JAUNT bus service between Crozet and Charlottesville is likely if a survey of U.Va. employees living in Crozet and other locals who commute to jobs in Charlottesville shows that a dependable ridership is at hand. A survey to answer the question is available online at crozetex press.org.
JAUNT executive director Brad Sheffield, who also represents the Rio District on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, joined Rebecca White, director of the University of Virginia’s Parking and Transportation department (and a Crozet resident), at the Crozet Community Association’s Sept. 8 meeting to announce the “Crozet Express” idea. The pair also presented it to the Crozet Community Advisory Committee Sept. 21.
JAUNT first offered bus service from Crozet 10 years ago, Sheffield noted. Now he has some extra money in his budget and he is exploring the possibility of service similar to the hourly 29 Express service that JAUNT operates between Hollymead and the University.
“We’re trying to understand the level of demand,” he said. They are considering two possible routes, one to the University and one that would head to Pantops. If the survey results are positive, Sheffield will prepare a budget for the service so that he can apply for federal funds for it.
U.Va. has 10,000 employees, said White. About 1,000 live in Crozet, (roughly half work in the medical center and the other half on the academic grounds) and they are concentrated in the Crozet neighborhoods of Western Ridge, Old Trail, Wayland’s Grant, Westhall and streets near downtown. The survey will attempt to identify pick-up spots or park-and-ride lots.
The survey will collect information on three factors: schedule frequency needs, midday mobility needs, and “first mile/last mile” issues, namely how convenient the bus stop locations are to individuals reaching them from home or their workplaces. A survey has been sent to U.Va. employees with Crozet addresses who are identified as possible riders.
“We have a good amount of time [to plan],” said Sheffield. “It’s about getting it right. The target of commuter service is employment. It has a lot of potential.” Sheffield said the service could start as soon as March. “We can put the service out and if it doesn’t work we’ll pull it and put the buses on other routes,” said Sheffield. He said JAUNT now has 19 new buses.
Buses would seat 28-30 and also allow standing. Sheffield said he could purchase larger buses if they prove justified. The ride time aimed at is under 45 minutes. The idea being talked about now is that U.Va. employees would ride free, subsidized by the University, and others would pay a round-trip fare of $3.
“The idea is about trips to work,” said White, “not just needing to get to an appointment in Charlottesville.”
Sheffield said about half the riders being served by JAUNT are the elderly and handicapped but that the buses are open to anyone.
He described Crozet’s ridership as “low-hanging fruit.” “We’re willing to throw a lot of resources at this to make it happen. We have to be strategic in how we serve Crozet.”