Options abound for public transit commuting
By Brevy Cannon
Recent rises in gas prices have spurred interest in commuting alternatives. Fortunately there are numerous public transit options for commuting to U.Va., most of which are less expensive than driving yourself to work.
The Charlottesville Transit Service (296-7433) provides bus service for the city and portions of Albemarle County, Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. on all routes, and until midnight in many neighborhoods. CTS provides service from as far north as Sam’s Club on Route 29, as far south as Piedmont Virginia Community College, as far east as the Martha Jefferson campus at Peter Jefferson Place on Route 250, and as far west as Georgetown Rd. Fare is 75 cents per one-way trip. Children 5 and under ride for free. Discount ticket books are available — 40-ride passbooks are $21 and 10-ride passbooks are $6. Day passes provide unlimited rides for $2.
The CTS trolley offers free rides between Downtown, the Corner and U.Va. Grounds, every 15 minutes, Monday through Saturday, from 6:38 a.m. until 11:53 p.m.
On weekdays (6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) the LINK Demand Response Service is provided for Charlottesville residents living in neighborhoods without a bus route. To be picked up, you must make a reservation at least four hours in advance of travel time; commuters also can make a “standing order” for a trip on a repeating schedule. Fares for this service are the same as for the regular CTS bus routes.
RideShare finds carpool matches for commuters, runs the Guaranteed Ride Home Program and administers the area’s 22 Park & Ride lots, six of which are serviced by CTS or JAUNT. Those interested in carpooling, after registering with RideShare, are sent a personalized match list of commuters who go the same direction at approximately the same time of day. There is no obligation to form or join a carpool. To register, call 295-6165, or fill out the online registration form at http://www.rideshareinfo.org.
GUARANTEED RIDE HOME PROGRAM
The Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH) program (295-6165) pays for your transportation home from work by taxi or rental car when unexpected circumstances arise, including being asked to work unscheduled overtime or having your carpool driver leave work early. You are eligible for the program if you use alternative transportation to commute at least two days a week (including riding with your spouse, vanpool, public transit, walking or biking), and you may use the service up to five times a year. If you register for the program you will receive a member ID card and a voucher, which will serve as payment to the authorized taxi or rental car agency. GRH usage is monitored, and GRH members will be billed for non-emergency transportation.
JAUNT (296-6174) offers home-pickup commuter routes to Charlottesville from Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson counties, and from areas of Albemarle County, including Crozet, Scottsville, Keswick, Earlysville and North Garden. Fares for all routes are $2.50 one way or $20 for a book of 10 one-way rides. Those who buy a book of JAUNT tickets also get free CTS rides and can use the Guaranteed Ride Home Program. All routes stop at the U.Va. Hospital. Home pickup is available for those who live a reasonable distance from an existing route; otherwise the buses make regular stops in the major communities along the route. “We try to be just as flexible as we can to get people where they need to go,” said Donna Shaunesey, executive director of JAUNT, who noted that JAUNT vehicles have bike racks to facilitate biking part of your commute.
Morning pickup times are generally between 6 and 7 a.m., arriving at U.Va. before 8 a.m., and all routes depart from U.Va. between 4:30 and
5 p.m. The Nelson County route serves the Roseland area, and there is an express bus from Lovingston to U.Va. The Fluvanna County route serves Lake Monticello, Palmyra, Fork Union and Zion’s Crossroads, while the Louisa County route serves the areas around Mineral and the town of Louisa. There are plans to add a route from Buckingham County by July 2006.
The University Transit Service (924-7711) operates bus service around Grounds and surrounding areas. It has made a number of changes in the past two years to improve its service, “all done in hopes that more people will use the bus system,” said Becca White, director of Parking and Transportation. These changes include reducing evening pickup wait times from 20 minutes to 12 minutes, adding late night service until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, adding a bus to the Green route, and extending the hours for the Stadium-Hospital shuttle until 8 p.m.
October saw a month-long trial program that allowed all staff, faculty and students to ride Charlottesville city buses for free by simply displaying a valid staff/faculty or student ID. During the trial, transfers onto the CTS system from UTS rose five-fold, from between 1,500 to 2,000 during a typical month, to 10,081 during October. P&T is studying the details of the ridership changes to determine whether UTS will offer free transfers onto CTS in the future.
For more on public transit options serving the area, visit http://www.commuterinformation.com.