Council Likely to Retain Bus Fare

After evaluating running the city bus service without charging fares, city council is likely to keep fares for the immediate future, Seth Rosen writes in the Progress. Financial reality means that council has to pick their priorities, and they’ve got an eye towards adding new routes and having buses come more often. Eliminating fares would eliminate $315k from CTS’ $5.25M annual budget, and likewise obligate them to provide $190k to JAUNT, who would be left unable to charge for rides in CTS’ service area. All of this is leading up to a hoped collaborative transit venture with Albemarle County, turning CTS into CATS.

36 Responses to “Council Likely to Retain Bus Fare”

  • It will be interesting to know what the residents think of forming yet another authority.

  • I support adding new routes, and improving public transportation by making the buses run more frequently, as Kevin Lynch suggested. If you buy the book of bus passes, it costs just $.50 to ride the bus, which is cheap compared to other cities. Eliminating fares would be irresponsible, in my opinion, because it would cost the city so much money.

  • Fares are not the problem,frequency and reliability are. Think sometimes CTS stands for Charlottesville Timewasting Service.
    Think about it, paying bus fares is far less than buying and maintaining a vehicle. No comparison. I wonder when I see groups who are trying to help someone struggling asking for help in obtaining them a car. How is someone barely able to make it financially,working minimum wage or whatever, going to keep up with the taxes, insurance,repairs,etc that it requires to keep a car running?
    Maybe if the city had spent the federal transportation money it spent on that totally worthless transit center on more buses and routes we’d have an improved public transportation system.
    It isn’t even open at early morning rush hour when many people catch the bus! What good is it to anyone who actually rides the bus? Just another thing for our feckless city government to point to and say “look what a great thing we did.”

  • Maybe if the city had spent the federal transportation money it spent on that totally worthless transit center on more buses and routes we’d have an improved public transportation system.

    They couldn’t have. That was ISTEA money, assigned explicitly for the purpose of moving people between forms of transportation, not on transportation. Using that money for more buses and routes would have been a federal crime.

  • Maybe the CATS partnership could work. After all, doesn’t the City and County have a history of other collaborations such as the Airport and the Tourist Center? It might not be “purr-fect”, but worth a try.

  • quote: “Eliminating fares would be irresponsible, in my opinion, because it would cost the city so much money.”

    No……….. it would cost the taxpayers. The same taxpayers that are already paying $3,000, $4,000 and $5,000 taxes on their homes annually. When broken down, my parents monthly tax bill on their home is higher than the last monthly mortgage payment they made on their home 20 years ago. Adding in utilities, food and drugs, I don’t think they can afford to subsidize a totally free transportation system now too. My God, their gas heat, gas water heater, electricity, water & sewer, telephone, and basic TV cable are already costing them between $600 and $700 a month. How much longer can citizens on fixed incomes afford to live in Charlottesville?

  • Here’s an interesting article I found . What I found particularly interesting is what Mrs. Poore said about what it would take to improve local transit. Of course, she’s gone now. Do we really have a reason to trust the City’s wisdom in transit decisions?

  • Cville Eye the majority of city/cunty residents won’t care one way or the other about the formation of another authority.
    HollowBoy I agree with you about poor people wanting a car. A car is just another expense and in the hands of poor people it is an expense they cannot afford or maintain. Car ownership and home ownership are not and should not be for everyone. They both represent a degree of financial independence and responsibility that poor and struggling people cannot affort. This is the major reason the realestate market is now suffering through foreclosures. To many people were put into home ownership by local governments who absolutely had no way to keep and maintain them.
    The transit center is nothing more than a hang out for the city homeless ….a place to sit and warm up on a cold day and a place to cool off on a hot day…etc. etc..
    Meowmix, we already have a working partnership with the county it is called revenue sharing and more and more people in the county are getting fed up with it. Especially when they see how foolishly the city spends the taxpayers money.
    It will be interesting to see what the transit budget is for next year. $5.25M now and surely will go up this coming year. The transit system is getting to be like our education system…a bottomless pit with no management or accountability….and the taxpayers (property owners) suffer for this poor management.

