The Route 29 Project Delivery Advisory Panel—representing local governments, businesses, land owners and other stakeholders overseeing more than $200M worth of development along route 29 in Albemarle and Charlottesville—is looking at ways to fast-track the “Best Buy ramp” (an additional lane leading from U.S. 29 onto the westbound U.S. 250 bypass) even as members of the panel have complained to Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne that they were not being listened to by the group facilitator.
NBC29 reports on upcoming changes to West Main which would expand sidewalks, eliminate some parking spaces, and leave room for a dedicated bicycle lane. Local merchants, especially restaurants, like the idea of increased pedestrian traffic and being able to seat more customers outside. In typical fashion, the comments section is mainly about what terrible people bicycle riders are.
Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT) is looking at a new smartcard fare system, reports Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow. The new systems, due to be installed in about nine months, will take both cash and smartcards that can debit the fare automatically when passengers tap them against an electronic sensor.
Even as CAT moves to implement new fare technology, the article points out that ridership is still down from last year.
The new smartcard fare system comes from
British Columbia-based Fare Logistics the US-based Trapeze Group . The video below demonstrates a similar system for Collier Valley Florida transit, also known as CAT.
The Albemarle County School Board is looking at restricting school buses to major roads on snowy days, Tim Shea reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. County schools have closed for snow on 11 days this winter (prior to Monday’s snow), and the school transportation director figures that would have been closer to 7 days if they weren’t picking up kids on rural routes. This discussion is prompted by complaints of parents who live in developed areas of the county, whose subdivisions are plowed promptly, and are mystified by school closings. (Of course, there are huge swaths of the county where it can take a day or two for a plow to come through.) Those folks don’t know why school has to be cancelled for all kids just because a minority of kids can’t make it. So the proposal being considered is to establish “plan B routes,” basically driving school buses only on major roads, and putting the onus on parents (and kids) to get themselves to bus stops along those roads. The routes they’re looking at now would leave out 1,600 kids, or about 12% of students.
It turns out, interestingly, that Albemarle has already tried this, in the late 1990s. It didn’t work. There was no place for parents to park, due to snow berms along the side of the road, and of course there were safety issues associated with getting kids to those bus stops. (If it’s not safe for a school bus to drive on unplowed roads, then it’s probably not safe for parents transporting kids, or kids driving themselves to school.)
There’s an added twist. Albemarle is required by law, to provide door-to-door transportation for about 120 disabled students. Period. Some of those students live on roads that are not plowed promptly, which seems like a pretty serious obstacle to implementing this plan.
The board hasn’t taken any action, and isn’t planning to. They’re still looking to find out more about what’s to be done, if anything, about snow days resulting from rural road conditions.
In a stunning development, the Federal Highway Administration is requiring VDOT to prove that the Western Bypass will serve any real purpose and is better than alternatives, Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. The FHA points to the growth of the region and questions whether the two-decade-old plan to build a bypass around our bypass makes sense anymore. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.) They’ve told VDOT to consider alternatives, which is almost certainly a euphemism for grade-separated interchanges along 29. In perhaps the most gutting line in the letter, they encourage VDOT to “work closely with local representatives to gain their support of the transportation improvement moving forward,” an acknowledgement that only a single member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors supports the proposed Western Bypass.
As Sean Tubbs writes in the article, “in combination with expected action by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to withdraw its support, construction of the Western Bypass in the near future now appears very unlikely.”
02/20 Update: Rubbing a little salt in the wound, BOS Democrats passed a surprise resolution against the Western Bypass at last night’s meeting. Ken Boyd, the lone Republican, objected to the unexpected appearance of the resolution, which was met with laughter from the audience and some members of the board. Boyd famously engineered the same thing in 2011, in that case causing the long-dead bypass to rise up again. The whole scene last night amounted to something like revenge fantasy pornography for bypass opponents, who now hold the high ground on nearly every front, an utter reversal from the position of defeat that they occupied three years ago.