The Charlottesville City Council and Albermarle County Board of Supervisors on Monday unanimously approved moving forward with the formation of a regional transportation authority to spearhead expanded bus service, a project that could be funded with bonds.
Albermarle County Supervisor David L. Slutzky said the next step for the city and county is to have a proposal ready for the Virginia General Assembly next year. The RTA would oversee a route expansion with service from downtown Charlottesville to the University of Virginia and on U.S. 29 to the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, creating a “vastly expanded system of routes that would feed into a bus and rapid-transit backbone.”
Following a feasibility study, council members and supervisors agreed the best route for the project to take would be to form an RTA. The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization is now charged with coming back “with a more refined vision” of what the new system would look like, Slutzky said.
MPO members will most likely look to a gas tax hike or a sales tax increase to fund the project. Its operating costs are estimated at $11 million and capital costs would be between $8 million and $18 million, according to the MPO. However, if officials expect to use a rapid transit system with dedicated lanes for buses, those costs could increase to as much as $138 million, Slutzky said.
MPO members said they do not intend on using a property tax increase to fund the project.
The bus system is currently owned and operated by Charlottesville, with Albemarle contributing funds. About 80% of service is in the city and the rest in the county.
Slutzky said the city and county have a “serious problem” with road congestion. He added that public transit could be bolstered by the increasing cost of fuel and mandates to decrease carbon dioxide emissions.