October 6, 2021: Charlottesville awarded $153K for flood study from RGGI funds; Transit updates from the regional partnership

I am told that the wheels of the bus go round and round, but what if there's no one to move the one that steers?

  
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In today’s subscriber-supported Public Service Announcement:

The Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards continues to offer classes and events this fall and winter to increase your awareness of our wooden neighbors and to prepare for the future. On October 19, there’s a free class on the Selection, Planting, and Care of Trees from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (register) In early November, there is a three part class on Winter Invasive Plant Identification and Treatment. Information on all the classes and the group can be found at www.charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org.
 

On today’s show:


The percent positivity for COVID-19 has further dropped to 8.3 percent, but the number of new cases reported increased by 3,919. Another 50 new deaths were reported over night for a cumulative total of 12,999 since the pandemic began. 

There are another 100 cases reported in the Blue Ridge Health District today. 


Plans have been submitted in Albemarle County for a 250-unit apartment complex on Rio Road. According to the application for a rezoning prepared by Collins Engineering, the Heritage on Rio would consist of seven buildings and a clubhouse on 8.23 acres of land. The properties are all zoned R-6 and the application is for a rezoning to Planned Residential Development (PRD). There are currently four single family homes that would be removed to make way for the development. 

“At just over half a mile from the Route 29/ Rio Road intersection, the proposed community would be within walking distance to many conveniences, including the numerous retail shops and offices in the Berkmar Crossing commercial area, several grocery stores, the Northside Library, and the large number of destinations surrounding the Rio/ 29 Intersection, including CVS Drugstore, Fashion Square Mall, Rio Hill Shopping Center, and Albemarle Square Shopping Center,” reads the application. 

The developer is G W Real Estate Partners.  The project will also have to go before the county’s Architectural Review Board because Rio Road is an entrance corridor. 


Materials are now available for the October 12 public hearing for the Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan, one of three tasks the firm Rhodeside & Harwell is conducting for the city as part of the Cville Plans Together initiative. The City Council and Planning Commission will hold a joint hearing on October 12, but now they’ll also hold a two hour discussion on the plan update the day before from noon to 2 p.m. 

The draft Comprehensive Plan and the Future Land Use Map are available for review now. The document is 118 pages long and this is the first time the entire draft has been put together with its eleven chapters and several appendices. Take a look at the materials here


The professionalization of fire and EMS calls in Albemarle County reached a new stage Monday when the Ivy and Pantops stations began 24-hour service and two other milestones were met.

“An ambulance moved to the East Rivanna station to implement cross-staffing, and a daytime fire engine went into service at the Pantops station on Mondays,” wrote Abbey Stumpf, Albemarle’s public safety information officer, in a press release this morning

The Pantops fire engine will be the first to operate out of a station that was built on land donated to the county earlier this century. 

For the past 18 months, Albemarle has been implementing an initiative to hire more personnel funded in part through a $1.9 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as investments approved by the Board of Supervisors. In all, Albemarle has hired 22 public safety workers in the past 18 months.


Earlier this year, Virginia joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state program that places caps on the amount of carbon emissions for many industries. If companies exceed their limits, they have to purchase credits. Revenues go to state governments for programs such as the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund, which is to receive 45 percent of the RGGI funds. So far, Virginia has received $142 million over three auctions. 

Charlottesville will receive $153,500 from the fund to pay for a plan to prepare the Moores Creek Watershed for the floodings. That’s part of $7.8 million in grants announced yesterday by Governor Ralph Northam. The funds are distributed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, an agency that is also working on a master plan for coastal resilience in Virginia

Most of the funding is going to localities either on the coast or much closer. However, Charlottesville is not the westernmost recipient. The city of Winchester will receive $65,040 for a resilience plan and Buchanan County will receive $387,500 for “plans and capacity building” and that’s enough money for them to hire a consultant. 

Charlottesville will use the money to create a two-dimensional hydraulic model for the Moores Creek watershed within city limits. Andrea Henry, the city’s water resources protection administrator.  

"2D modeling has the ability to identify drainage issues for our inlets, pipes, ditches, and streams across the entire City using the same methodology and analyses for a variety of storm scenarios," said Henry.  "We can use the results of this model to predict when our streets, sidewalks, homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure will be susceptible to flooding with the types of storms we see now and may see in the future due to our changing climate."

Speaking of the draft Comprehensive Plan, water resources protection is covered in Goal 3 of Chapter 7, Environment, Climate, and Food Equity. 