  • I wonder if the new authority will fund the move of the CTS garage to Avon Street or just the City?

  • Thanks for the clarification, Waldo, about the ISTEA funds.But how does the transit center move people between different forms of transit? They can only transfer from one CTS bus to another. Wasnt there some plan to coordinate city buses with Amtrak and Greyhound riders? Obviously that didnt work out. The thing is totally worthless, another drain on taxpaper funds for its maintenance.

  • I’m glad to see this. They have to support the million dollar rescue squad somehow.

  • #17, don’t worry, when your friends and family members start receiving $300 to $500 transport bills, you will know who is supporting the new medical services at the fire department.

  • Demopublican, I was confusing the Humpty Dumpty with the much later place of the Hump Burger, the Caravan. So many cobwebs in my mind. The sign of the Humpty Dumpty was a beacon in the night.

  • But how does the transit center move people between different forms of transit? They can only transfer from one CTS bus to another. Wasnt there some plan to coordinate city buses with Amtrak and Greyhound riders?

    Bus centers qualify because they’re a hub where people can transfer from automobiles to buses. It strikes me as unlikely that many people are using the transit center for that purpose — not just this location, but nearly any such central location for municipal transit in a small city — but it’s clearly qualified under ISTEA standards.

    You’re right that the original idea was to coordinate with Amtrak and Greyhound. The city worked hard to strike a deal with Gabe Silverman to build something in the lot adjacent to the Amtrak station. It didn’t work out, unfortunately, and I’ve never been convinced that the ultimate location was a good choice. It’s much too far away from our three other modal stops (CHO, Amtrak, Greyhound) to be of much use for intermodal purposes. It seems like a lost opportunity.

  • I have always been curious as to why Charlottesville has so many large buses that are rarely filled to capacity…and in fact have only a handful of riders most of the time. Couldn’t the City achieve significant energy savings in purchasing small buses in lieu of the enormous ones currently purchased? Do federal funds only subsidize acquisition of large buses?

    If the City is really concerned about energy savings and being “green”, it only seems logical to me to explore downsizing the “size” of the bus fleet. I might be a pessimist but I suspect increasing the number of routes, including free fares, will only marginally increase ridership and will not be worthy of the increased costs.

    It is a pipe dream to assume that mass transit will flourish in Charlottesville and that it will reduce the number of vehicles on our streets. Counselors use it as a popular platform in their campaigning and propaganda, but it’s not going to happen. I would rather see the City reduce the size of buses and provide a minimal level of service as required by a City……and use the saved money to fund other priorities.

  • Golfer….my thoughts exactly….the city preaches energy savings and yet continues to run these gas guzzling buses which run around with only one or two passengers. Rediculous. With the councilors we have now I expect to see buses running on every street in Charlottesville.
    People don’t seem to realize that having these extravant luxuries causes the property taxes to go through the roof.
    If the city could just control spending in a couple of areas maybe property taxes wouldn’t be so high and continuing to rise.

  • If a transit authority is formed as the others have been, it will make the decisions, not Council. It will decide which buses run where and when. It will decide the amount of fare, the operationing budget and the CIP expenses. It will then send the bill to the City and the County. As with the other authorities, there will be few opportunities for public input and because its members are not elected, it will have very little incentive to listen to the public anyway. It will not be fully funded by a gasoline tax.

  • CTS does downsize buses on off peak times. It is nearly impossible to know who will be riding and who won’t. It’s better served to have space on a bus than overcrowding due to human speculation.

    The smaller buses only have the capacit of holding 1 wheelchair. During regular peak periods, a large amount of wheel chair and handicapped passengers use the CTS.

    Crowding the drivers is not safe. Also, in small spaces, people are subjected to more germs.

