Two upcoming planning efforts could help improve transit in the Charlottesville region.
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has received funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation for the creation of a regional transit vision plan, as well as a transit expansion study for Albemarle County.
With the two processes, local officials hope to improve regional transit.
The Charlottesville Area Regional Transit Vision Plan aims to help develop “a clear vision for the future of transit” in the region, and the process will result in a document that “identifies goals, objectives, strategies and time-specific recommendations for local transit.”
“We hope for this to be very similar to what the Richmond transit agency recently completed in the last few years,” Jessica Ballering, a planner with TJPDC, told the Metropolitan Planning Organization policy board last month.
Recommendations in the plan will be developed for short-term, long-term and extended long-term timeframes through 2050.
“It will not get down to the details of route planning, or determining how many vehicles to buy or what schedules to run the routes on,” Ballering said. “The point of the vision plan is to give the transit agencies all the tools to answer those questions and in a really cohesive way, so that our regional transit system is a great one that people can understand.”
The vision plan has a budget of $350,000, with $175,000 coming from the state and $87,500 from Albemarle County and Charlottesville each.
A consultant will be selected in the coming month, and the Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership will then serve as the advisory group for the vision plan and will approve a final scope of work. It’s estimated that the plan will be completed in the summer of 2022.
The other planning effort — the Albemarle County Transit Expansion Feasibility Study and Implementation Plan — will be ongoing during the same time.
The feasibility study and implementation plan will look at expanding transit service to “population and employment centers” in Albemarle — specifically the Pantops area, Monticello and along north U.S. 29 — and consider “innovative transit options,” including on-demand services.
TJPDC Executive Director Chip Boyle, who will soon be leaving to become Charlottesville’s city manager, said in an interview that there has been an ongoing conversation with all of the area transit agencies on how to try to serve Monticello, as the historic home of Thomas Jefferson has a need for transit for both visitors and workers.
“We knew we were looking at an Albemarle County expansion study, and thought that that would be a good spot to try to explore, for both of those reasons, both visitors and workers to be able to access Monticello,” Boyles said.
A consultant is being selected, and in March an advisory group will be appointed by Albemarle and TJPDC staff.
Stephen Johnson, with the JAUNT paratransit service, said he hopes the study will tell if on-demand transit is applicable in those specific areas in Albemarle.
“But we as a region need to have an understanding of when on-demand transit is the appropriate mode, versus fixed route, versus reservation demand response, so that whenever we’re considering expansion to any area, we’ll have a sense of which one is the most appropriate here, so that we’re getting the most value out of the operating costs,” he said at last month’s MPO tech committee meeting.
Albemarle’s study and plan has a budget of about $106,000, with about $53,100 coming from the state and $53,100 from the county. It’s estimated that the plan will be completed around the end of this year.
Boyles said Monticello did not contribute any funding to the study, but will have a seat on the advisory group.