Hop on the Bus! My approach to public transportation

contact Brandon (434) 249-3312 brandoncollins@comcast.net

Early on in this campaign almost everyone I have spoken to has given thoughts on ways to improve public transit in Charlottesville. There are 2 major groups of people that we want to give access to public transportation- those who are transit dependent, and those who own cars but who we want to get on the bus instead. My approach to transit benefits both. In general, the City has done a fairly adequate job on the bus system (CAT). I am transit dependent. I ride the bus a lot, and have certainly appreciated the improvements made over the past few years, particularly regarding consistency. But we can do more, our residents deserve it, our earth deserves it, and our foreign policy is completely barbaric due to our dependency on our culture of the automobile. Looking through the executive summary of the Transit Development Plan (TDP) it seems that council too has been interested in expansion. There are still many things that should be done, and we can do these on a shorter timeline than council has offered so far.

Some key points to how I think about transit:
-transit is critical for all working people in Charlottesville, especially the lowest paid
-expansion of CAT means more job opportunities
-any new roads or road expansion will discourage new riders
-demand is hard to measure if we don’t already provide the service
-we have to expand hours of service, and offer full service on every day of the week
-mixed-use development around bus stops is a healthy way to build a sustainable city
-we must build a culture and society that is centered on mass transit

Late Night Service! Everyone I have talked to is in favor of this. We need to extend service until 3:00 am. The benefits to this are immense. First, Charlottesville has large amount of restaurant workers. These workers often make only $2.13 per hour, taking a cab home every night eats up hours of the only paycheck they receive. Workers should have a safe way to get home at night. Late night service could seriously reduce drunk driving. Having more busses on the streets late night could encourage a reduction of crime, as people are more likely to avoid serious acts of violence and crime if busses are coming through every half an hour. Late night service would encourage more students to visit downtown. If necessary we could start with limited service late night, even just a trolley from Barracks Rd. to Downtown and back, though this is not the best option. In order for the entire system to benefit the more likely people are able to benefit from expanded service.

Earlier starting hours- this goes hand in hand with late night service. If working folks can’t use the service to get to work, or to get home, they don’t use it at all. Too many people work early morning for service to not be offered early. A limited service could be a way to start this, but see above about how I feel about that. I support starting service at 5:30 am.

Route Expansion-
to the Airport, the TDP 4-6 year plan has Route 5B extending to Hollymeade, just a step away from the airport, lets take it all the way to CHO, or ensure that CHO sends a shuttle to the Hollymeade stop. The Long Term Plan to 2035 includes CHO, but that expansion is not due to happen for a long time, why not make it happen now?
-to Crozet and Scottsville, a direct service shuttle might be one way to do this. Many residents of the city could benefit from employment opportunities in these places, it is a great trip for folks to make to visit these small towns, and the residents of those towns would have easier access to Charlottesville. This also encourages less commuting by car and single drivers on the roads. I also hope this would better relations between the city and the county.
-to the Regional Jail and Monticello High School, many people work at these two institutions, we need to make public transit an option for these workers, as well as the students at MHS and the released prisoners, and their families. This is a part of the TDP, and I’m glad to see it happening.

Frequency expansion- we’ll never know how much demand there really is until we make things easier, more convenient, and cheaper. Too many routes only happen on the hour, lets try making all routes on the half hour at least. We should also consider expanding frequency to every 15 minutes, similar to route 7 and the trolley, such as 10 (Pantops) and 1 (PVCC). We should also double up on trolley service on Friday afternoons 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm, the trolley is often overcrowded with students heading downtown and “corner” workers heading home. I have personally witnessed, on more than a few occasions, trolleys so crowded that they couldn’t pick up more riders. This problem adds to the already existing divide between townspeople and students.

Affordable Transit- rider generated revenue for CAT is around 10% of overall funding for the bus system. We should consider making more routes free, maybe all of them. This is obviously an incentive to create new riders, and a much needed break for transit dependent residents. Other things we could consider: free service for the times and/or days that expansion is set to occur to encourage ridership; free passes for any resident without a car; free passes for any resident with an income of less than $30,000 annually; personal property tax (car) waiver for car owners who purchase year long bus pass.