    On another subject, as we concern ourselves with the idea of smaller buses, the transit center and bus fares…etc, I would like to understand why drivers are not getting lunch breaks. They are the only city workers that are not afforded lunch breaks. They are expected to work 8-10 hour shifts and not eat. I know that eating while driving is an unsafe practice. So if they are expected to provide safe passage and customer friendly service, then I feel that they should have meal breaks. Human nature makes it very difficult for people to go more than 4 hours and not eat and not affect their demeanor. Ask yourself…when you are hungry are you subject to be short tempered with people which causes major distractions. How healthy can it be to ask someone go 8 hours or more with out eating? God forbid if they have a medical condition which requires them to eat before taking medications.
    As I understand it, this concern has gone before City Council with no response.

    We spend millions on a transit station and no lunch facility not even a microwave…only a bathroom! It has been said that people are our most valuable resource then why does the CTS treat drivers like they are disposable parts that are easily replaced.

    Thousands of dollars are spend on training new CTS drivers. Why do supervisors not value such an investment?

    They train then, allow them to move on to other higher paying jobs. Is CTS just a training fill for CDL drivers for other companies?

    Sorry about the lenghly blog, CTS is a sore spot for me.

  • It is my understanding that federal labor laws require a meal break for hourly employees who work 8 hours or more. I would not think that the City would violate that law and jeopardize receiving millions in federal funds each year.
    As for the tax payer providing a lunch facility, I’m opposed to that.
    I’m sure that long-term employees who have been denied their break can sue for a substantial amount when they retire.

  • Concerned you sound to me like a disgruntled cts driver. I think $14 an hour for driving a CTS bus is pretty good pay.
    You say small buses are an inconvenience for people with wheelchairs. Well most of them call JAUNT and have door to door service.
    Crowding the driver is not safe. You know and I know that the driver on the CTS buses either large or small is shielded from the passengers. You need to actually look at the configuration around the driver before making these assertions.
    As for lunch breaks most of the drivers I have seen either bring their lunch with them or have a friend or spouse bring it to them along the route somewhere. The drivers then eat at a stop while waiting to get back on schedule or eat while driving.
    Thousands of dollars to train a CTS driver. Give me a break. If he/she can drive from the garage to McIntire Park and around the park a couple of times and back to garage without a wreck then they are trained.
    As for moving on to higher paying jobs, I say if they want to leave then let them. Some of the drivers have horrible attitudes and should not be dealing with the public in the first place.
    I’ve seen CTS drivers drive right by waiting passengers at a stop, I’ve seem them miss a stop even when the bell is rung, I’ve seen them stop at a convenience stop get off and go in to get something leaving the bus running with passengers on board, McDonalds at Barracks road used to be one of the favorite driver stopping points, and I could go on and on about what I have seen and experienced on CTS buses. Oh yea while we’re at it you could keep down germs if you would clean the buses once in a while.
    Concerned you have a lot of work to do before you get any sympathy from me.

  • You are correct, jogger. Just the other night I saw a CTS driver abandon his bus on Arlington Blvd and walk across the street to McDonalds. (Just a matter of time before some idiot jumps on one of these buses left running and steals it.) None of these drivers go without food or beverage on any given day.
    On the other hand, I haven’t seen too many CTS drivers that appear as if a missed meal would actually be harmful to them. And before the flames fly, yes, I too am overweight, by about 20 to 25 pounds. And just to prove I don’t discriminate, I also have not seen many cops, firefighters, public service employees or teachers that would suffer harm if they missed a meal either.

  • Interesting. I have experience only with the #3 bus route, but I have to say that the woman who drove that route was always excellent–even saved my umbrella for me one day when I left it on the bus and returned it to me the next time I was on the bus. I’ve heard now, though that the #3 (Belmont) bus no longer has a regular driver. But in any job, there will be a mix of good and bad employees.

    It would be nice if the buses ran on time. The #3 bus has been passing my house every hour for the eight years we’ve lived in our house. I used to practically be able to set my clock by the passing of the bus. Ever since the transit center was built, the bus is running late. When one of the biggest employers in town (UVA Health System) requires that people be at work by 7:00 is it too much to ask that the buses get us there on time? I used to commute by bus, and now I can’t because I can’t rely on the bus to get me to UVA by 7:00am. Ridiculous.

