By Brian Wheeler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Saturday, July 25, 2009

On July 22, 2009, the

Policy Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization

(MPO) for Charlottesville-Albemarle met and received an update on local

Intelligent Transportation Systems

(ITS).  These systems include synchronized traffic signals, traffic cameras, and message boards.

The MPO also received updates on bus ridership, the launch date of the new daily AMTRAK passenger train service from Charlottesville to Washington, DC, and next steps for the formation of a Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transit Authority.


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INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS


Dean Gustafson

, VDOT’s Northwest Regional Operations Director, gave the MPO an update on recent ITS initiatives.


TRANSIT UPDATE


Bill Watterson

, Director of the Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS), told the MPO that CTS surpassed two million passenger boardings for FY2009 which ended June 30th.  The 2,012,462 is the greatest number of passenger boardings CTS has ever had in one year.  Ridership by students and staff at the University of Virginia and the UVA Medical center were a significant contributor to the increased usage of public bus service in this first year of the UVA Photo ID Program.  UVA students and staff can ride for free on CTS.


Rebecca White

, UVA’s Director of Parking and Transportation said increased ridership by UVA on CTS continued to be strong this summer even after the departure of the students from the community.  White told Charlottesville Tomorrow that UVA had 20,000 “non-free Trolley” boardings on CTS in June 2009 alone.  Watterson said UVA ridership on CTS buses in FY2009 was up 41% over 2008.  Total UVA passenger boardings were almost 300,000 last year, an average of 25,000 per month.


AMTRAK PASSENGER RAIL TO DC

As

reported by Charlottesville Tomorrow in April 2009

, AMTRAK’s new passenger train from Lynchburg to Washington, DC will launch this fall, but not on the daily schedule desired by business and political leaders in Charlottesville.  The train is now scheduled to leave Lynchburg at 7:43 AM, come through Charlottesville around 8:45 AM, and arrive in Union Station by 11:20 AM, giving only about a five hour window of time before the returning south-bound train leaves the station.

The MPO discussed a resolution adopted at their May meeting expressing the MPO’s belief that the 11:20 AM arrival time in Washington “will not be useful for the business traveler.”  The resolution calls on the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to negotiate an improved schedule with freight operators in the corridor.

The resolution states in part: “[W]ith the approved schedule, the Lynchburg-DC train will add to the rail options available for recreational travelers and others making extended stays, but will perpetuate the existing situation wherein passenger rail is of limited utility to the business, professional, academic, government and defense-related sectors of the Charlottesville and Central Virginia region.”


Stephen Williams

, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (the TJPDC is staff to the MPO), announced that

the grand opening of the new AMTRAK route would be on September 29, 2009

.


REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY

The MPO also agreed to gather more information on a consulting project related to the formation of a new

Regional Transit Authority


The firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB), who developed the original
plans for the transit authority, will be asked to submit a more
detailed proposal and budget for work to help facilitate the
implementation plans.  The MPO will seek grant funds for the consulting project from the Virginia
Department of Rail and Public Transportation to help with the planning
effort. The final details of the consulting project will be brought
back to the MPO at a meeting later this year for final approval.

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