The Tri-Cities area is well connected with mass transit through the Petersburg Area Transit system. But, a report that was delivered to Petersburg City Council in November says that transit options could be better and more efficient. Additionally, the report says that the other localities that receive a benefit through the transit offered by PAT should contribute more to the operation of the system.
PAT Transit General Manager Gha-is Bashir delivered the report, Tri-Cities Area 2010 Transit Development Plan, to council at the Nov. 1 City Council meeting.
The report prepared for the Crater Planning District Commission was dated October 2010. Some of the recommendations contained in the report have already been undertaken, including adding a route to Hopewell.
Though increased funding and participation from localities that benefit from the transit services would be a benefit, Bashir also said that a fare increase would help offset the operations cost of the transit system.
"It's been 10 years since there has been a fare increase," Bashir said. In addition to a fare increase, Bashir said that some new products are in the works, including a day pass and the potential for a monthly pass. "When we purchase new fare boxes would be the best time to implement the changes."
Councilwoman Treska Wilson-Smith said that she was concerned that the current route structure doesn't connect to U.S. Route 460.
"I have a difficult time understanding why we don't service that area when we service Colonial Heights and Hopewell," Wilson-Smith said.
Councilman Brian Ross asked if there was any consideration given to possibly establishing a route on North Sycamore Street to take people to downtown shopping areas or during Friday For the Arts!
Wilson-Smith said that previously a bus was used to take passengers to various venues in the downtown area.
Bashir said that a bus could be routed, but as a result, on- street parking would be lost. He added that unlike before when the Friday For the Arts! bus was run more like a charter bus, if it were re-instated Bashir said it would be run as a regular route.
In part, operation as a regular route would be to increase revenue and also for legal reasons.
Mayor Brian Moore asked whether or not there has been support from the other localities that make use of the transit service.
Bashir said that at this point the mood has been cooperative, but no financial support has been received. In addition to Petersburg, the Petersburg Area Transit has service to Fort Lee, the Ettrick area of Chesterfield County, Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Dinwiddie County at Southside Virginia Training Center and Central State Hospital and Prince George County at The Crossings shopping center.
"I know there's never a great time to ask for money, but it's time that others help pay the bills," Moore said, adding that perhaps in future conversations with government leaders in the other localities, the issue of financial support could be brought forward.
The report presented by Bashir notes the need for mass transit in the area. Especially crucial is the Petersburg Area Transit system as it is the only provider of mass transit in the Tri-Cities.
According to the report, public transportation has existed in the Tri-Cities since the 1880s with horse-drawn street railways. Later, electric trolleys came into existence. From 1927 to 1977, private bus operators provided bus service in the area. Since 1977, the city has operated the bus service.
At that time, routes were operated in Petersburg, to Colonial Heights, Hopewell, and parts of Chesterfield and Prince George Counties including Fort Lee - much like today.
However, due to many factors, including the decline of the Vietnam War and increases in car ownership, the number of riders declined.
However, recent increases in ridership have been noticed - though still not to the pre-1970s levels.
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