Jun 23, 2022 • 13M

June 23, 2022: Public can weigh in tonight on Regional Transit Vision; Fluvanna and Greene Supervisors were briefed last week

Another installment of a program that seeks to document how we will get to wherever we're going

Open in playerListen on);

Appears in this episode

Sean Tubbs
Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
Episode details

Do you have milk? Do you have the grain? Grab a pot and find a stove, and it’s time to celebrate National Porridge Day! Each and every day there are so many things to celebrate, such as today’s honoring of Women in Engineering Day. However, this 399th edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement is not being faithful to National Typewriter Day as it is composed on an abacus.

Share Charlottesville Community Engagement

On today’s program:

  • The Thomas Jefferson Planning District takes the Regional Transit Vision to Fluvanna and Greene counties

  • Albemarle County reports on an eviction diversion program 

  • And a brief update on the ongoing COVID-19 situation 

First shout-out is for LEAP’s new Thermalize Virginia program 

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: Have you been thinking of converting your fossil-fuel appliances and furnaces into something that will help the community reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP,  has launched a new program to guide you through the steps toward electrifying your home. Thermalize Virginia will help you understand electrification and connect you with vetted contractors to get the work done and help you find any rebates or discounts. Visit thermalizeva.org to learn more and to sign up!  

COVID-19 update 

Today the Virginia Department of Health reports another 3,085 cases of COVID-19 with a seven-day positive result percentage of 17.4. The trends for both metrics are heading down, but Dr. Costi Sifri of the University of Virginia Health System said that could change. 

“I actually think we’re sort of at a plateau where we’re seeing continued transmission in the community,” Dr. Sifri said. “My sense is that it’s not increasing but it is has been at a fairly consistent level now for the last several weeks or maybe even up to a month.” 

The big news in the past week has been federal approval of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for children under the age of five but older than six months. 

“The doses that are used for these young pediatric vaccines is dose-reduced so when Pfizer and Moderna trialed these vaccines they made sure to use a lower dose for the reasons of wanting to make sure it was safe,” Dr. Sifri said. 

New versions of the mRNA vaccines are being developed to address newer strains. 

“That is being looked at right now this month by the [Food and Drug Advisory Committee],” Dr. Sifri said. “So at the heart of the question is do we need a reformulation or a coformulation of the COVID vaccines to account for Omicron?” 

The Blue Ridge Health District will begin their administration of the vaccines to children at a clinic from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Charlottesville/Albemarle Health Department at 1138 Rose Hill Drive. They’ll also be on site at Tonsler Park on Cherry Avenue from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. check the Blue Ridge Health District’s website

To check for your eligibility to receive a vaccine or a booster, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website (click here)

Albemarle and LAJC have teamed up to prevent evictions

Albemarle County and the Legal Aid Justice Center helped prevent 158 evictions in a pilot program that ran from December to this May. Albemarle County sent out a press release this morning announcing the results. 

"Many rent-relief programs are phasing out, yet there remain many Albemarle families still deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Supervisor Chair Donna Price is quoted in the release. “Low-income households have not recovered as quickly, and programs such as this provide additional stability for households continuing to face financial hardships, using federal relief dollars to fund legal services and to provide wrap-around support.”

Albemarle committed $200,000 from its share of the American Rescue Act Plan to the project. The Legal Aid Justice Center is being paid for legal counsel for households that qualify.

“The program requires consideration for the impacts of contesting evictions on landlords who own less than three units and prioritizes mitigation efforts to secure outstanding funds for landlords while keeping families housed,” the release continues

The program will continue through June 2023. 

Second shout-out goes to Camp Albemarle

Today’s second subscriber-supported public service announcement goes out to Camp Albemarle, which has for sixty years been a “wholesome rural, rustic and restful site for youth activities, church groups, civic events and occasional private programs.”

Located on 14 acres on the banks of the Moorman’s River near Free Union, Camp Albemarle continues as a legacy of being a Civilian Conservation Corps project that sought to promote the importance of rural activities. Camp Albemarle seeks support for a plan to winterize the Hamner Lodge, a structure built in 1941 by the CCC and used by every 4th and 5th grade student in Charlottesville and Albemarle for the study of ecology for over 20 years. If this campaign is successful, Camp Albemarle could operate year-round. Consider your support by visiting campalbemarleva.org/donate

Public meeting tonight for Regional Transit Vision plan

The final public meeting for the development of a Regional Transit Vision will be held tonight in an online format. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is overseeing the study, which seeks to come up with an aspirational document for enhanced public transportation throughout the entire Charlottesville area including Buckingham County.

The draft document has gone before the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, as I’ve reported. But the Regional Transit Vision also has been to the outlying counties. Last week, Boards of Supervisors in both Fluvanna County and Greene County had a briefing. 

