By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The fate of a proposed Regional Transit Authority (RTA) could depend on who is selected in January to represent the

City Council

and the

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

on two regional transportation bodies.

Since a joint meeting in February 2008

, local officials have been pursuing the creation of a new authority to operate and expand local bus service.

Supervisor

David Slutzky

, a chief proponent of the RTA, was defeated in his bid for re-election to Albemarle’s Rio District seat earlier this month. Slutzky sits on both the MPO policy board and a committee created to guide the transition from a Charlottesville-owned bus system to one operated by an independent RTA.

The RTA working group last met in May of this year

.





Routes 5 and 7 serve Albemarle County
and run twice an hour from 6:00 AM to midnight, Monday through
Saturday. Route 7 is one of only two routes that run at all on Sunday.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed

a bill authorizing Charlottesville and Albemarle to create a transit authority

, but a

companion bill

that may have provided a funding source for enhanced service did not make it out of committee. That legislation would have authorized a referendum in which city and country residents would have voted on a sales tax increase to pay the RTA’s operating and capital costs. Among the questions to be answered is how much it will cost to implement the new authority and how assets of the Charlottesville Transit Service would be transferred to the RTA. Earlier this year, the MPO

had considered spending $40,000 to re-hire VHB

, the firm who originally developed

the RTA plan

, to provide an estimate as well as to answer other logistical and governance questions.

The

MPO Board

agreed at their meeting on Monday that city, county and MPO staff should instead conduct that work.

“At this point I think we ought to get these questions answered, and find out where we are,” said Supervisor

Dennis Rooker

(Jack Jouett). The MPO also agreed to reconvene the RTA working group in the new year.

However, City Councilor

Satyendra Huja

said further decisions should wait until the next City Council and Board of Supervisors appoint replacements for Councilor

Julian Taliaferro

and Slutzky on the MPO. Huja, who serves on the RTA working group with Councilor

Holly Edwards

, said he would like to remain on the MPO but would give up the seat if another Councilor was more interested.

A decision on who will replace Taliaferro will not be made until the new Council meets in January. Edwards said in an interview that she is interested in joining the MPO. She added she is a supporter of the RTA concept but has reservations.

“The RTA is like having a new toy for Christmas but without any of the batteries,” Edwards said.

Councilor-elect

Kristin Szakos

is also interested in serving on the MPO. In an interview before the election, Szakos said she feels the city and county should work together but was not yet convinced they needed to combine forces into an RTA.

“I think we do need to work closely together, because we have a lot of shared needs and a lot of shared resources that we can use,” Szakos said in September.

The Board of Supervisors will not appoint its new representatives to the MPO until January. Rooker is interested in serving another term, but his continued tenure is a matter for the full Board to decide.

Supervisor-elect

Rodney Thomas

(Rio) said before the election that he wants to study if the RTA can be funded using the revenue sharing money the county pays to the city. Supervisor-elect

Duane Snow

(Samuel Miller) said his support for an RTA depends on whether there are other resources for funding transit

“I would exhaust all the efforts to get the Commonwealth to pay attention to its infrastructure and their responsibilities,” Snow said.

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