John Jones before Council

The City Council has adopted changes to the Charlottesville Area Transit system that will take effect at the beginning of 2014.

The realignment is the culmination of a $116,000 study by a national transportation consultant to redraw the system to provide more efficient service.

“The changes will [ensure] consistent service delivery, improve the reliability of our routes, work to expand the system and will develop new hubs,” said John Jones, the manager of CAT.

The Nelson Nygaard study was completed in April, but CAT held community meetings in July to tweak the expert suggestions.

Jones said CAT staff tested some of the recommended routes but found many did not meet time goals. The Nelson Nygaard study had been revenue-neutral, but Jones said the adjustments made by his staff will increase operating costs by $94,000 a year.

“With the rubber to the road, some tweaks had to be made, and that increased our overall operating costs,” Jones said.

The changes had the tentative support of one advocacy group.

“We think there are a lot of improvements here and it is definitely better than what Nelson Nygaard had [originally] come up with,”
said Lena Seville of the Transit Riders Association of Charlottesville. She said more people will have access to grocery stores and other important destinations thanks to the changes.

Routes 1A and 1B will be combined into a single route serving the Belmont neighborhood and Piedmont Virginia Community College, but no buses will run on Saturdays.

Route 2 will be eliminated because its service area will be covered by other lines.

Route 3 will now travel south to a Region 10 building and the Albemarle County Office Building on Fifth Street Extended.

Jones said the recommendations will fix one of the system’s most circuitous routes.

“Route 4 has been our problem child for a long time,” Jones said. “We have statistics that show that nearly every day since 2009, this route has failed to meet schedule no matter what we did with it.”

Route 4 will now extend to the Willoughby Shopping Center, which itself will now be served by three routes in total. Route 6 will pick up the Prospect Avenue area, and will also terminate at the shopping center.

Route 8 will now travel to the Shops at Stonefield and the Virginia Workforce Center.

Route 9 will travel between the University of Virginia Medical Center and Fashion Square mall without traveling downtown.

However, cutbacks will be made to Route 10, the line that serves Pantops. There will no longer be night service and buses will not travel on South Pantops Boulevard due to low ridership.

“Since 2010, we have discovered there is no ridership on that piece of the route,” Jones said. “It’s never picked up a person and it’s never dropped off a person.”

Seville urged councilors to do what they can to add night service to Pantops, given the number of city residents who work at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

No changes will occur to Routes 5 and 7.

There also will no longer be separate route numbers for night service.

“All the [night route numbers] will go away but will be replaced with the same number as the day routes,” Jones said. “People won’t have to wonder where there route is on the schedule.”

The council endorsed the changes.

“The improvement to the predictability of the system is really commendable,” Councilor Kathy Galvin said.

Councilors also endorsed the creation of a volunteer board to advise Jones on CAT services and policies, but wanted more details on how it would operate.