  • It’s late on the first run and I think the buses still start at the City Yard on 4th Street NW. I wonder if moving the buses way out Avon, across that icy bridge, will make it any slower?

  • Do City buses run on bio-diesel or regular diesel? I give the City credit trying electric buses a few years back, but I know that experiment crashed and burned. I do not oppose bus service since some do rely on it, but it seems like the City could scale down the length size if its fleet and save a significant amount of energy and money. I know the City is actively involved with education/advertisement to improve ridership, but I seriously doubt that will happen, and know that it will not happen during the anticipated useful life of the huge busses they are buying now.

    Jogger, good point regarding JAUNT. They run small busses and are equipped to handle multiple handicapped individuals. Maybe the City should make a visit and review their bus specs and operation.

  • I live on a CTS bus route. And have for 25 years. I have yet to see a single bus come by that has more than 2 or 3 passengers on it at any time….. morning, noon or evening. It was pretty comical a few years back when they had those new extremely large Metro buses running in circles around my neighborhood. Now they have scaled back to the 15-20 passenger van type vehicles. And often they now also come through in the regular type E250/E350 vans. I wonder what kind of mileage those large Metro type buses were getting? Maybe 4 or 5 miles per gallon at best?

  • I live on a CTS bus route. And have for 25 years. I have yet to see a single bus come by that has more than 2 or 3 passengers on it at any time….. morning, noon or evening. It was pretty comical a few years back when they had those new extremely large Metro buses running in circles around my neighborhood. Now they have scaled back to the 15-20 passenger van type vehicles. And often they now also come through in the regular type E250/E350 vans.

    It sounds to me like they’ve done just the right thing, then. I tend to ride the major bus routes (#9 and the trolley, largely), and those are often pretty packed.

  • I’m not looking for sympathy from anyone. I’m just stating facts. It’s first hand info. The folk who stop to eat, they have to eat or choke their food down before proceeding to drive. If they are caught driving, they would be sent home of fired. Not all drivers make 14 dollars an hour!!!!! That’s a fact!!!!

    Only drivers with split shifts get breaks. If you have a route that begins at 2:00 pm and you get off at approximately 12:00 midnight – there is no lunch hour/break. Yes, some spouses do bring lunch to drivers, but they better not get caught eating it on the bus.

    It’s more convenient for these passengers to ride the CTS. You have to call JAUNT to come get them at a specific time and they have to call JAUNT to bring them back. On CTS, there are regular routes and times.

    If you all have noticed that the buses are running more late than on time or early..Its because folk in supervisory positions have told the drivers that if they ran even 1 minute early, it would be grounds for dismissal. Most of the drivers won’t take that chance so they opt to run late. It’s a sad fact. Just ask any of the drivers.

    Demopublican, missed meals isn’t healthy for anyone, regardless of their weight. How ignorant is that statement? There are many who do have medical conditions. Not all but a few do. Diabetes is one of the major medical conditions. Stopping at a convenience store or running over to McDonald’s doesn’t constitute a lunch or meal break. Again, if they eat while driving – they could be fired.
    FYI – There are folk who are assigned to clean the buses once a week after the midnight runs on Saturdays. Anyway, airborne germs have nothing to do with how dirty a bus is.

    Again, I am not seeking sympathy as I don’t need it. Just stating facts.

    I do commend most of the drivers who are courteous to their passengers and offer excellent customer service. In the midst of the drunks, homeless, pissy/funky passengers, some arrogant townpeople and some college students who think the world owes them something, drivers are doing excellent to miss a few stops and not hear the bell on ocassions. It happened to me before – driver missed my bell ring…but It was not a big deal, he just pulled over and let me off and was very apologetic. You expect the driver to be perfect on their job, then you must be perfect on yours. When was the last time you made a mistake? Remember to give yourself room to make a mistake.

  • Concerned, again, federal laws are broken if hourly employees (salried management generally excluded) are denied breaks during an eight-hour shift. It’s nothing we can do for them here. If they feel there’s an injustice, they are citizens, let them sue.

