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.

While operated by the city, ten of the 13 routes travel within Albemarle County. [1] A Regional Transit Partnership has been created to help encourage cooperation in planning.

The agency had a $8.1 million operating budget in FY2018 and 120 employees. Service is provided 18 hours a day Monday through Saturday and 12 hours a day on Sundays and weekends. In calendar 2017, 2.1 million passengers boarded buses. [2]


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. [3]

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. [4]

In 1980, Albemarle County received a grant to pay for bus service from the Lake Saponi area to Barracks Road Shopping Center. [5]

A ten cent fare increase was before Council on April 4, 1988. [6]

The service changed its name from Charlottesville Transit Service to Charlottesville Area Transit in 2010. [7] [8]

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. [9] In 2010, CAT began operating hybrid fuel buses. [7] New fareboxes will be installed in 2014 to improve the system's ability to measure performance. [10]

In 1999, the free trolley service was created. [citation needed]


Decisions about the system ultimately lie with City Council. The city is also a member of the Regional Transit Partnership, a non-binding advisory group that seeks to improve cooperation and coordination between CAT and other transit agencies such as JAUNT and University Transit Service. [11]

CAT is mandated by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to create a regional transit plan every six years. One such plan was under development in the summer of 2018 and adopted by City Council in December 2019. However, at the time director Garland Williams said he would not implement route changes without further public input. Such changes are under review in the summer of 2021.

City Council also voted to created a CAT Advisory Board at their meeting on October 1, 2018. The mission is to "serve as a rider-centric steering committee for Charlottesville Area Transit by soliciting and communicating riders' perspectives regarding CAT initiatives and operations." [12]

Planning in the Early 2010's

As part of the DRPT mandate, the Connetics Group was hired in 2011 by the DPRT to produce a transit development plan to prioritize funding in the next six years. 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.


Soon after, CAT director Bill Watterson left his position in February 2012.[14] Lance Stewart, the city's facilities manager at the time, served as the acting director. [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 explored ways to adjust to existing fixed-route bus services to improve service quality and increase ridership. It also considered potential new routes.[17]

Route 11 from the Downtown Mall to Fashion Square Mall along Rio Road East was one of the new routes suggested by the study and was approved by the Charlottesville City Council on July 1, 2013. Beginning in August, the new route allowed 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

Following the hire of John Jones, other 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]

2018 Transit Development Plans

John Jones briefed Council on the status of the CAT system on February 20, 2018. He acknowledged that ridership has been declining, but stated that is part of a national trend. Jones cited lower fuel prices and ride-hailing services as some of the reasons for the decline. However, he also said that CAT could do more to attract new riders such as increasing frequency, improving reliability and making the buses easier to use. [2] [21]

Jones also told Council that one hour of service costs $71.27 to operate. He said if Council wanted to increase frequency to twice an hour for all routes, it would cost $2.64 million a year. Additionally, four more buses would be required to bring the total fleet to 40. There would also be a need to hire more personnel. [2]

Michael Baker International was hired to work on CAT's new plan which is expected to be completed by late July. As of 2019, CAT had abandoned work on the plan in advance of beginning work on the newly state-required Transit Strategic Plan, on advice of DPRT.

Council adopted the plan on December 16, 2019 but only after Garland Williams said he would not be implementing any of the changes in the near term. [citation needed] New TDP plan


Funding comes from four major sources (FY2017 figures): The City of Charlottesville (29.5%); The Federal Transit Administration (21.49%); The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (17.98%); Albemarle County (13.70%). Remaining revenue comes from fares, the University of Virginia, advertising and rental income. [2]

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[22]to operate Routes 2B, 5, and 10. In FY2017 that has increased to $1.05 million. [1]

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.[23]

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. [1]

FY2019 funding

The University of Virginia paid $254,000 to CAT for reciprocal ridership in fiscal year 2019. [citation needed]

FY2020 funding

The University of Virginia paid $259,100 to CAT for reciprocal ridership in fiscal year 2019. [citation needed]



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).[24]
  • Month unlimited: $20 (introduced September 2009).[24]

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. [7]

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


Ridership is measured on the fiscal year, ending June 30.

Busiest stops

Stop Name Routes Serving
Barracks Road Shopping Center at Arlington Blvd Outbound 5 , 7 , 8
Jefferson Park Avenue at UVA Hospital Outbound 4, 6, 7, 9, Trolley
West Water St at Omni Hotel All Routes except 5
Jefferson Park Avenue at Maury Avenue Trolley
Fashion Square Mall 5, 7, 11
Barracks Road Shopping Center at Arlington Blvd Inbound 5, 7, 8
Jefferson Park Avenue at Cabell Hall Trolley
Jefferson Park Avenue at UVA Hospital Inbound 4, 6, 7, 9, Trolley
University Ave at the Womens Center Trolley
CVS at Barracks Road Shopping Center 5, 7, 8



The most popular route is the "free" trolley that circulates between the Downtown Transit Center and the University of Virginia. In 2019, this service was rerouted to travel along South Street to better serve Midway Manor. This service will be extended through at least May 2020 as the overall route is studied further, possibly through a consultant. [25]


Images through time


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Web. Albemarle supervisors briefed on transit options, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 8, 2017, retrieved February 23, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Web. [ Update on Public Transportation in the Charlottesville/Albemarle Region], John Jones, Staff Report, February 20, 2018, retrieved February 23, 2020.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Print: Albemarle To Open U.S. 29 Bus Route, Robert Brickhouse, Daily Progress, Worrell Newspaper group January 30, 1980, Page A3.
  6. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, April 4, 1988.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Web. CTS Serves More than Two Million, Press release, City of Charlottesville, July 7, 2009, retrieved September 30, 2014.
  8. Web. CTS becomes CAT, Dave McNair, The Hook, Better Publications LLC, March 3, 2010, retrieved February 23, 2020. Print. March 11, 2010 , 910, .
  9. Print: Council Approves Transit Subsidy, Peter Bacque, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises January 21,1976, Page C1.
  10. 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.
  11. Web. First transit partnership meeting held, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, October 30, 2017, retrieved June 10, 2018.
  12. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, October 1, 2018.
  13. Web. Council blesses planning for bus route changes, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, March 4, 2011, retrieved February 23, 2020.
  14. Web. City’s transit director departure means new era for system, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, March 1, 2012, retrieved February 23, 2020.
  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 February 23, 2020. Print. October 3, 2012 .
  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, Nelson Nygaard, City of Charlottesville, retrieved June 10, 2018.
  18. Web. Rally calls for better area bus service, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, May 12, 2012, retrieved June 10, 2018.
  19. Web. Uneasy riders: Group rails against CAT route changes, Liana Bayne, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, January 2, 2014, retrieved June 10, 2018.
  20. Web. Transit manager briefs council on ridership decrease, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, April 8, 2014, retrieved June 10, 2014.
  21. Web. Transit director: Ridership decline may be cyclical, Emily Hays, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 22, 2018, retrieved June 10, 2018.
  22. Vinzant, Laura. "CTS budget question." Message to Sean J. Tubbs. 26 Jan. 2010. E-mail.
  23. 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.
  24. 24.0 24.1 C'ville Transit Service Unveils New Fares, Keith McGilvery, NBC 29, Aug 18, 2009, Updated: Sep 01, 2009, retrieved 2 Sep 2009.
  25. Web. Council votes in support of affordable housing complex, Nolan Stour, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, February 20, 2020, retrieved February 23, 2020.

See also

External Links

Charlottesville Area Transit website CAT page on Federal Transit Administration website