UVA renews request for $2 million from City-County to improve Ivy Road

At their July 17, 2008 meeting, the Planning and Coordination Council’s Tech Committee (PACC Tech) received updates from Albemarle County, Charlottesville City, and University of Virginia staff on the various public transit efforts ongoing in the community. The meeting was by chaired by David Neuman, Architect for the University of Virginia.

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Julia Monteith, a Senior Land Use Planner at UVA, began the meeting by presenting a report from the Ivy Road TriModal (drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists) Improvements Taskforce, an informal group made up of staff members from the University of Virginia, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the City of Charlottesville, and Albemarle County. The University has proposed a

$5 million plan

to make the Ivy Road entrance corridor safer for pedestrian and bicycle traffic by implementing recommendations from a study commissioned by UVA, the City, and the County in 1994. The study, conducted by Lardner Klein Landscape Architects, called for additional sidewalks, bike lanes, and plantings, as well as improved lighting and modified utilities wiring. Since 1994, the City and the County have applied for funds from the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), but VDOT has not awarded the necessary funds.

VDOT has a program to match funds put up by localities in Virginia to construct improvements, but money from this fund is available only for a locality’s top priorities. Currently, the Ivy corridor improvements are not prioritized highly enough to receive the matching funds. The University is suggesting that the City and the County increase the priority of these improvements, and then each put in $1 million of their own money, to be matched by $2 million from VDOT. UVA would contribute an additional $1 million, resulting in the $5 million needed to implement the recommendations. The City and County have not changed their funding priorities in the manner that UVA is requesting given the limited transportation funds available from the state. David Neuman jokingly suggested that they “pass the hat” around the meeting to raise the necessary five million dollars.

The University

first requested $2 million

from City and County taxpayers at the August 2007 PACC meeting.  In that discussion, Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) suggested such a project might be funded by a new events tax, since the University was looking to spruce up the entrance corridor to the John Paul Jones Arena and a future arts district at the Ivy Road and Emmet street intersection.

Next, County Planner Jaundiego Wade presented the MPO’s report on the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) the City and County have been working to establish. The University is not participating as an official party in the RTA’s formation at this time. In April of 2007 the Virginia state legislature passed

HB 3202

, which created RTA’s in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, tasked with coordinating transit for their region and levying taxes to carry out improvements. The Virginia Supreme Court struck down the taxing authority of these bodies as unconstitutional, but ruled that the concept of an RTA was valid. Wade laid out a number of goals for the RTA, including providing more effective service, pursuing more efficient coordination and integration, more effectively addressing air quality and land use issues, and relieving traffic congestion on area roads.

Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning for Albemarle County, pointed out that there may be limits on how much an RTA in this community could accomplish, because “transit depends on proximity of riders, and typically there are some densities that are associated with transit that can be successful, and we’re not probably very close in most areas of the county, in fact even in the City we’re probably not hitting those kinds of levels.” The next step for the RTA is an August joint work session where the County Board of Supervisors and the City Council will draft a resolution to be presented to the Virginia General Assembly, asking the Assembly to authorize a Charlottesville-Albemarle RTA.

Andy Mansfield and Mike Goddard, filling in for UVA Director of Parking and Transportation Rebecca White, detailed the University’s current transportation efforts. Goddard showed off the department’s new website design, which features local news and events, as well as detailed bus schedules and recommended walking and biking routes. Mansfield previewed upcoming changes to the way UVA administers automotive transport on campus, including a new program of discounts and incentives for UVA employees to carpool, known as “Cavpool.” He also revealed that the University is in talks with a company called Zipcar, which provides cars in cities and on campuses that can be rented by the hour. Students would only have to provide a credit card to obtain the car, and pay an hourly rate; insurance, gas, and car maintenance are taken care of by the company. UVA will start the program with six cars, which would be reserved for use by students and employees.

Neuman expressed his support for a Human Resources decision to officially allow alternative work scheduling, enabling UVA employees to reduce their travel costs by varying their schedule. He also expressed his hope that this policy, coupled with the Cavpool program, would result in significant changes in travel habits of employees. Mansfield agreed, and stated that they are already seeing reductions in student driving and parking as a result of improvements in the UVA bus system.

The next meeting of PACC Tech will be held on October 16, 2008.

Ben Doernberg & Brian Wheeler