Crozet Connect Update
JAUNT CEO Brad Sheffield presented the Crozet Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) with a report on the launch of the new Crozet Connect bus service at the group’s August 14 meeting. Sheffield said the service has been well-received, and the volume of community feedback has been impressive. “I’ve been working in transportation for 20 years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this level of feedback relative to the population of an area we’ve served,” he said. “It’s very welcome and has been very productive.”
The commuter service currently runs two routes (east and west Crozet) on three different time schedules for early morning trips to Charlottesville locations such as U.Va. and downtown, and return trips in the afternoon. The cost is $2 per ride, and Sheffield said there are already plenty of takers. “The buses are relatively full at this point, with people reporting riding with 10 or so other people on board,” he said. “We want to generate more ridership, but we’re going to be at capacity pretty quickly, so we’ll need to get some bigger buses.”
Current Crozet Connect buses hold 23 passengers, and JAUNT may put its 28-passenger buses into service on the routes. Sheffield described the feedback from riders as primarily focused on tweaking stop locations and timing. “Without a doubt the [timing of the] afternoon shifts is the number one request that we’ve gotten,” he said. “We see that we’re missing the opportunity to carry more people by just minutes, and we need to work harder on that.”
In addition to timing adjustments, Crozet residents have requested more stops at U.Va. (which must be balanced against the risk of slowing down the trip for others), better stop descriptions, designated park and ride locations, and coordination with the school bus schedule so parents can see their kids off and then hop on a Connect bus to work. Other requests included ensuring all buses are equipped with bike racks, and frequent rider programs to discount fares.
Riders at the CCAC meeting also asked about mobile payment platforms, apps or smartcards to make paying for trips easier, and requested an online visual map. Sheffield said that both of these improvements are in the works. “You will be able to go to the website uva.transloc.com and see a live map of bus routes and where each bus is along the route,” he said, “and we are working on a payment app now as well.” (Note: The live map has now been updated to include the Crozet buses, wiggling along like little bugs on their morning and afternoon tracks.)
As one Connect user said to sum up: “All in all, it’s awesome!”
The CCAC discussed several future-oriented issues germane to preserving Crozet’s small-town character, passing committee resolutions in some but not all cases. The Albemarle County Planning Commission recently approved a change from heavy industrial zoning to Downtown Crozet District (DCD) zoning for the parcels owned by Frank Stoner’s Crozet New Town Associates, the developer planning a downtown plaza and business district. DCD zoning allows for mixed-use residential/commercial use areas, and the CCAC resolved to support the zoning change ahead of Stoner’s zoning request to the Board of Supervisors.
CCAC member Doug Bates, who is also a member of the Downtown Crozet Initiative that supports development of the plaza and surrounding mixed use buildings downtown, asked if the group would affirm its preferences for the nature of the proposed road surrounding the plaza ahead of a VDOT hearing on the plan.
Bates explained the conflict: “VDOT would like 10-foot roads with bike lanes and sidewalks and 45 mph speed limits, but we want more like 8-foot roads and smaller traffic circles and a 25-mph speed limit to retain the character of the area.” The CCAC resolved to support Bates’ language in a statement to VDOT in the name of safety and consistency with other local roads.
The committee also resolved to support the recommendation of the county’s Long Range Planning Advisory Committee (LRPAC) to prioritize a major addition to Crozet Elementary School, which would ease overcrowding at Brownsville Elementary (as some students would be redistricted to Crozet). Member Joe Fore offered to go before the School Board with the resolution, in advance of the School Board recommendations going before the Board of Supervisors.
Though the motion of support passed unanimously, CCAC member Tom Loach said that he “would have felt more comfortable with the vote if representatives from Brownsville and Crozet had come to the CCAC and had spoken about their positions so we could have supported them.” Chair Allie Pesch agreed to invite PTO representatives from both schools to a future meeting.
Finally, Pesch asked whether the committee wished to take a position on a proposed expansion of the facilities in Crozet Park, slated to be presented to the Board of Supervisors during their August 21 meeting. Members declined to take a position until the committee has been briefed on the expansion by Crozet Park representatives.