City to Consider Free Buses

Some city officials are interested in making the buses free, Henry Graff reports for NBC 29, a move that would surrender $400,000 in annual revenue but surely result in more widespread use of CTS. The process of paying slows things down, and having to pay adds a layer of mystery to the system for those who have never ridden the buses. Beginning yesterday the buses became free for anybody with a UVa ID, and the next step would be to try a fare-free month and see what come of that.

12 Responses to “City to Consider Free Buses”


  • How much of the $400,000 comes from the special events buses for UVA football games? Does anyone know that? If the buses became free, would CTS still charge for rides to the football games?

  • I’m ambivalent. Free fares on buses are a great idea, but what about more frequent and more reliable Jaunt service instead of or in addition?

  • personwho has the jist of the problem–the buses are just too infrequent to be of use to me.

    Free to folks with a UVa ID? Surely checking IDs and copping the fare must take similar amountf of time.

    I say, keep the fare and run more buses during prime traffic hours.

  • When I attended GMU, they had a similar system for the city busses. Free to those who flashed a GMU ID, 50 cents for everyone else.

    It was fairly smooth, the students were usually smart enough to have the ID ready (instead of fishing around in their wallet/purse), and just flashed it to the driver as they boarded. Just as fast as having 2 quarters in hand and putting them into the meter, probably faster.

    For a measly 400k, I think it’s pretty much a no-brainer to make them free.

  • I’ve been advocating this move for years. Well, not very loudly, but I did discuss this with a city council candidate several years ago (he was elected).

    Now that UVA students and employees can ride for free, pretty much the only people who have to pay are the poorest families who depend on CTS for all their transportation needs. Given how much it costs to run largely empty buses all the time, 400K is a drop in the bucket that may actually improve ridership. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll help the people who need this the most.

  • It would make a lot more sense to flash your adjusted gross income from your 1040 to see who rides for free…

  • I didn’t realize the bus was free with a UVA ID. I remember two “free” months per year in the past (usually October and April) and this is a nice addition.

    Providence, RI does the same (flash a college ID and the fare is free).

  • Anybody have any background on why we have two bus systems, anyway? It always seemed to me like it would make more sense to merge CTS and UTS and fund the system both through the city and the university. I do think this works really well in Blacksburg, although Blacksburg life tends to center more around the VT campus then does Charlottesville to UVA.

  • Hokiesareawesome–that’s a great idea, and in fact the City and the County (which jointly fund CTS) are actively moving forward to create a Regional Transit Authority that will result in (1) substantially more funding for transit, (2) more efficient and effective transit, and (3) hopefully, a merged CTS-UTS system. There are a number of logistical/funding challenges that we’d have to overcome to merge the two systems, but it’s certainly possible to do so, especially if we can demonstrate that the whole would be greater than the sum of its parts.

    As for fare-free transit, I am definitely in favor. It’s very likely to increase ridership (i.e. take more cars off the roads) and is likely make the entire system operate more efficiently (no more dealing with fare collections, transfer slips, checking IDs, people having to go to City Hall to buy bus passes, etc.). A fare-free system will have its downsides, but hopefully those will pale in comparison to its benefits.

    My feeling is, we already subsidize about 90% of each CTS trip through non-fare sources, so why not go the extra 10% (as UVa recently decided to do for their students, faculty and staff who take CTS) and see what happens? We’re going to try it out for one month this year and depending on how that experiment goes, and how UVa’s new fare-free CTS strategy works, we can then decide how to proceed from there. Whether that means the whole system goes fare-free, or just a downtown zone becomes fare-free, or only people who read cvillenews.com (code phrase: “Waldo sent me”) get to ride fare-free, or none of the above, remains to be determined.

  • I don’t think anyone doesnt ride the bus because it costs too much. $1.50 for a round trip is cheap, compared to a gallon of gas, not to mention all the other costs of owning a vehicle.
    Rather it is because the transit system is inefficient and unreliable. CTS should stand for Charlottesville Timewasting System. Taking almost an hour to go from Downtown to Fashion Square because the bus goes by way of West Main Street and all around Robin Hood’s barn instead of going down Park and Rio which is what you’d do in a car.
    People are not going to leave their cars at home in order to use this pathetic excuse for a public transportation system.
    All that money spend on that ridiculous useless transit center should have been used to add routes and otherwise increase service, so people who do ride the bus don’t have to have their time wasted.
    They talk about Sunday service. I remember when the trolley started , it did have some Sunday service.

  • I just came back from a tip to Paris (France). Yeah, I know it’s a big city and all, but the combination of métro, RER trains, inter-city and high speed trains PLUS buses is just so well-thought out, it’s quite remarkable how convenient and INEXPENSIVE it all is over there.

  • I’ve been using CTS more and more after discovering one of the routes goes right past the end of my street. I’ve found it to be nothing but convenient for my situation. A bus has always shown up within a reasonable time-frame. I’m dropped off downtown with little fuss, and I’ve begun to change the way I think about how I get around town. If I can take the bus, I will. That means trips to my bank, trips to the libaray, trips to the Discovery Museum, all can be acheived with less fuss than taking a car in.

    I’m not really in a position to judge the quality of the service because I don’t have that much experience with it. But, I do know that even if it is imperfect, it is the system we have. I’m proud that I live in a town where I am able to use public transportation. And, I’m hoping to write about the experiences a lot more so that I can convince others to at least experiment with taking the bus. That’s going to be the hard part, seeing as so many people have such negative feelings about buses. I took my daughter to a playgroup at the downtown library, and when I told the mothers there that we took the bus, they looked at me like I had seven heads.

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