Officials with Charlottesville Area Transit are planning for a new route to serve the Wegmans at 5th Street Station when it opens this fall, but no decision has been made about whether it will travel farther south in Albemarle County.
“We’re surveying residents in the Mill Creek area to see what the demand might be for services in there before we make any decisions,” John Jones, manager of CAT, said at a recent meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s policy board.
Jones said he originally had believed the Wegmans would not be open until April 2017, but was told later by store representatives that they want transit service in place for a November opening.
The company reiterated a fall opening in a Tuesday news release.
Jones said the funding source for the $278,000 in annual operating costs for the additional bus route will have to be determined.
“We’ve modified our city and county budget requests to reflect the need for that,” he said.
CAT will receive some money from the new shopping center’s developer to cover part of the route’s startup costs.
Riverbend Development is required by a proffer with the county from the rezoning to make a one-time payment of $100,000 for transit before the first certificate of occupancy is issued.
But the exact route also could depend on how it is funded.
“Right now, the predominant accepted scenario that we have would be a loop out of downtown down Fifth Street Extended to the 5th Street Station Parkway over to Avon Extended and back into downtown,” Jones said.
However, if Mill Creek-area residents want service, another scenario could be drawn up.
“This is all being done at the staff level and I’m not ready to put anything out to the public yet,” Jones said. “We need to see what our funding partners have in place before we’re ready to move forward.”
“I’ve never really understood during budget cycle when we get increases for new routes that might be proposed,” McKeel said. “We’re trying to figure out at what point we have some input into what we might prioritize in Albemarle because it may not be the same as what we’re actually being asked to fund.”
“We present you with what we feel we need and it’s up to you at the Board of Supervisors level to approve or disapprove,” Jones said.
CAT is owned by the city of Charlottesville and not Albemarle County. Efforts to create a regional transit authority were put on the shelf in 2010, though the region’s three transit services — CAT, the University Transit Service and JAUNT — are studying how they can work better together.
“This process needs to be a lot better,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek. “We’re the payers here and we need to be included here.”
Jones said he is working with Albemarle community development staff on the new route and there are no current plans to offer major route changes that would affect the county.
“Your community development department is aware of all of this and the cost involved,” Jones said.