On November 21, 2007, the policy board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) held their
and decided on the organizational structure for the new
Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transit Authority
. Public transit in the area is currently provided primarily by the University of Virginia and the City of Charlottesville. The
MPO decided in July 2006
to explore the feasibility of creating a new transit entity which could expand operations into an urbanizing Albemarle County.
Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB)
began work as the lead consultant for the project in May 2007.
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At this month’s meeting, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, the MPO received three technical reports prepared by VHB’s Frank Spielberg. The reports covered the topics of
management and governance
transit supportive corridors
transit service strategies
. Most of the MPO’s discussion focused on the recommendations for six possible organizational structures for increased cooperation on transit. The options presented were as follows:
City Councilor Dave Norris reflected the consensus of the decision makers when he zeroed in on his preference for how to structure the new organization.
“Any of [the] options that does not provide for the possibility of UVA to be a full and equal partner is off the table from my perspective. My continuing hope is that at some point UVA will be a full and equal partner,” said Norris.
Two of the six organizational structures (#1 or #4 above) would allow for UVA to be a full participant, however only one of those, a legislatively-enabled regional transit authority, allows for the transit entity to raise new funds [
click to view PDF of chart of options at right
]. Norris said keeping the door open for UVA and the ability to raise tax revenues were his deciding factors. “[T]he potential for new funding is also an essential piece of this puzzle,” said Norris. While it has representation on the MPO, the University of Virginia has opted to not participate in the regional transit initiative at this time.
Having reached consensus on how to structure the organization, Albemarle County Supervisor, and MPO Chairman, David Slutzky (Rio) pushed for getting legislative authority in the upcoming 2008 General Assembly session. He asked the Board to consider getting resolutions approved by City Council and the Board of Supervisors such that the area’s local delegation could submit appropriate bills in Richmond next month. Harrison Rue, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and staff to the MPO, outlined some of the challenges of getting legislation passed. He described the expectations legislators would have with respect to the City and County first finalizing the many management and governance issues before any legislation would be likely to get approved.
Spielberg described the challenges before the MPO. “[T]here are a number of other issues that were raised in our discussions…. What is the composition of the [RTA’s] board? What are the bylaws?…How are decisions made? Is there equal representation by each jurisdiction?…How are the costs allocated? Bylaws…will take some negotiation between the City and the County….The legislature tends to prefers to put a fair amount of detail into this when they set up an authority.”
The MPO reached consensus to wait and seek legislative authority in 2009 while looking for any opportunities to get this issue in front of the General Assembly in 2008.
Wrapping up their discussion on management and governance issues, the MPO agreed to the following additional goals:
In another technical report, VHB presented four options for transit service strategies.
Capital cost estimates for three options range from a low of $4.6 million for simply expanding existing bus service to a high of $31.8-$123 million for a bus rapid transit system. Not all Board members were satisfied with the four options presented and Supervisor David Slutzky said he would be reluctant to share them with his Board without some modifications. Rue responded that the consultant’s report would stand as a starting point for their work and that the service options would be refined by the MPO and staff at future meetings.
Next, the MPO will share their governance recommendations on the regional transit plan with City Council and the Board of Supervisors gathering feedback for review at the MPO’s January 2008 meeting. Early in 2008, the MPO expects to hold a second joint work session for local officials and to utilize a Federal Transit Administration grant to facilitate a broader public involvement process.