April 2, 2007 -- Starting today, all University of Virginia staff, faculty and students can ride Charlottesville city buses for free, anytime, simply by showing their U.Va. ID. University buses continue to be open to the public for free.
The new ridership program will be in effect at least until July 1, 2008, and is expected to continue, according to Rebecca White, director of U.Va. Parking and Transportation.
The program roughly doubles the number of U.Va. employees (from about 1,400 to 3,000) who now have access to a free bus service that stops within a quarter a mile of their home and runs directly to U.Va. Grounds, according to Parking and Transportation analysis of the proximity of bus routes and employee addresses. About 1,600 of those 3,000 people are served by only a Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS) route.
The newly free bus service means "employees now have a new commuting option and students now have easy access to a much larger portion of the Charlottesville community," said White.
But there are several more benefits to the Charlottesville community. Previous month-long trials of free-ridership for members of the U.Va. community have resulted in ridership increasing as much as five-fold, which greatly reduces traffic and greenhouse gas emissions compared to what would be produced by the same number of passengers driving single occupancy vehicles. As the CTS Web site notes, a full bus equals 6 city blocks of people driving alone in their cars.
"It's not just a win-win," explained White. "It's a rare quadruple-win in that it saves money for employees, saves the University money compared to the costs of building parking facilities, and it's good for the environment and decreases traffic congestion."
To determine if a bus route is convenient to your house and travels directly to U.Va., visit: www.commuterinformation.com. Or call CTS at 296-7433 or the University Transit Service at 924-7711.
CTS routes changed significantly on March 26, with the opening of the new Downtown Transit Station at the east end of the Mall. CTS now provides direct service to central Grounds on routes 4, 7 and the trolley, service to the Medical Center on route 3 and service to the Millmont Street/Carruthers Hall area on route 5. Those routes travel from as far north as Sam’s Club on Route 29, as far east as Carlton Road, as far west as Georgetown Road, and as far south as the intersection of Harris Road and Jefferson Park Avenue Extended.
All city buses are equipped with bike racks, too, for those who live a bit further from a bus route or wish to get around Grounds by bicycle once they’ve gotten off the bus.
Those who ride the bus, rather than purchasing a parking permit, stand to save anywhere from $192 to $840 a year just in parking permit costs, based on the 2007-2008 permit rates that will start June 1, noted White.
On top of parking costs are driving costs. Although you are reminded of the cost of gas every time you fill up, the biggest costs of driving a vehicle are insurance, depreciation, maintenance and other “hidden” costs that add up, on average, to 52.5 cents per mile, according to a 2001 federal report (echoed by a 2007 AAA report.) Someone who lives two miles from U.Va. and works five days a week commutes approximately 1,000 miles a year. Doing that commute in a car that gets 25 miles per gallon, and paying an average of $2.50 per gallon for gas, means total driving costs are $65 a month or $780 a year. So an employee living just two miles from U.Va. who would otherwise purchase the cheapest U.Va. parking permit stands to save $972 a year by riding the bus to work. One who would otherwise purchase a Medical Center parking permit (costing $70 per month) could save $1,620.
During daytime hours, buses run every 15 minutes on the trolley route and on CTS route 7, which travels from Fashion Square Mall down Route 29 to central Grounds and then to the Downtown Mall. Other CTS routes pick up on 30- or 60-minute intervals. University buses generally run every 10 to 15 minutes during weekdays. City buses run Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. on all routes, and until midnight in many neighborhoods. University buses on the major routes run from 7:30 a.m. until around midnight.
This new benefit was made possible by a partnership between UTS and CTS, following a series of monthly trials, starting in October 2005, which found a significant jump in CTS ridership (a five-fold increase during one test month) when U.Va. employees and students could ride for free.