A good public transportation system is essential for any city because reliance on the automobile truly degrades our quality of life. When we moved to Charlottesville, Jon planned to commute to work on his bicycle, which he did until we moved to Belmont when, disenchanted with constant brushes with death, he switched to the # 3 bus which took him straight to work with no need to transfer.
Eventually I joined the # 3 bus crowd too--there was quite a community of regular riders. We became friendly with a woman who worked in food service at the student cafeteria at UVA. She would walk from blocks away to our bus stop--she had bad knees--and would spend her entire shift on her feet. There was a guy, who we didn't know and never spoke to, but who was on the bus every day. I'm pretty sure he lived in a supervised home for the mentally ill and he always got off the bus at Avon & Elliott, for the half mile walk to the "clubhouse." Some strange things happened occasionally. The incident that stands out is the woman who offered Jon a blow job in the bus stop at 6:30 one dark winter morning. Then there was the bus stop bear.
|This sign graced our bus stop after a bear was seen in it.|
Effective January 4, 2014 CAT drastically changed the routes. The #4 no longer goes anywhere near Avon St., so that route to and from work is lost to us. To get home, you can catch the #3 from UVA, but now it makes a huge detour south down 5th St. extended. It took Jon nearly an hour to get home from UVA on the #3 bus the other day. He could have driven all the way to Richmond in the same time, and he could have walked the whole way home in half that. Now, the trick to getting home to Belmont from UVA is to take the #7 down Main St, get off somewhere on Market, and transfer to the #3, which by the time it is on Market, has finished its tour of Southwood and goes straight to Belmont. If only the #3 ran more frequently than once every half hour! I have tried this route a few times since the change, and your chances of waiting for the #3 for less time than it would take to walk the whole way home are slim. I'm not going to stand at a bus stop for twenty minutes.
I usually walk to and from work, but I like to have the bus as a backup when it's raining or unbearably hot. My usual work hours are 7:30-4:00. The first day of the route changes, knowing that the #4 was no longer available, I was at the Belmont Park bus stop waiting for the #3 at 06:45--fifteen minutes earlier than I usually leave the house--but I'd checked the schedule on line and the bus was supposed to get there at :50 and :20 minutes past the hour during rush hour, starting at 06:20. I waited and waited and waited and at 7:01 gave up and walked to work, fuming. Jon called me to say that he'd rechecked the schedule, and while technically the #3 bus runs every half hour in the morning, CAT eliminated the run between the 06:20 and 07:20 stops at Belmont Park. I now have no way to get to work on the bus unless I adjust my work schedule half an hour earlier or later.
That day, I tried taking the bus home. After leaving work at 4:00, I waited only a minute or two before the #7 came rounding the corner of JPA. A promising start! The bus made pretty good time--one part of the change is that the city removed a lot of bus stops. I got off at Market & 2nd and discovered that it would be an eighteen minute wait for the #3. No way am I going to stand in one place in the freezing cold for eighteen freaking minutes. Then I remembered that the #1 bus dips into Belmont on its way to PVCC. I hurried across the mall to Water St. and found, to my consternation, that the old bus stop--a major one with a big shelter and benches--had been removed. I walked as fast as I could to the transit center, which is just a few blocks away, only to discover that the #1 would not arrive for twenty minutes. So I walked home.
Later that week, I had a late meeting at the Cancer Center and it was raining, so I thought I'd give the bus another chance. I walked to the bus stop in front of Jordan Hall, only it was hard to tell where the stop was. There was a shelter--which I really wanted to stand in and read The Goldfinch while I waited--but all the bus stop signs had been removed from the shelter. The actual bus stop was a little way down the street, with no shelter, so I had to stand in the rain. This time, however, I was able to catch the #3 on Market St, but I'd left work at the irregular time of 4:15. We've already seen that leaving work at 4:00 causes me to miss the #3, and leaving at 4:30 would also cause me to miss it. So, essentially, there is no bus home for me. The best I can do is take the #7 or the trolley downtown and walk from there.
I gave the bus one more try the next week when I had an appointment for my car at Cville Imports, which is near the intersection of Fontaine & JPA. In the past, I would drop my car at the shop and catch the trolley on JPA and ride into work. The first bus stop on JPA had been removed. Well, OK, I knew they'd spaced the stops farther apart, I'd walk to the next one. The next one was gone too, and the next. So I walked to work, about 1.5 miles, and I was late. The trolley no longer travels north on JPA.
|This used to be a bus stop|
I don't think it's too much to ask to get to and from work without waiting at transfer stops for longer than it takes to walk a mile, but apparently CAT can't provide this service. I know some of you are thinking: "You have a car, why don't you just drive to work?" Because driving is the worst option of all. I would have to drive past my office to a distant parking lot and then wait for a shuttle to take me to my office, and pay UVA for the privilege. Furthermore, UVA employees get free bus passes, a very nice perk, which I appreciate, but it's useless if the bus can't get me where I need to go. It's actually faster for me to walk to work than it is to deal with the driving/parking/shuttle nonsense, not to mention the traffic.
I realize that I'm speaking from a place of privilege. I'm lucky just to be able to walk to work, although I'll counter that by saying that it's no picnic to be a pedestrian in Charlottesville. If I had a dollar for every time a troglodyte in an SUV tried to run me down, I could retire and not have to deal with any of this bullshit. I'm not going to be fired if the bus makes me late for work. My schedule is flexible enough that I could adjust it if I absolutely had to take the bus. For me, a two-mile walk in the rain is an inconvenience, but what if I were disabled, or had bad knees like our bus stop friend? CAT removed three consecutive stops on Avon: Avon & Druid, Avon & Elliott, and Avon & Blenheim, so some people have to walk much farther to catch the bus or no longer can get off where they used to. The # 3 seems to function more as an "express" than a "local," which means you're SOL if you don't live near one of its hub stops. How does the guy from the #3 get to the clubhouse now?