Golden shovels and greener buses

Golden shovels and greener buses

Yesterday afternoon, I was out on Avon Street Extended for the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Charlottesville Transit Service facility. A row of golden shovels glinted in the sun, like so:

And a scrubby, partly cleared site awaited its new fate:

And various officials spoke about what’s planned here: a 26,300-square-foot compound, meant to replace CTS’s current facility on Fourth Street NW, and set to earn LEED Gold certification when it’s completed next summer. "This is the best kind of planning," said Congressman Tom Perriello.

The new operations-and-maintenance facility will be a sort of counterpart to the city’s other big LEED project, the Downtown Transit Center. If the Transit Center is the modern public face for the city’s bus fleet, the Avon Street facility will be the man behind the curtain—the place where buses are washed, engines repaired and papers filed. The buildings themselves will be more efficient and nontoxic, and they’ll make it possible for CTS to transition toward a fleet of hybrid buses and a more regional approach to public transit.

All good stuff, as is the fact that both Mayor Dave Norris and Congressman Perriello put the word "green" right up at the top of their brief speeches, signaling a commitment to at least try for a cleaner way of life here in Charlottesville. Norris talked about how CTS ridership is up (it climbed 14.5 percent in the crazy-gas-prices year of 2008), and that’s another good thing. The stat that wasn’t mentioned is what percentage of folks ever take the bus at all, and how aside from the success of the Prius, private autos have stubbornly resisted becoming greener.

Local government is relatively powerless when it comes to convincing people to ride bikes, walk, or take the bus. If citizens are set on driving from Mas to Spudnuts, no one can stop them. But, in my more hopeful moments, I tell myself that CTS’s setting this kind of example will help nudge the paradigm a little further in the right direction.

How often do you take the bus, or otherwise do without a car?