Board approves increased frequency for Wal-Mart bus

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has allocated funding for additional buses to run on the Charlottesville Transit Service’s (CTS) Route #5 during daytime hours. The approval came despite a request from the group Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together (IMPACT) to spend the money on adding five hours of night service to the route.

Launched in 2006,


seeks to bring different church congregations together in order to pursue “social justice” issues in Charlottesville and Albemarle. According to their website, 25 congregations in all have joined IMPACT “to work on the root causes of community problems.”

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One issue identified by IMPACT is the need to improve service gaps in the region’s transit system as way to make it easier for employees to get to and from work. At a community meeting on March 15, 2007, IMPACT asked members of the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to make public transit more accessible by establishing Sunday daytime service on CTS Route #7 and the free trolley, establishing daytime bus service to Southwood Mobile Home Park and the 5th Street Extended County Office Building, and adding 5 hours of night service on CTS Route #5.

The first two items have been implemented, but the third has not yet occurred.

CTS Route #5 will have more frequent service

Route #5 takes passengers from Barracks Road Shopping Center, through the Collonades to Fashion Square Mall before going through Rio Hill Shopping Center on its way to Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. The CTS website describes the route as being “mostly in Albemarle County.”

While service to Southwood has already begun on CTS Route #2B, the Board had to sign off on the appropriation of $250,000 to CTS to pay for it as well as other service expansions. According to a

staff report

, approximately $37,000 of that money will go to pay for Route #2B. County staff recommended that the rest of the funding go to pay for additional buses on Route #5 to increase service frequency, also known as headway. The idea is to ensure buses run every 30 minutes, as opposed to the current 45 minutes.

“Greater frequency provides more travel options to passengers and makes transit service more attractive,” reads the staff report.” Staff believes increasing service frequency will lead to increased ridership on this route.”

IMPACT Member Susan Pleiss

At least three dozen IMPACT members attended the July 11 meeting, and stood in unison as Susan Pleiss addressed the board. She said IMPACT was pleased to see service extended to Southwood and the County Office Building, but felt the county should choose to add night service on the Route #5 rather than increase service frequency.

“We have found that the chief reason to extend service hours on this route is to provide access to jobs at UVA for employees working evening shifts at both the medical center and on Grounds,” Pleiss told the Board.” These shifts end at 10:30 or 11:00 and reliable public transportation to and from work is needed for these entry-level wage earners. Evening service on Route #5 is needed today, and IMPACT is here to ask you to close this service gap.”

The funding item was originally part of the consent agenda for the meeting, but was pulled off at the request of Supervisor

David Slutzky

(Rio District), who agreed that $200,000 of the $250,000 would be better spent adding evening service to Route #5.

“Enough has been written to suggest that going from 45 minutes to 30 minutes is not going to give you as big of a ridership bump as going to 15 or 20 minute headways,” he said. He said adding night service at this time would not likely result in large numbers of riders either, but “we’d be serving a community of riders who don’t have a lot of other choices.”

After Slutzky requested changing the funding item to pay for night service, Supervisor

Ken Boyd

(Rivanna District) asked if there was enough money to pay for the extra hours.

Staff also recommended against pursuing extra hours at this time because the County will be applying with CTS for a Job Access Reverse Commute grant from the Federal Transit Administration for the next fiscal year. Supervisor

Dennis Rooker

(Jack Jouett District) expressed the concern that adding service at this time might compromise the ability of the county to apply for that funding opportunity.

CTS Director Bill Watterson was not in Lane Auditorium when the issue was discussed, but David Benish was able to report back later on during the meeting that the grant application would not be put in jeopardy if evening service were put into place now.

After being told by Benish that the $200,000 would cover the cost for evening service, supervisors Slutzky and Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller District) both said they would vote to switch the funding if two of their colleagues would agree. Rooker said he would be inclined to do so, but did not have socio-economic data to weight IMPACT’s claim that evening service would serve new riders.

After some discussion, supervisors voted 6-0 on a motion to approve staff’s recommendations. Increased service frequency on Route 5 will begin on August 25th.

Sean Tubbs