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February 11, 2008

Cooperation on regional transit gets support from elected officials

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20080211rta1
Councilor Holly Edwards,Supervisor David Slutzky (both seated), and TJPDC's Harrison Rue (standing)

On February 11, 2008, the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors met jointly in a work session to review regional transit opportunities and challenges.  Officials reached consensus to pursue a Regional Transit Authority (RTA), though some thought the scope should be broadened beyond public transit such that the localities could also raise funds for road construction. An RTA will require enabling legislation from the General Assembly which will be pursued in the 2009 session.  With the legislature's blessing, the City and County would be able to raise money from a variety of funding sources to pay for operations and capital equipment.

Other localities like Richmond and Fredericksburg are expected to seek approval for similar transportation authorities next year and Charlottesville officials plan to work with them to present a united front to the General Assembly.  Officials are also watching closely to see if the transportation authorities approved for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads in 2007 survive court challenges this year.

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The work session was facilitated by Harrison Rue, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC).  Presentations were also made by Frank Spielberg of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB), the lead consultant for the community's RTA project, and Geoff Slater of Nelson Nygaard

Brtlasvegas Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vehicle in Las Vegas. Photo: Harrison Rue

Officials received preliminary information on the operational and capital costs for different transit service strategies.  The consultants are recommending significantly expanded bus service in both Charlottesville and Albemarle, though on a percentage basis, the County would pick up a much greater portion of the operational costs than it covers today.  One of the recommended service options is a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system running along the Route 29 corridor to downtown Charlottesville.

The baseline operational costs for public transit provided today by the Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS) is $5.9 million annually.  The expanded transit service options presented to officials ranged from $8.8 million to $16.7 million annually.  Capital costs range from $4.6 million for a small increase in bus service in the County to $138 million for a fully-implemented bus rapid transit system in a dedicated travel lane on Route 29.

Next the consultants will finalize their report and recommendations. Additional public meetings on the plans for creating a Regional Transit Authority will be held in 2008.

Brian Wheeler

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