CTS savors prospect of a new base, finally

CTS savors prospect of a new base, finally

Now that we’re all accustomed to having a LEED-gold-certified transit center at one end of the Downtown Mall, we’ll be getting a second LEED-gold-certified bus facility to go with it. The new one, a maintenance and operations facility on Avon Street Extended, will be less high-profile. Still, Charlottesville Transit System and city officials want the $15.6 million project to make a splash, as a March 9 groundbreaking made clear.

The four-building, 26,300-square-foot compound will replace the existing CTS facility on Fourth Street NW when it opens in fall 2010. “We don’t have enough space for the size of our operation right now,” says Bill Watterson, CTS transit manager. Even bathroom space for employees, he says, is inadequate at the old site. “We have a 39-bus fleet right now, and we could grow to a 60-bus fleet at that site on Avon Street and we won’t be tripping all over ourselves.”

 

The LEED-certified maintenance and ops facility, for which ground was broken last week, will make it easier for CTS to change its bus fleet to hybrid vehicles.

The new facility, designed by VMDO Architects and built on the former site of a parts warehouse, will include office space, a dispatching base, maintenance shop and vehicle wash building, and it will earn its LEED credits with a by-now-familiar array of environmental features: rainwater harvesting, recycled materials, native plantings.
 
More broadly, says Watterson, the Avon facility will position CTS to change its fleet to hybrid vehicles, and to transition toward a regional transit system. The first change is the more straightforward. Watterson explains that in fiscal year 2010, CTS will replace two trollies with hybrids, and that this “would be the start of what is probably close to a 10-year process to turn over the [full-size buses in the] fleet.”

As for the regional transit authority (RTA), an idea that’s been on the minds of local planners since early 2006, it recently hit a snag when subcommittees in the General Assembly blocked legislation that would have allowed Albemarle and Charlottesville voters to approve a 1 percent sales tax increase for RTA funding. The Metropolitan Planning Organization will take it up again at a March 25 meeting.

Regardless, CTS is smiling. Ridership is up significantly, Mayor Dave Norris pointed out at the groundbreaking: 14.5 percent more in the crazy-gas-prices year of 2008 than in 2007. “CTS is really delivering,” said Norris. And all but 8 percent of the cost of the new facility, a project Watterson estimates has been in the works for more than 10 years, will be covered by state and federal grants. 

Just before digging a golden shovel into the ground alongside Watterson, Norris and other City Council members, Congressman Tom Perriello gave the project his blessing, too. “This is the best kind of planning,” he said.

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