  • Concerned thanks for admitting that the buses are cleaned once a week. Filth and dirt are a major source of germs and the buses are filthy and dirty most of the time, just look around. Air borne germs are around all of us no matter whether we are riding a bus or not.
    If the city has people driving buses with severe medical problems then the city is putting themselves at risk. I for one do not want a driver with a severe medical probelm driving the bus and putting my life and the lives of other passengers at risk.
    Your arguments are extremely weak and I still believe you are nothing more than a disgruntled CTS employee.
    I stopped riding the CTS buses because I got tired of wasting my time waiting for a bus that was either early or late and rarely, rarely on time, and the poor customer service and attitude of the drivers. My personal opinion is that the bus service in this city should be curtailed to the max. Running the buses after 6 p.m. is a waste of energy, money, and manpower. Also, the size of the buses needs to be examined. There is no need for these big gas guzzling, polluting buses we now have. Buses will never take the place of our own personal automobiles and the sooner the politicians realize that buses will never take the place of the automobile the better. This city wastes a ton of taxpayer money on worthless projects and services that a city of this size does not need or for the most part want.

  • First of all, in response to labor laws, Labor laws does not mandate breaks for people 18 and older. That law is for workers 17 and under.

    Medical problems don’t have to be severe. It’s just unhealthy for people to skip meals.

    If more people would consider riding the CTS, it would be more energy efficient. Driving your personal vehicle is nothingf more than a selfish act. You aren’t concerned about the energy, nor are you concerned about the people who can’t afford the luxury of a vehicle. Have you considered the parking near and at the University. Not everyone can affort to pay hundreds of dollars a year in parking.
    Your comment regarding service after 6:00. How would people that work in restaurants, at the mall and retail businesses get home. Are you willing to pick them up ON TIME? Those are the people that would not be able to seek employment if the City transit was curtailed to the max. Your comment makes me think that you only concerned about yourslef and what’s in it for you. The city government has to make sure all are citizens are represented. I feel that people who tend to be self centered, can generally see the fault in others. You should examine how you treat people and respond to them.

    In response to the rudeness of the drivers, when you are rude to others, people tend to be rude to you. Just by the comments you’ve made here makes me wonder if this is the case with the experience with the driver…

  • Concerned, when I worked under those laws, they were posted beside the time clock. I wasn’t under 18. If your employer is telling you otherwise, call the VEC and ask where you can get help.

  • I see where two former Council members, Meredith Richards and Kay Slaughter have come out early in the game an endorsed the regional transportation authority or transit authority (nobody knows yet what’s it’s going to be but it’s nice to know that they support it).

  • Concerned: I truly appreciate your comments from the inside of CTS. I don’t know why jogger is so angry and accusing you of being disgruntled. Jogger is far more disgruntled at CTS than you are.

    I think the way to fix the schedule problem is to make the printed schedule real. Put the actual times the buses arrive and leave. Don’t put goal times, but the real times. If bus #3 can’t make the schedule as written between 7-9 and 4-6, then change what’s written. Frankly, I’d rather have a printed schedule that tells a truth I can rely on than one that doesn’t reflect the real patterns of bus traffic. I used to live in a city where the bus schedule didn’t say “arrives every 15 minutes”, but instead put down the different times it would arrive during the day at the stops, taking traffic patterns into account. Number 7 can get down to one round per hour during rush hour…so change the printed schedule to reflect that. If I looked at my schedule and saw that the only #7 between 5 and 6pm would arrive at 5:55…and then it arrived at 5:55 every day…well gosh. That’s just much less frustrating than a schedule that says it will arrive at 5:05, 5:20 5:35 and 5:50 only to start waiting at 5 and not have the bus arrive until 5:55.

    Dependability of buses is not about frequency. It is about the “promise” made by the schedule being fulfilled. Dependable means you do what you say you’re gonna do, and right now the printed schedule is lying. But the solution is so easy: change the printed schedule to reflect real arrival/departure times. Please. The solution is so easy!

    Also, has anyone else ever wondered how much faster the #7 would be if it went around Barracks (like UTS does) instead of through it?

    Also, I’ve been on plenty of packed Cville buses in my day.

