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May 19, 2011

Business leaders briefed on transit expansion

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DailyProgressThe manager of Charlottesville Area Transit told business leaders Wednesday that increased bus service is an asset for the local economy.

“Public transit can improve access to employment for those that are working in our community,” said Bill Watterson at a North Charlottesville Business Council luncheon.

The NCBC was created in part to oppose the construction of grade-separated interchanges on U.S. 29, a proposal that was considered as part of the Places29 master plan. The group later supported the plan after transportation improvements were limited to projects that had a reasonable chance of moving forward.

“[Transit] is one of the five doable things that we want to work towards,” said L.F. Wood, chairman of the NCBC.

20110518-watterson
Bill Watterson addressing the NCBC (Source: Andrew Shurtleff/Daily Progress)

Watterson said his agency hopes to relieve congestion on U.S. 29. Already the corridor’s route 7 is the second-most used CAT route, surpassed only by the free trolley.

“Together they serve about two-thirds of the approximately 2.3 million passengers that we’ll be serving this year,” Watterson said.

Watterson said new service could include an express route between Fashion Square and downtown via the Meadow Creek Parkway, a route connecting Barracks Road and the new Martha Jefferson Hospital, and a route between the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport and the University of Virginia.

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Airport CEO Barbara Hutchinson said she would welcome the transit, but added that several obstacles would have to be overcome. For instance, parking revenues make up approximately 50 percent of the airport’s $4 million budget.

“We wouldn’t want the transit system to assume that transit would be successful, so we would want to work together to ensure it would be,” Hutchison added.

Many of these routes will mean a rise in the number of buses that will pass through the Barracks Road Shopping Center. That will require construction of a new $1.7 million station.

Watterson said the number one request he hears is to extend service to Hollymead Town Center.

“It certainly was planned to be transit-ready, but, come this summer, it’s six years [since opening] and there’s still no bus service,” Watterson said.

Wendell Wood, the owner of Hollymead, is responsible for contributing $50,000 a year for 10 years once service is expanded there. In January, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors denied a request that he be released from that obligation.

Watterson said the Stonefield development will bring new roads, providing an opportunity to better serve the city’s Meadows neighborhood. That will also lead to the eventual removal of a bus stop at the corner of Angus Road and U.S. 29, a factor in traffic congestion in the southbound lane that leads to the U.S. 29/250 interchange.

 

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