JAUNT- could use hours expansion, and completely free use for persons with physical or mental disabilities, senior citizens, and anyone receiving food stamps.

Park and Ride- there is a rumor going around that there already exists “Park and Ride” at various places in the city and county, but I sure cant figure out where they are. If such things exist we should be heartily promoting these. We should be building more park and ride spots as well, and actively promoting them, particularly on 29N and Pantops Mountain.

Continued Fleet Upgrades- The hybrid buses are working out well, I am looking forward to seeing our entire fleet made of hybrids and then transitioning to all electric as we head into the future. Technology is now at a point where this can be a reality and we can avoid the decades old failed attempt at an electric fleet. Hopefully there will come a day when we see a need for much larger buses, and many more of them!

Transit Riders Council- something that could be organized by riders, but a hand from the city could be helpful. The idea would be to self organize in our own interests. If supported by the city this would be a great place for CAT workers to also participate. Such an organization differs from CHART in that riders and workers would focus specifically on the issues they want to address rather than planning, and would need no city or county appointments.

The Transit Development Plan (TDP)– has an overall good approach, but like too many things in government, it relies on slow reforms and doesn’t necessarily approach the fundamental transformation of how public services are provided. We need to prioritize the environment and the needs of working people in Charlottesville and Albemarle and a large majority of people agree that mass public transit is a key component to having a better world. I would like to see a TDP with a greater vision and bigger ambitions. We can’t just take our time on these things, and if we expand piecemeal the effects will will be diminished. So, some comments, on the TDP:
-We must insure that funding for CAT continues, and is expanded. Federal grants continue to be available for upgrades, but those may not always be there. We can also supplement our system using city revenue. Projected increases for operational costs of the TDP expansions are modest, we can supplement funding using city revenue and barely notice. The state offered transportation fund can be used for transit, let’s do just that instead of using the funds for road expansions or new costly roads that directly work against the effectiveness and ridership of public transit. So often we lament the uneven distribution of funds in favor of new roads compared to the tiny amounts of money offered for mass transit, let’ s do something about that!
-1-3 year plan makes plenty of sense, lets add to it! Glad to see service out to Avon St. Extended and presumably to the jail and MHS. We should not reduce the frequency of route 21 (night service to Belmont).
-4-6 year plan, why not now? It could take time to make it happen, but let’s get moving in a big way, put people to work, and get residents excited about a big expansion. The longer we wait the harder it becomes in the future to reverse degradation of the environment, and more cars will be on the road. Development in the county and city will proceed based on cars and roads rather than on a suitable bus system. As stated above- 5B should also go to the airport. I am unsure what “simplified” night service means, hopefully that means full service.
-Long range service plan to 2035– finally some bigger ideas, but way far off in the future. Again the longer we wait, the harder it will be make the whole concept of mass transit a factor in creating the kind of world we want to see. In the year 2035 the city and county will be massively overdeveloped based on car travel, the needs of transit riders will have changed greatly. Let’s make some of these ideas a priority now, and have even more ambitious plans reaching for 2035, when I will be 61 years old, my daughter will be in her late thirties, our entire population will be in the habit of participating in a car based city rather than a better society where transportation is a collective effort. The amount of harm to the planet in that time could be the nail in the coffin for all of us. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that climate change is a reality and we are soon approaching the time when it is all irreversible. Warfare based on securing oil markets will increase in much greater ways than we already have. How about we get CHO service, park and ride, full (rather than expanded) Sunday service, late night and early morning service, route expansions, by 2015?
That is when my term on city council will be over 🙂

Some cool links regarding public transportation-
CAT Charlottesville Area Transit
CHART
Transit Development Plan and other reports
Charlottesville Citizens for Better Rail Alternatives
Richmond Transit Riders Union

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One Response to Hop on the Bus! My approach to public transportation

  1. Camilla says:

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    You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that
    I actually will need to…HaHa). You certainly
    put a new spin on a subject that has been written about for years.
    Great stuff, just wonderful!

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