Charlottesville Area Transit

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Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT) is a city-run agency that operates several bus lines throughout Charlottesville and Albemarle County, including a free trolley service between the Downtown Mall and the University of Virginia. The service changed its name from Charlottesville Transit Service to Charlottesville Area Transit in 2010. [1] [2]

While operated by the city, ten of the 13 routes travel within Albemarle County. [3]


CAT service area for 2017
The history of transit and bus lines in the community during the early to mid 20th century is still being pieced together.

In the late 1940's, bus service was provided by S.A. Jessup.

In March 1948, a petition signed by 300 people was submitted to City Council to bring service to the Belmomt area. [4]

Also that month, members of the Young Men's Business Club backed a proposal in traffic and parking survey that buses only be allowed to stop on every other intersection on Main Street. [5]

In 1980, Albemarle County received a grant to pay for bus service from the Lake Saponi area to Barracks Road Shopping Center. [6]

Public transit

The original new logo for Charlottesville Area Transit which was rejected

The bus system was created in September 1975 to replace the privately run Yellow Transit Co. bus service. [7] In 2010, CAT began operating hybrid fuel buses. [1] New fareboxes will be installed in 2014 to improve the system's ability to measure performance. [8]

In 1999, the free trolley service was created.


For rides requiring a fare,

  • Single-ride, one-way: $0.75. A reduced fare of $0.35 per trip is available for seniors, who must apply for a reduced fare card.
  • All-day unlimited: $1.50 (lowered from $2 in September 2009).[9]
  • Month unlimited: $20 (introduced September 2009).[9]

Under a pre-paid arrangement between CAT and the University of Virginia, UVa photo IDs of students, faculty, and staff are accepted as fare on all CTS buses. [1]

Youth ages 6 to 18 who reside in Charlottesville or Albemarle County ride free in summer months under the "Youth Ride FREE Program".


County funding

Albemarle County participates in the CAT program by paying a share of rides that operate within its borders. In FY2009, Albemarle paid the City $666,634[10]to operate Routes 2B, 5, and 10. In FY2017 that has increased to $1.05 million. [3]

FY2012 funding

For FY2012, CAT's budget is based on $645,000 in passenger fare revenue. Of this amount $60,000 is from the University of Virginia as a contribution to the cost of the FREE Trolley. Also, of this amount $145,000 is from the University of Virginia as pre-payment of fares so that those students, faculty, and staff with UVA photo ID are allowed to ride Charlottesville Area Transit by displaying the photo ID.[11]

FY2017 funding

CAT’s budget for the current fiscal year is $7.3 million, including a $1.05 million contribution from Albemarle County. Charlottesville taxpayers contribute $2.27 million to the service, and UVa pays $241,535 to allow students and faculty to ride fare-free. Federal funding is $1.65 million and state funding is $1.38 million. [3]

History of changes leading to January 2014 system revamp

The Connetics Group was hired in 2011 by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to produce a transit development plan to prioritize funding in the next six years.[12] Preliminary results of their study were presented to council at a work session on March 4, 2011. Council rejected many of the suggestions, most notably that which would have realigned two low-performing city routes to provide additional service to the relocated Martha Jefferson Hospital.[13]

CAT Director Bill Watterson left his position in February 2012.[14] Lance Stewart, the city's facilities manager, is serving as the acting director. Juwhan Lee is the operations manager.[15]

Nelson Nygaard study

In the summer of 2012, City Council hired the firm Nelson Nygaard to study the system once again to suggest ways to redraw the system.[15] The firm completed the $116,000 study[16] in March 2013. It explores ways to adjust to existing fixed-route bus services to improve service quality and increase ridership. It also considers potential new routes.[17] Route 11 from the Downtown Mall to Fashion Square Mall along Rio Road East, which is one of the new routes suggested by the study, was approved by the Charlottesville City Council on July 1, 2013. Beginning in August, the new route will allow passengers to travel between downtown Charlottesville and Route 29 in 30 minutes instead of the 50 minutes required by the Route 7 bus.[16]

Protests for more funding

A group of activists held a rally in May 2012 demanding that the city fully fund service on Sundays and holidays.[18] That group's protest led to the formation of the group Transit Riders Association of Charlottesville.

