Seth Rosen asks in the Feb. 18, 2008 Daily Progress article the "$138 million question: Is high-tech bus system worth the price tag?" Rosen reports that many of our local elected officials "are skeptical that a bus rapid transit system would accomplish what its advocates predict. And the $138 million price tag would be a staggering sum for a community of this size". Benefits anticipated from the transit option expect reduced travel time between downtown, the university, U.S. Route 29, and to the airport. This would also be consistent with city council's goals of reducing the use of single-occupancy automobiles, reducing emission of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, and enhancing transportation options for residents of and visitors to our region. But, is $138 million too much to invest in our transportation future? Charlottesville and Albemarle County continue to pursue the idea of building the proposed Meadow Creek Parkway. The current cost estimate for the city portion (McIntire Road Extended through McIntire Park), the county portion (Meadow Creek Parkway from Melbourne Road to Rio Road), and the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road totals $69 million dollars. This is the sum of cost estimates our local Metropolitan Planning Organizations long range plan document being considered at tomorrow's MPO meeting. The $69 million - half of the cost of the high-tech bus system - buys us little if anything in the way of congestion relief, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, or enhanced transportation options. In fact, the parkway project appears to be counter to meeting council's stated goals. In addition, the parkway would have significant impacts on McIntire Park, Bailey Park, and several historic sites eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The actual cost for the parkway option will likely be higher than the $69 million given that emerging cost estimates for the interchange alone are typically above the current listed cost.
I prefer our region consider seriously investing in transit (considering both BRT and light-rail options) and reprogramming the funds allocated to the Meadow Creek Parkway project to support transit development to the extent possible. I believe a regional investment of $138 million for transit will be a much better investment than the $69+ million dollars currently programmed for a project with little to offer in solving our long-term regional transportation problems.
Note: Image from http://www.transalt.org/files/newsroom/magazine/042Spring/images/17bus.jpg