The Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS) set a new ridership figure last year, with over 1.5 million riders. That’s according to CTS Director Bill Watterson, who gave an update on the system at the July 18, 2007 meeting of the MPO Policy Board.
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“During my three years here, the way I’ve been trying to help make this more of a connected community is by having our transit service have routes that run on schedule,” he said. “Getting consensus that we need on how to change routes when resources are constrained is a big challenge.”
Watterson highlighted some recent changes that he said has helped boost ridership. The free trolley between UVA and downtown Charlottesville now runs every fifteen minutes. In late August, the Route 5 bus will travel every thirty minutes. Changes to other routes have resulted in more timely service. Some of the changes were made when the Downtown Transit Center opened in March. What had been circular routes were cut in two to make travel times more realistic.
“The initial indication is that these changes have helped them run on time,” he said. Watterson told the MPO that using the transit center as a focal point has made it so that buses are running more efficiently. “On Water Street, buses will come together particularly towards 15 minutes past the hour and 45 minutes past the hour, because then it facilitates moving, exchanging buses for any of the other routes. In the past we had buses doing circles, and there was never any place on the circle that could accommodate as many buses that were scheduled to be there at once.”
Watterson said adjustments will continue to be made on some routes. Extra stops will be added along Route 3B in response to requests made by residents of the Tenth and Page neighborhood. Sunday service will also begin on some routes including the trolley beginning in late August.
By the end of the year, riders who use two-dozen stops across the CTS system will be able to use an interactive kiosk to find out when the next bus will arrive. The same information will be made available to riders online.
Watterson said cooperation with the University of Virginia’s transit service will also continue. The two entities are now publishing a rider’s guide for both services, and UVA staff and students can ride CTS buses fare-free until spring of next year.
All of these changes have lead to a four percent increase in ridership, with 1,512,049 trips in FY2007.
Watterson also said CTS is taking steps to makes it fleet of vehicles more green. Last year, some buses began running on biodiesel, and by the end of this year, all should have made the conversion. CTS officials are also debating whether to buy hybrid buses in the near-future, though Watterson said they are significantly more expensive than buses with diesel engines.
When asked by Supervisor
(Jack Jouett District) if hybrids would provide any savings on fuel costs, Watterson said there would only be a marginal potential. “I really think it’s about communities across the country seeming to be feeling strongly that a leadership role should be played by the public sector.”
(Rio District) urged Watterson to buy the biodiesel from local sources if available, and questioned whether the benefit of hybrids would be cost-effective. Watterson responded that hybrids would be much quieter, something useful as CTS considers expanding night service in the future.
Citing a recent decision by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to allocate an additional $250,000 in funding for CTS, Slutzky urged Watterson to do whatever it could to market the extra services such as the expansion to Southwood Mobile Home on Route 2B.
“Now that we’re there, it’s really important that we get increased ridership out of our investment,” Slutzky said.
When asked what CTS is doing to improve accessibility to some of its stops in the county, Watterson asked for help from county staff so an inventory of all stops could be made. “We need to have someone on the county side tied to someone representing CTS so that we can make the best use of our time.”
Supervisor Rooker suggested part of the county’s additional funding could go to help pay for more bus shelters. Watterson said CTS has applied for federal funding to help pay for some of these. Albemarle County Chief of Planning
David Benish told the MPO that the County’s initiative to add more sidewalks gives more priority to areas along transit routes.