At their July 19, 2006 meeting, the Policy Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) approved a resolution of intent committing the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County to the establishment of a regional transit authority .  The approved resolution will now go before the City Council and Board of Supervisors for endorsement.

At is June 2006 meeting, the MPO agreed on the goal to create a single regional transit authority to better coordinate public transit efforts in the community, particularly as the County’s needs expand.  It was determined in June that a more concrete outline of the authority’s structure should be developed before approaching the University of Virginia which operates its own transit service.

Highlights of the important points in the discussion are outlined below.  The MPO will discuss this further at its September 2006 meeting.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060719-MPO-Transit.mp3

Highlights:

    01:18 — Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) introduces resolution of intent [ click here to download resolution ]

    01:50 — Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) mentions that Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has already indicated their support for resolution as drafted

    02:34 — David Slutzky points out that the University of Virginia is not a signatory to the resolution.  He makes clear his view that, “it’s a clear desire on the part of this MPO Policy Board to have the University participate as deeply as we can persuade them to do…”

    09:35 — Harrison Rue, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), recommends that the MPO Policy Board vote to approve the resolution (as amended in the discussion) and send it to City Council and the Board of Supervisors for their approval. The Board then approved the resolution of intent [ click here to download approved resolution ]

    10:25 — Harrison Rue introduces discussion of the Regional Transit Authority workplan for the next 6-8 months.

    16:24 — Councilor Kevin Lynch recommends skipping the visioning process in the proposed workplan to focus immediately instead on service and operational issues.  Dennis Rooker also questions need for visioning process and cites numerous studies done in the community that help document the vision for public transit that already exists.  Board members discuss bus rapid transit (BRT) as a solution to be investigated by the new authority.

    26:14 — Dennis Rooker mentions County is coming into this authority assuming it is going to have to make greater investments in transit than it has made in the past.

    29:20 — David Slutzky asks about status of BRT study. Bill Watterson, CTS, responds that the draft RFP is still in the review stage and it will consider the corridors of West Main Street and Route 29 North for BRT and streetcar systems .

    33:35 — Dennis Rooker says a determination needs to be made early on as to whether UVA is going to make a commitment to this process.  Mr. Rooker stated that, “a significant component of transit in the community is provided by the University….I think that the University wants to make certain that the funding formulas will be fair, that they wouldn’t have significant increases over their current costs, and that they would have somewhat the same level of service.”  The Board discusses the goal of having one system, with University involvement and participation, that then may be eligible for greater federal funding.

    39:00 — Councilor Dave Norris asks what specific actions need to be taken to bring the University to the table.

    39:33 — Julia Monteith, Senior Land Use Planner, representing the University of Virginia, describes the discussions taking place on the regional transit authority at UVA.  She indicates the University is taking a wait and see approach since past attempts to have a regional authority have not moved forward.

    44:05 — The Policy Board discusses the draft workplan and timeline

    48:00 — Dennis Rooker suggests the role of the MPO Policy Board at this time should be to design funding formulas for each jurisdiction’s contributions to the authority as opposed to getting involved in the details of specific routing and operational issues that would be handled by the new authority.

    51:55 — David Slutzky suggests that the authority could “unravel” if cost issues are addressed ahead of a visioning process about a cohesive transit system identified to meet the community’s needs.

    59:55 — On the scale of the County’s involvement, David Slutzky states, “I don’t envision Albemarle County staying stagnant in its funding, or even remotely close to it, nor would I want our current level of service in the County to be even remotely what it is now, otherwise I don’t know why we would be doing this…”

    1:00:28 — Dennis Rooker suggests the authority should be established initially to handle the existing level of service of the City and the County at the same cost level, then it can develop further from that point.  “What I don’t want to do is design a grandiose system that, when we put the cost on the table, immediately causes it to fail because it has got this gigantic price tag on it. I want to make certain we design something that can work at various levels of funding, starting out with what we have now, and working up from there.”

    1:02:00 — Morteza Salehi, VDOT’s Culpeper District Administrator, outlines a framework for next steps.

    1:04:50 — Kevin Lynch suggests more information is required on the scope of a new approach to transit if it is going to include places like Pantops and Avon St/Fifth St areas.

    1:08:45 — Dennis Rooker indicates that he wants the staff of the new regional transit authority to make recommendations on the design of the system and that he thinks the MPO Policy Board should take care of the “nuts and bolts” of getting the structure of the authority established and operational.

    1:09:45 — Julia Monteith shares that the University Transit System (UTS) has a fully functional system in place right now and indicates it would be asking a lot to have the University involved without additional information on the City and County’s plans.  Members encouraged the University to be at the table to help shape the structure of the authority.  Ms. Monteith suggests one scenario under consideration should include leaving UTS as it is.

Brian Wheeler