Bus riders who want to travel between downtown Charlottesville and Fashion Square mall in Albemarle County will have another option beginning in August.

The City Council on Monday approved the creation of a route that will expand service into an area of the community that is currently without public transit. 
 
The new route will travel through the city’s Locust Grove neighborhood and along Rio Road East in Albemarle.  
 
“This route alignment will allow passengers to travel between downtown and the northern corridor in 30 minutes instead of the 50 minutes required on the Route 7 bus,” said John Jones, manager of Charlottesville Area Transit.
 
The new route is just one recommendation made by the firm Nelson Nygaard as part of a $116,000 study of CAT routes.
 
Albemarle will contribute $47,000 toward the route, 46 percent of its annual operating cost. That brings the county’s total investment in CAT to just under $770,000 for the current fiscal year.
 
The new route is also aimed at relieving congestion on Route 7, which connects downtown and Fashion Square via the University of Virginia and U.S. 29. Route 7 is supposed to run every 15 minutes but is frequently late due to traffic congestion.
 
“It is almost never on time, leading to a phenomenon known as bus stacking,” Jones said. That leads to buses being right behind each other. To solve the problem, the system is also reducing the number of buses per hour from four to three.
 
Under the proposal, Route 7 will no longer travel along University Avenue and the city’s Corner district. Instead, the route will travel to the UVa hospital, and the Corner will be served by the free “trolley”-style bus and routes operated by University Transit Service.
 
“I would support the new line as it is, but don’t approve the Route 7 without consultation,” said Adam Lees, a former City Council candidate who was recently named to CHART, a citizens advisory group on transportation.
 
Lees’ comments were echoed by a member of the Transit Riders Association of Charlottesville.
 
“It seems that we should get public input before we make any changes,” said Lena Saville.
 
However, Jones said his reading of public comment were that changes to Route 7 and the new Route 11 were accepted by riders.
 
CAT staff are still working on an implementation plan for other recommendations made by Nelson Nygaard.
 
“We will be gathering public comment at upcoming meetings on July 8, 15 and 29 to identify potential issues or good suggestions for improvements before we move further forward,” Jones said. 
 
At first, Nelson Nygaard had called for the new route to travel through the city’s Greenbrier neighborhood.
 
Albemarle Supervisor Duane Snow credits his colleague Rodney Thomas for suggesting the new route, which will serve several new housing developments such as Treesdale Park.
 
“With the low-income housing along that road and places like Dunlora Forest being built and the people who already live there, we just felt strongly it needed to be part of the bus system,” Snow said.
 
The new route will also restore service to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center, which previously had been one endpoint of an abandoned line. The school’s director said he hopes being part of a main bus line will attract new students to adult-education programs that are held at night.  
 
“We need to get as much access to people to get people the training as we can, and transportation is a barrier,” said Adam Hastings, CATEC’s director.  
 
“We have people now who take the bus to Fashion Square mall and then walk the rest of the way in,” Hastings added.
 
Jones said the new route could be altered in the future to serve the new location of the Senior Center when it moves into the Belvedere community.
 
“We realize there will be a number of changes in the community in the next few years,” Jones said. “A lot of these proposals are about the here and now but will be able to accommodate expansion in the future.”