“Charlottesville will be an environmental leader, with healthy air, water, and ecosystems, as well as ample, high-quality, and accessible open space and natural areas, and a preserved and enhanced tree canopy,” reads the community vision statement for the chapter. “The Rivanna River and other waterbodies will be celebrated and protected, and  environmentally-sound community access will be enhanced.”

Read the rest of the recipients here


You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

In today’s second Substack-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects. 


We are now six days into Try Transit Month, an effort to encourage people to consider using fixed-route or on-demand service to get around the community. It has now been 13 days since the Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership met on September 23 Since October 2017, the advisory body run by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District has served as a clearinghouse for different providers. 

Karen Davis is the interim director of Jaunt and she stated one of the biggest challenges facing all bus fleets.

“The driver shortage continues,” Davis said. “Jaunt is going to move to match [University Transit Service] and [Charlottesville Area Transit’s] recruiting and retaining bonus programs to try to entice more people into the door.

Jim Foley, the director of pupil transportation for Albemarle County, could not give an update at the meeting because he was driving a school bus. 

Becca White, the director of Parking and Transportation at UVA, said ridership is rebounding following the pandemic. 

“We are up to about 8,000 riders a day on our system,” White said. “Three thousand of those are employees and the rest are students.”

That’s down from pre-COVID levels of around 12,000 to 15,000 a day while school was in session.

“During the height of COVID it was 3,000 to 4,000 passengers a day.” White said. 

One of the steps UTS has taken to make efficient use of their drivers has been to eliminate bus trips on McCormick Road through the heart of Grounds during the day. White said that might be one reason numbers have not rebounded as high. 

“We need to concentrate our transit trips from the end points in given the limited resources that we have,” White said. 

The free trolley-style bus operated by Charlottesville Area Transit has returned to McCormick Road. CAT has been fare-free since the beginning of the pandemic. CAT Director Garland Williams said he is hoping to keep it that way by applying for a Transit Ridership Incentive Program grant.

“We applied for the TRIPS grant program with the state to keep CAT zero-fare for an additional three years,” Williams said.

Williams said the planned route changes will not take place until January due to the driver shortage. Under the new alignment, Route 11 will go to the Center at Belvedere and there have been requests to make that change sooner. Williams said that would present problems. 

“If we were to make the adjustment to the Center now prior to making all of the adjustments, we would run the risk of individuals who are using the 11 missing their connections because it does take longer to get to the Center and get back,” Williams said. 

Williams said the timing will be correct when the changes are made. 

On September 1, the Afton Express began operation from Staunton to Charlottesville with a month of fare-free ridership. The service is operated by Brite, the transit service in the Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro They’re now charging $3 each way. For the first three weeks, the service only carried about a dozen to 18 passengers each day, according to RideShare manager Sara Pennington.

“We’re still looking to creep those numbers up but is still nice and early,” Pennington said. 

Pennington also discussed what the regional services are doing for Try Transit month. One thing is the usage of the hash tag ion Twitter #Busorbust.

Albemarle County and the TJPDC are continuing work on a transit expansion study. The latest milestone is publication of a market and service analysis FourSquare ITP and Michael Baker International. (market and service analysis)

“Ripe for service expansion, the US-29 corridor is the second busiest transit corridor in the region,” reads an overview of the study areas. “The Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2015, outlines goals for increasing the supply of affordable housing for households with incomes between zero percent and 80 percent of area median income, through rezoning and incentives to developers.” 

The study also covers Pantops and Monticello. 

There will be a stakeholder meeting on October 22 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and a public meeting on October 21st from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

“Those will be going over the new alternatives or the draft alternatives that they are working on for each of the study areas,” said Lucinda Shannon, the TJPDC’s transportation manager. 

The TJPDC is also conducting a regional transit vision study.  There’s a stakeholder meeting for that tomorrow at 9 a.m. The meeting can be watched live on their YouTube page. (watch)

“And that’s going to be asking people to identify community goals around Charlottesville and what the community values and what they want to see,” Shannon said. 

You can also offer your views as part of a survey that’s on the project website

Before we go, let’s look at the draft Comprehensive Plan one more time. Transit is embedded in many chapters of the plan, including the land use chapter. But take a look at Chapter 6 and goals 5 and goals 6. Williams’ attempts to help CAT become fare-free are specifically embedded in Strategy 13.2:

“Ensure that transit is  financially accessible to all residents and those  who work in the city, including low-income populations, the elderly, and those with disabilities.”