Changes made

Service changes were made on January 4, 2014 despite protests. [19] A few months later, Jones reported to City Council that ridership was down 8 percent. [20]



Ridership is measured on the fiscal year, ending June 30. For 2009, CAT reported ridership of 2,012,462, an 18% increase in boardings over the previous year. University of Virginia boardings represented nearly 30% of the total.[1] It dropped for first time in several years in 2014.

Hybrid Bus Change

In January of 2011 the first hybrid buses were introduced to the fleet.[21] The hybrids cost the city about $179,000 more each than diesel buses, with a plan to replace most all by 2020, but CAT's Transit Manager John Jones has stated that CAT does consider this project to be worthy in assisting the city in their sustainability goals.[22]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Web. CTS Serves More than Two Million, Press release, City of Charlottesville, July 7, 2009, retrieved September 30, 2014.
  2. Web. CTS becomes CAT, Dave McNair, The Hook, Better Publications LLC, March 3, 2010, retrieved July 8, 2013. Print. March 11, 2010 , 910, .
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Web. Albemarle supervisors briefed on transit options, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 8, 2017, retrieved December 26, 2017.
  4. Web. Council Enacts Tax Ordinance, Staff Reports, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, March 2, 1949, retrieved December 10, 2016 from University of Virginia Library.
  5. Web. Alternate Street Bus Stops Urged, Staff Reports, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, March 26, 1948, retrieved December 23, 2016 from University of Virginia Library. Print. March 26, 1948 page 3.
  6. Print: Albemarle To Open U.S. 29 Bus Route, Robert Brickhouse, Daily Progress, Worrell Newspaper group January 30, 1980, Page A3.
  7. Print: Council Approves Transit Subsidy, Peter Bacque, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises January 21,1976, Page C1.
  8. Web. [ Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation F.Y. 2014 Mid-Year Funding Allocation - $565,105.], John Jones, Charlottesville Area Transit, retrieved December 16, 2013.
  9. 9.0 9.1 C'ville Transit Service Unveils New Fares, Keith McGilvery, NBC 29, Aug 18, 2009, Updated: Sep 01, 2009, retrieved 2 Sep 2009.
  10. Vinzant, Laura. "CTS budget question." Message to Sean J. Tubbs. 26 Jan. 2010. E-mail.
  11. E-mail. Bill Watterson, Charlottesville Area Transit. "Charlottesville Area Transit FY 2012 Revenue from Passenger Fares." Message to Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow. May 18, 2011.
  12. Document for Transit Development Plan
  13. Web. Council blesses planning for bus route changes, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, March 4, 2011, retrieved March 21, 2011.
  14. Web. City’s transit director departure means new era for system, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, March 1, 2012, retrieved May 16, 2012.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Web. Speeding change: A driver’s take on updating city bus routes, Graeyln Brashear, C-VILLE Weekly, Portico Publications, October 3, 2012, retrieved October 8, 2012. Print. October 3 .
  16. 16.0 16.1 Web. Council OKs new bus route into Albemarle, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 1 July 2013, retrieved 2 July 2013.
  17. Web. CAT Transit Study, City of Charlottesville, retrieved 2 July 2013.
  18. Web. Rally calls for better area bus service, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, May 12, 2012, retrieved May 14, 2012.
  19. Web. Uneasy riders: Group rails against CAT route changes, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, January 2, 2014, retrieved April 28, 2014.
  20. Web. Transit manager briefs council on ridership decrease, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, April 8, 2014, retrieved April 28, 2014.
  21. [1]
  22. Thoms, Paul. "Interview with John Jones." Message to John Jones. 1, Nov. 2013. Email.

See also

External Links

Charlottesville Area Transit website