The Charlottesville City Council will be briefed tonight on a $116,000 efficiency study of the city’s bus system.
Nelson Nygaard, a San Francisco-based transportation consultant, has altered many of its previous suggestions following feedback after a preliminary study was unveiled in December.
“We’re trying to find a balance to make the system better and not disenfranchise people for whom it works,” said Geoff Slater, a principal with the firm.
Slater said the main theme of the changes is to speed up the routes by making them straighter and more direct.
If adopted by the council, service would be extended to the city’s Greenbrier neighborhood, and would augment service to Pantops and areas south of town. A transit hub would be developed at
the University of Virginia Medical Center to facilitate transfers.
This is the second study of the system in the past three years. In 2011, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation hired the firm Connectics to evaluate the system.
“The City Council ultimately decided that it desired an evaluation of more significant changes,” reads the introduction to the latest study.
There will be fewer stops on all routes in order to speed up travel times.
“Like most places that have had service for a long time, there are stops in Charlottesville that are too close together,” Slater said. “In almost all cases, the most anyone will have to walk is another block.”
Route 1A and Route 1B will be combined into one route to serve Belmont. This route will now be extended to operate until 9:30 p.m. in order to serve students at Piedmont Virginia Community College.
However, the new Route 1 would eliminate most service from Market Street, a fact that has alarmed some in the Woolen Mills neighborhood.
“Ours is a long, linear neighborhood with only two major streets, so our route has always been very simple and streamlined,” said Victoria Dunham, a resident and former president of the neighborhood association. “It’s odd that they have proposed making the route more difficult now, with tight turns onto short and narrow side streets, instead of sticking to the main thoroughfares.”
However, Slater said Route 1 has been altered to serve the Jefferson Area Board for Aging’s new assisted living facility on Market Street.
“We heard a lot about that and so we have included that change,” Slater said.
Elsewhere, a loop through the Venable neighborhood will be eliminated because that area is served by UVa’s transit service.
Route 4 has seen the most changes since December in the consultant’s plan. It has been shifted onto Forest Hills Avenue from Cherry Avenue in response to public comments.
Similarly, the Route 3 bus will spend more time on Avon Street than originally suggested.
A new Route 11 will extend service to the Greenbrier neighborhood. It would operate between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., but would have one additional run at 9:15 p.m. to serve the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center.
The study also recommends eliminating the convention of having separate routes at night.
Nelson Nygaard calls for infrastructure improvements such as $75,000 to pay for new bus shelters and $142,000 for the new transfer hub at the UVa Medical Center.
The study originally assumed that the operating costs would remain the same, but the addition of some night service to PVCC and CATEC would mean an additional $50,000 each year, adding to CAT’s annual $6.2 million budget.
The study does not envision adding any additional service to parts of Albemarle.
“That’s not to say there aren’t needs in the county, but we were charged to improve service in the city,” Slater said.
City Council’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall.