As students return to the University of Virginia, the University Transit Service, a fare-free bus system providing service around Grounds to UVA students, faculty and staff, will operate with some COVID-19-dictated limitations.
“The bottom line is that transit operations are still being impacted by COVID-19,” said Rebecca White, director of UVA’s Department of Parking & Transportation. “It still affects our protocols. Academic routes were adjusted to emphasize connections from end points to Grounds.”
As has been the case since the pandemic began, passengers will continue to board and alight buses from the rear doors. The buses will not be loaded to capacity, and passengers are required to wear face masks.
“Those limits and restrictions may still fluctuate along with CDC, state and University recommendations,” said Kendall Howell, assistant director for transportation in the Department of Parking and Transportation.
While the number of passengers allowed in the buses will be higher in the fall, bus routes and capacities will remain modified. Buses will not run on McCormick Road until 6 p.m. during the week. This will leave McCormick Road more open for bicycles and scooters, and people are being encouraged to walk.
The academic route service is being concentrated from the end points to Grounds, rather than shuttling passengers to destinations within Grounds. Current bus routes are available at the Parking and Transportation website.
“McCormick Road remains a pedestrian/bike corridor on weekdays before 6 p.m.,” Howell said. “Weekday bus service before 6 p.m. will connect student housing areas, both on and off Grounds, to academic areas via our transit hub at Rice Hall on Whitehead Road and at the bus stop on Jefferson Park Avenue, located at Cabell Hall.”
On weekdays after 6 p.m. and on weekends during the fall semester, buses will run along McCormick Road with stops at the University Chapel/Alderman Library and McCormick Road residence halls (also known as the Old Dorms) and the Chemistry Building.
“We will be using only those four stops on McCormick Road, and only after 6 p.m. and on the weekends,” Howell said. “Daily UTS route end time is midnight, with Safe Ride going into service at that hour.”
The Safe Ride van service, an on-demand, point-to-point van service provided after UTS has stopped service for the night, is returning and will operate from midnight to 7:30 a.m. Students will need a valid UVA ID to use the service, and wait times will vary from a few minutes to much longer during special events and times of high call volume.
Buses do not service McCormick Road during the day primarily because of the passenger loading limits.
“With the crush loads created by class changes for people to ride one stop, the driver would not be able to manage all that,” White said. Instead, UTS can focus on providing more trips between Central Grounds and farther-afield locations, places like Hereford Residential College, Faulkner Apartments and Copeley Hill Apartments, she said.
The City of Charlottesville’s free trolley service, which runs from Central Grounds to downtown Charlottesville, will return to McCormick Road, but White said the city has not yet announced a date. A valid UVA ID can be used in lieu of a fare on all Charlottesville Transit System buses.
The University bus routes that run from commuter parking lots are currently operating on a “park by arrival time” model, which UTS adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective Monday, those who arrive to work between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. are parking in the Red Lot at Scott Stadium and riding the Red Line to the Medical Center. Those who arrive at work between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. park in the Emmet/Ivy Garage and ride the Blue Line to the Medical Center.
Those departing from work between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. should ride the Orange Line.
Passengers will still be able to track buses in real time with the UTS online bus tracking system.
“Download the TransLoc Rider application or use TransLoc online to find the nearest bus stop, track your bus in real time, see arrival time estimates and receive service impact notifications,” Howell said.
People on Grounds are also able to use escooters and ebikes, available by signing up directly with the vendor, Veo.
“Once signed up, riders can find available escooters and ebikes through the Veo application,” White said. “Riders pay Veo for individual use directly through the Veo app. There is an ‘unlock’ fee and a cost per minute. Riders should operate and park escooters and ebikes safely, respectfully and with care; operate and park it like a bike or moped, with no riding on sidewalks. Park them in the bike racks or moped parking. Helmets are highly encouraged.”
The escooter/ebike program is managed for the region by the City of Charlottesville. Potential vendors apply for a city permit and can then apply to Albemarle County and the University to operate in their spaces.
White said Zipcars – autos that are rentable by the hour or day – will also be available on Grounds at a date to be determined later this this semester. Customers can sign up directly with Zipcar. Membership fees apply.
“Once signed up, users can book through the Zipcar application and pay by the hour or day,” White said. “Fees cover gas, insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance and 180 miles. There are also multiple discounted plans that are available to members of the UVA community.”
UTS passengers should remain alert to possible changes.
“Except for employee shuttles, UTS operates at different service levels throughout the year, depending on the academic calendar, clinic holidays, University holidays and event impacts,” Howell said. “Please use our Operating Status page for updates during times of inclement weather.”