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Regional Transit Vision would increase weekend bus service, shorten wait times

They want to know where you want to go, how you want to get there and how often.

Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s Regional Transit Partnership is looking toward improving bus and transit service throughout the region: from running more frequent schedules to all the right places, to the vehicle you ride to get there.

But first, they want to know what area residents who would take the transit want in a system.

“What we’re doing is designing kind of a vision of what the community wants for transit,” said Lucinda Shannon, the planning district’s transportation planning manager.

The planning district and the Regional Transit Partnership hosted an open house at Charlottesville’s Downtown Transit Center Tuesday to talk about the plan with community members and get feedback about what they want from their transit system.

“Most people we’ve talked to today said they want more frequent services and more services. They’re having trouble making connections. If the buses came more often than not, and they missed the connection, they might only have to wait ten to 15 minutes instead of an hour,” Shannon said. “And people really want more weekend services.”

The partnership is the official advisory board created by Charlottesville, Albemarle County and JAUNT in partnership with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. Its goal is to provide recommendations to the elected officials on transit-related matters.

The partnership recently released its regional transit vision for the Charlottesville area, the end result of a collaborative effort to look at what area transit is available and to create a clear goal for efficient, equitable and effective transit service.

The project study area includes the city and counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson, as well as Buckingham County, which is served by JAUNT.

The partners understands the difference between want and need and have developed two vision versions, one constrained by finances and the other an unconstrained view of what the partnership would like to see.

The constrained version cost about $35 million per year. That’s compared to the current area transit services that cost about $19 million per year to operate.

Constrained by finances, the vision sees all current bus routes in the urbanized areas operating seven days a week with significantly improved weekend schedules. It would increase transportation access so that 20% of all residents and 28% of low-income residents, as well as 24% of people of color in the urban area, would be close to frequent service. 31% of jobs in the urban area would also be close to frequent service.

The planning district considers frequent service to mean a bus every 15 minutes.

According to the plan, the average resident of the urbanized area would be able to get to 11,000 jobs and opportunities in the region within 60 minutes of travel, 12% more jobs than are currently being accessed by bus.

The unconstrained vision is the Regional Transit Partnership’s dream for area transit, Shannon said. It would cost an estimated $70 million per year, more than twice cost of the more constrained version.

Financially unfettered service would put more than a third of all residents, 36%, close to service. An estimated 28% of low income residents, half of people of color and 59% of jobs would be close to routes with frequent service.

“For people who live out in Lovingston and Nelson County, it’s two days a week that they are able to go to Charlottesville for their medical appointments and errands or shopping,” Shannon said. “They go in the morning and they get picked up around like 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. So it’s like an all day trip for them, a really long day.”

“So what we would propose to them is to have this run in 60 minutes all day, and it would be seven days a week instead of just two days,” Shannon said.

The big difference in the plans is the creation of a Bus Rapid Transit Line for fast, frequent day and night service between the Fashion Square Mall in Albemarle County, the University of Virginia, Downtown Charlottesville and the Pantops area.

Requiring a massive financial investment that currently is not available, Shannon said the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is funding a governance study in partnership with planning district, city and county figure out if there are ways to fund parts of the unconstrained plan.

“That’s going to look at how we could get the money to provide these services and how do we, as a region make decisions on how we spend that money and prioritize what services are most important to our community,” Shannon said. “So this vision study is saying what we would like to see, what we want to buy and the governance study will look at how we can buy that.”

To make a comment on the plans and take the survey, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZLVJ2NT before July 22.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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