transit service in certain areas of the county, including a possible plan for door-to-door service to meet some people’s needs.

Consultants are working on a transit expansion study for Albemarle and are looking specifically at the Pantops area, Monticello and along north U.S. 29.

Currently, most of the possible recommendations include micro transit pilot projects, where a door-to-door, on-demand service would provide a transit option for people in those specific areas.

Community members can view the potential service scenarios and give feedback online at bit.ly/3C4GacW until Nov. 19.

Boris Palchik, with Foursquare ITP, one of the consultants working on the plan, said micro transit is a technology-driven, demand-response service.

“In the past, people have called it dial-a-ride service,” he said at a community meeting about the plan. “It doesn’t have a set route, it doesn’t have set bus stops, rather people requested as needed, the vehicle comes to them and takes them to their destination.”

He said anyone who has used Uber or Lyft before will be familiar with the way that micro transit works, but it’s also different from those services. For instance, micro transit tends to have a dedicated fleet of shorter buses or vans, and fares on micro transit tend to be predictable and affordable.

“Micro transit service is much more closely associated with and governed by public transit or public entities, so it might be part of a transit agency, or it might be sponsored by a county or a city, and they set the fare,” Palchik said.

A market and service analysis was done for the area, which looked at transit potential and need and included detailed profiles of current transit service. The analysis, along with feedback provided by riders and other community members were used to develop the recommendations.

Micro transit is typically effective in low-density, suburban environments, he said, where there is a lack of sidewalks and more dead-end streets.

“I hate to say it this way, but since it’s so new, it doesn’t quite have the stigma that other modes of transit have in some communities,” he said. “There are communities like Washington DC where transit is pretty ubiquitous, and everybody uses it, and people don’t think twice about it. But there are other communities where transit is not always viewed as something that is for the entire community, so to speak, and micro transit seems not to create those same perceptions.”

Data from micro transit service can also be used to gauge demand and eventually micro transit can be replaced or complemented with a fixed-route service if the demand warrants it, Palchik said.

Kevin McDermott, an Albemarle planning manager, said these potential scenarios were “just the first blush at some considerations,” and they’re going to have to be “hammered out quite a bit more.”

“There may be quite a few changes, and we don’t even know which option we’re selecting yet,” he said. “These are giving us some things to get feedback from and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

At this point, it’s not known what agency would be the operator of a micro transit service in Albemarle, if these recommendations were ultimately included in the plan and implemented by the county.

Scenarios

In the north U.S. 29 area, the first possible scenario is a proposed micro transit pilot project north of the Rivanna River, covering all of the county’s development area north of the river. Under the scenario, two vehicles would operate concurrently to help keep average wait times under 10 minutes, and service would be available between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays. There is a projected ridership of approximately 35 riders per weekday under this service.

“Because the micro transit service doesn’t extend to Charlottesville or to [the University of Virginia], the key destinations that people want to go to, there needs to be a transfer point where people can transfer from micro transit service into the broader [Charlottesville Area Transit] and Jaunt network,” Palchik said. “So we’ve designated the Walmart that’s up north on the [U.S.] 29 corridor as that transfer location.”

The second possible scenario for north U.S. 29 is a proposed micro transit pilot project north of Rio Road, covering all of the county’s development area north of Rio. Under this scenario, four vehicles would operate concurrently to help keep average wait times under 10 minutes, and service would be available between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays. There is a projected ridership of approximately 75 riders per weekday under this service.

CAT transfer locations under the second scenario could be at Fashion Square Mall or or at the Shops at Stonefield, Palchik said. The second scenario also recommends eliminating Jaunt’s 29 North CONNECT service.

In the Pantops area, the first possible scenario is to have a second CAT route added to the area north of U.S. 250. Under this scenario, one vehicle would offer hourly service, which would be available between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays. There is a projected ridership of approximately 20 riders per weekday under this service.

Route changes currently proposed by CAT would remove the Stony Point Road segment of Route 10.

The second possible scenario for Pantops is a proposed micro transit pilot project for the entire Pantops development area. Under this scenario, two vehicles would operate concurrently to help keep average wait times under 10 minutes, and service would be available between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays. There is a projected ridership of approximately 25 riders per weekday under this service.

CAT transfer locations could be at Pantops Shopping Center.

For Monticello, the first possible scenario would be to use its internal shuttles to provide hourly service between the Monticello Visitor Center and the Workforce Services Parking Lot at Piedmont Virginia Community College. It also recommends an autonomous vehicle pilot project aimed at replacing Monticello’s internal circulator shuttle with autonomous vehicles to help address driver shortages.

The second possible scenario for Monticello is a proposed micro transit project for a zone south of Interstate 64 that covers much of the development area and part of the rural area near Monticello and Highland. Under this scenario, two vehicles would operate concurrently to help keep average wait times under 10 minutes, and service would be available between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays. There is a projected ridership of approximately 33 riders per weekday under this service.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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