Bus Rapid Transit Studied for Charlottesville

As part of its effort to clean up the congested U.S. 29 North corridor, Charlottesville and Albemarle County leaders have made a commitment to build a more robust bus system. Next year, they plan to ask the General Assembly to give them authority to create a regional transportation authority that can float bonds and levy fees. The money would help create a bus network linking downtown Charlottesville, the University of Virginia and the regional airport by way of the 29 corridor.

The big question now is whether to go a step further and create dedicated lanes for moving the sleek new buses faster and more reliably, reports the Daily Progress. Such a Bus Rapid Transit system would cost an estimated $138 million. That’s a lot of dough for a region the size of Charlottesville-Albemarle. Albemarle Supervisor David L. Slutzky thinks that future presidential administrations will be more transit friendly and willing to subsidize the project.

Bacon’s bottom line: BRT might be a good idea for the Charlottesville area: I would like to see an authoritative analysis. But relying upon the federal government for hand-outs is not. If BRT makes sense, the region should find a way for riders, property owners, employers and other beneficiaries to pay the tab. Taxpayers from Dubuque, Iowa, should not pay for Virginians’ regional transportation projects any more than we should pay for theirs.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


  1. E M Risse Avatar

    OK, no one seems interested in this topoic so here are some thoughts:

    BRT is primarily an “in-the-median” shared vehicle system.

    In US of A applications BRT would work for a “two or three big stops” subsystem. For example Air and Space Annex / Dulles South Terminal, Dulles North Terminal and an Intermodal terminal in Tysons Croner.

    In smaller agglomerations — e.g. Ottawa — BRT does not live up to its potential because there is not the nodal intensity of trips.

    Unless you put the Core stations it underground (very expensive) as in Seattle, you need a big platform over the ‘expressway’ of which the BRT occupies the median.

    Platforms such as Nordvest Zentrum in Frankfort AM would work well.

    South American applications — e.g. Curitba — have broad ‘Boulevards’ that seperate Village-scale Superblocks.

    Cville does not have the Critical Mass to support any of these spacial distribution strategies.

    What happened to the Street Car / Trolley idea for Cville?


  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think what Charlottesville needs to do is the same thing that Richmond and Fredericksburg needs to do and that is they need to put forth a clear vision of how much money a TA would bring in and what they would likely spend it on.

    Fundamentally, it is the responsibility and duty of the MPO to engage the citizens forthrightly – to let them know what the future is like for transportation infrastructure in the area without .. and with a TA.

    Even then.. it’s no guarantee that citizens will like what they see, as evidenced by HR/TW.

    and if Charlottesville, Richmond and Fredericksburg are not careful.. there could be a similar negative response from citizens – who basically are not too hot on the idea of raising taxes in the first place.. for projects that are basically “ideas”.

    there needs to be a compelling vision that citizens see as a benefit to the region.

  3. E M Risse Avatar


    The “compelling vision” must be a vision of a future, functional settlement pattern, not of this or that Mobility and Access system. That comes later.


  4. Anonymous Avatar

    I guess we don’t have to worry about momility and access, then.


  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    well.. unless the plan is to Nuke C’ville and start all over…

    what is the path EMR?

    how does C’ville or any area that already exists and cannot be torn down and recreated – evolve to more optimal settlement pattern?

    If I understand EMR correctly, it is futile to be thinking in terms of different ways of accomplishing access and mobility if the settlement pattern itself is dysfunctional.

    If so – fair enough.

    i.e. treating the symptoms instead of fixing the problem.

    but I guess i just don’t see a PRACTICAL and IMPLEMENTABLE path for C’ville to follow to deal with some of the Rt 29 issues that they say they want to fix with BRT.

    and for the record – C’ville needs to address it’s own issues and solutions without expecting taxpayers in Topeka to bail them out.

    And if BRT is way too expensive for C’ville to implement on it’s own, then talking about it as a solution is not productive and certainly a diversion from more practical approaches.

    What C’ville has done to Rt29, is the same thing that NoVa has done to many of it’s main transportation thoroughfares and that is allow business interests to optimize those roads to serve the economic interests of business owners – at the expense of the original purpose of the road.

    I don’t think anyone can claim that the original Rt 29 that runs north/south across Va was primarily intended to serve businesses and yet.. slowly and surely, businesses essentially “used” the transportation utility of mobility to provide floor traffic for their businesses (and access to the subdivisions adjacent to Rt 29).

    In many places, they kept VDOT from instituting Access Management measures to protect the integrity of the road to be able to move traffic.

    And in C’ville just like virtually every other place that did the same thing, VDOT and others attempted to “sidestep” the Rt 29 “problem” with a bypass – which turned out in C’ville’s case to be enormously controversial.

    In NoVa’s case, they did manage to build the Fairfax and Prince William County Parkways as well as some other limited-access, access-managed roads to essentially bypass the existing roads that no longer are useful for moving across the region.

    I would point out for EMR’s benefit that Warrenton (where EMR lives) did the same thing on it’s portion of Rt 29 – built an enormously expensive bypass to divert traffic around Warrenton.

    The difference is that the folks in C’ville will not agree to do this so now they are apparently looking at (by their own admission) BRT that is going to be more expensive than what they can afford.

    But … is the problem of localities co-opting state-wide road infrastructure such as Rt 29 for local economic development… is that about Settlement Patterns, Balanced Communities, NURs?

    Just, FYI, for those folks who may not have used Rt 29 SOUTH of C’ville to the NC Border, VDOT has done major work on that road especially from Lynchburg south – to upgrade it to a limited access road that bypasses most “settlements” big and small.

  6. Sean Tubbs Avatar

    We at Charlottesville Tomorrow covered the joint meeting of the Charlottesville and Albemarle County elected officials. The audio is posted with our article, along with a link to the consultant’s presentation.

    The streetcar idea is alive, and is still in the conceptual stage. I interviewed two of the people on a task force studying the issue last month. City Council will get their report later this spring.

Leave a Reply