    And…if I had my druthers, the changes I’d make to the new bus station would be:
    *leave it open for the whole time CTS runs
    *put the schedule on the outside window instead of the inner wall. Right now I can’t read that beautiful schedule whenever the place is closed.
    *A CLOCK please? Also on the outer window.
    *where’s the promised coffee stand? That would be the bomb. Where are the Trager boys? Get on it! =)

  • “Please. The solution is so easy!” Actually, it isn’t because the buses generally do not arrive at the same time everyday. For example, the bus may stop in front of my house at 9:25 AM one day and 9:45 AM the next (that happened just last week). Sometimes it doesn’t come that round at all; at some point on its route, if it’s very late, it may turn around and head back downtown without going to the end of the root. The people waiting will then have to call and ask for the van to come pick them up.
    I think adding more employee hours to the bus transfer station is a great idea, because I’ve decided I’m going to start thinking of ways to increase City spending and join the majority. Since nobody seems to want to sell coffee in the station, why doesn’t the City just put some coffee pots and cups in there and keep the urns filled? A lot of swanky boutiques provide free coffee or tea for their clients as a friendly courtesy and it may increase ridership.

  • I think “Concerned” raises valid points. I’m not an expert on labor laws, but I think it’s ridiculous that anyone should work an eight hour shift and not get a full half-hour break. And how are bus drivers able to go to the bathroom? Sitting behind the wheel of a bus for eight hours is not a healthy occupation, and drivers should get chances to stretch their legs as well. As for the rudeness, happy employees will provide better service, so if bus drivers feel their working conditions are bad, their frustration could be expressed as rudeness.

    I don’t like the idea of an authority–more money spent, more city employees, and who is the authority accountable to? I grew up in an area where there are many “authorities.” Did you all know that New York State even has a “Dormitory Authority” that regulates the dorms in its state colleges and universities? We had to move to Virginia from upstate New York because of a bad economy, caused partly by a ridiculously top-heavy and expensive government that discourages business and whose high taxes encourages citizens to flee, thus further worsening the economy.

  • Eye, I still have to agree with Grape’s idea. There are traffic patterns, but they’re not noticeable by us the riders. So the reason a bus can arrive at 9:25 one day and 9:45 the next is maybe because every Friday traffic is different than on Thursday, or maybe one was a game day and the other wasn’t. If you ask drivers, they know these things because they drive the same circle for 8 hours in a row 5 days a week. All we need to is collect this knowledge in a formal way and put it on paper. It’s a pretty cost-efficient idea too: increasing reliability without increasing the number of drivers or buses.

    The number 7 bus is a great example of what you were talking about Eye, and Grape points this out. Sometimes, like at night, it’s like clockwork. Sometimes, like on Friday afternoons, 2 or 3 scheduled stop times will go by with no number 7. Sometimes it’s only a little late because there was an accident. You can’t account for every occurrence, but you can account for the patterns that happen every day and every week. No public transport system is going to be 100% on time. But I’d rather have 85% on time than 50% on time.

    Another issue I know of with more than one of the route is that they have a schedule of finishing a round in a half-hour or an hour, but that timing isn’t real. If it realistically takes more than an hour to complete a route every single time, then the schedule can just get backed up and backed up until it’s totally off, and the driver just ends up skipping ahead on the schedule, or even skipping stops and telling dispatch to send that special van around to pick up the missed people. The solution would be just what Grape said. Instead of saying “the number 10 will arrive at 16 minutes past every hour”, be more accurate in the schedule: “the number 10 will stop here at 6:15, 7:30, 8:45, 10:00” and so forth. The CTS leaders seem kinda stuck in this “base everything on an hour” idea.

    Last thing, Eye: I couldn’t tell if you were being snarky about wanting to spend more money to keep the station open, but if you put a gate in front of the steps, there’s nothing in there to steal–so it can be left unstaffed for the time there’s no employees around upstairs or downstairs. Then after the last route is done an employee can come in and do a homeless guy sweep before locking up for the night.

    When are we going to get those satellite trackers that tell how long until the next bus arrives?

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