Bus route changes approved more than four months ago take effect Saturday, but not everyone is on board.
"They're not thinking about riders," said Lena Seville, president of Transit Riders of Charlottesville, an advocacy group. "They're thinking about efficiency, about what looks good on paper."
Seville and her group held a rally Thursday to voice concerns over Charlottesville Area Transit route changes, which include cutting Saturday service to Route 1 and night service to Route 10. The City Council approved the moves in August. Transit Riders initially supported the changes.
The route makeover came after more than a year of planning, beginning with a $116,000 study by national transportation consultant Nelson Nygaard. The changes were recommended after CAT officials tested the study's recommendations and made their own tweaks, said agency spokesman Westley Kern.
"We have a fine eye on ... routes that are not as efficient," Kern said.
Circuitous routes were streamlined, and two transfer stations, which will serve multiple routes, were added at the Willoughby Shopping Center and the University of Virginia Medical Center, Kern said.
Routes 1A and 1B are being combined into a single route serving the Belmont neighborhood and Piedmont Virginia Community College, but no buses will run on Saturdays. Route 10, serving Pantops, also is affected. Night service and service to South Pantops Boulevard will be cut. Route 2 was eliminated because its service area will be covered by other lines.
"This is not a little change," said Shar'on McNab, who regularly rides the bus from her home in Pantops. "This is a dramatic change."
CAT's average operational cost is $2.48 per passenger compared to one-way fare of 75 cents, Kern said. Route 1 service on Saturday cost $35 a passenger because of low ridership, he said.
Some stops will be moved or eliminated. The changes were designed to get riders where they want to go faster once they get to the bus, Kern said.
Seville and others objected to the changes being implemented in the winter. Some riders walk as far as a half-mile to reach stops, Seville said.
"There are people who can't walk half a mile," said Baughan Roemer. He said he's been riding the bus from his Belmont home for more than 20 years.
Cutting night service to the Pantops area and Saturday service on Route 1 could impact people who rely on buses to get to work, Seville said.
Kern encouraged people to call with complaints, questions or positive comments.
"Our goal is to increase ridership. We don't want this to scare away riders," he said.
Councilor Kristin Szakos and Brad Sheffield, elected in the fall to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, attended Thursday's gathering. Sheffield urged people to contact councilors and supervisors with comments and concerns.
About 30 people have complained about the changes, Kern said. CAT's daily ridership is 6,000, he said.
Copyright 2014 - The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Va.