What happens when you put government officials in the position of students? The scene begins to resemble a high school classroom, with the skeptical kids asking deflating questions and the teacher’s pets answering them.
“I’m thinking about funding capacity,” said County Supervisor Ken Boyd, sitting at one of six tables in the Charlottesville-Albemarle Visitors Center. “Obviously large urban areas would have a much bigger opportunity to fund this type of infrastructure.”
“One of the things required to make the transit system work is density,” responded City Councilor Kevin Lynch, who sat closer to the front. “Charlottesville is the fourth densest locality in Virginia.” As teacher, Harrison Rue, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, said he would get to the topic of density later.
Taking a cue from the fab four, Harrison Rue asked if the City, County and UVA can come together on mass transit.
The lesson was on a regional transit system—discussing potential, reviewing existing conditions and identifying key next steps. Rue gave Power Point presentations that highlighted the efficiency of mass transit and various systems in places like Las Vegas, Portland and Los Angeles to his class of County supervisors, City councilors and officials from Charlottesville Transit System (CTS) and the University Transit System (UTS).
“Can your community pass The Beatles test?” asked Rue, flashing the cover of Abbey Road on the projector screen. George, Paul, Ringo and John were photoshopped into various intersections, including Route 29 north of Charlottesville, which decidedly failed The Beatles test. Instructor Rue broke up the lessons with five-minute discussion sessions, on topics such as places where transit worked and the shape of cities where transit worked.
The four-hour lesson was complete with guest lecturers. Corey Hill from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation told local officials of the need to prioritize clear projects. Ten members of the public got a few minutes each. County resident Montigue MaGruder shared specific suggestions for improving CTS, such as adding a route from Pantops to Barracks Road. City resident Jason Pearson said that though he doesn’t own a car, he’s only used CTS once—a sign that it’s “simply not convenient for me to use.”