“It started in the summer of 2021 with assessing the situation,” said Lucinda Shannon, a planner with the TJPDC. The $350,000 study was conducted by the firms AECOM and Jarrett Walker + Associates.

“So they looked at the existing systems, they looked at the land use planning, and the transit market potential for the entire region and kind of assessed where would be good places for transit to be,” Shannon said. “They also worked with the public and identified goals and visions for the region plan and priorities for what this community wants to see in a vision plan.”

All of that engagement was done online, as the study got underway during the pandemic. Tonight’s meeting is also virtual. The work has resulted in a constrained plan that would be paid for through new tax powers granted to a Regional Transportation Authority, as well as an unconstrained plan that did not factor how the expanded transit service would be paid for.

For a sense of scale, the constrained plan would have an annual cost estimate of $26 million whereas the unconstrained plan would be $70 million a year. The unconstrained plan would mean buses operating at full service, seven days a week, including fixed-route service between Ruckersville between Charlottesville. 

“All day fixed-route service from Ruckersville to Charlottesville would add services to three percent of residents and it would also reach 11 percent more jobs in the county,” Shannon said. 

One Supervisor asked if the plan includes one item he would like to see. 

“Does it include light rail? Does it include those kinds of things?” asked Steve Bowman of the Monroe District. “Because I’ve always thought that down U.S. 29 would be an ideal place to put a light rail all the way down.” 

The TJDPC previously studied light rail in a 2004 report that looked at the future of passenger rail service in Virginia. By the time a few years later when there was discussion of a Regional Transit Authority, that vision had been reduced to something called bus rapid transit. Shannon said the consultants in the new vision have included that in their recommendation.

“I think that what they want to is propose things that the community will accept and can be funded so right now they are proposing a Bus Rapid Transit up and down Route 29 so there would be service up to the airport so from Charlottesville on U.S. 29 on up to the airport with 15 minute service,” Shannon said. 

Greene Supervisors did not have a long discussion of the matter. 

The 2004 report on passenger rail service included a section on light rail (view the document)

The next day, Shannon made the trip to Palmyra to speak to the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors about the plan. 

“So this is a collaborative effort to evaluate and establish a clear long term vision  for transit in our region, and not just the city,” Shannon said. “And it’s kind of like all of the things we’d like to buy and then the next study that we’re hoping to do is a transit governance study that would start in July.” 

Shannon gave more details on what the “unconstrained” vision means.

“The unconstrained vision we wanted to be ambitious and creative and come up with what we could do if there was no budget and there was no fund limit on funding for that concept,” Shannon said. 

As stated above, that would mean 60-minute fixed-route service to Charlottesville from surrounding population clusters. 

“These routes would go to Scottsville, Crozet, Lovingston, Palmyra, Louisa, and Ruckersville seven days a week,” Shannon said. 

One Supervisor said that would be an improvement for Fluvanna residents who currently use the public transit that’s available. 

“Right now people going to the city on Jaunt to the doctor’s office have to stay all day until Jaunt comes back to pick them up,” said Supervisor Mozelle Booker of the Fork Union District. 

A slide in Shannon’s presentation to the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors (Credit: AECOM, JWA, and TJPDC)

Supervisor Tony O’Brien of the Rivanna District supported the concept of expanded transit.

“I love the idea of expanding rural transportation,” O’Brien said. “So critical not just for the environment but also for those who are constrained by their finances and or ability to drive. So anything we can do to make it better for people to be able to access other areas of Central Virginia I think is wonderful.” 

Shannon said the details of how to implement the vision will come during the governance study. 

“We will be engaging you again once the governance study starts and our objective for the governance study is to really work with all the counties and be inclusive and come up with a plan for the funding of the services that works for all the counties, both urban and rural together,” Shannon said. 

Tonight is your chance to weigh in at a meeting that begins at 6:30 p.m. tonight.  Details of both visions and a link to the meeting are availale

You can also take a survey on the topic. Have you done so yet? Let me know in the comments. (take the survey)

Comments will be taken through July 15. 

Previous coverage:

Support the program!

There’s a lot of information in this installment of this program, which is the 397th edition of the program. About a quarter of you are paying something to help keep Town Crier Productions in business. I have never been a very good salesperson, and won’t overly pitch.

But, if you are benefiting from this newsletter and the information in it, please consider some form of support. I am not a nonprofit organization and most of my time is spent in putting the newsletter together, which includes producing the podcast.

Supporting the program through a Substack contribution or through Patreon makes it very easy for me to get paid and every single dollar that I get makes me want to work that much harder to serve the community. In just under two years, I’ve produced hundreds of stories that seek to give you information about how decisions are made in our community and in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

For more information on all of this, please visit the archive site Information Charlottesville to learn more, including how you too can get a shout-out! Thank you for reading, and please share with those you think might want to learn a few thing or two about what’s happening.

Ting will match your initial payment of a Substack subscription! Learn more and sign up today!