Transit center: Location irks transportation advocates

Here's the traveler's ideal: Arrive in town on the train, walk out the door of the station and hop on a bus to your in-town destination. That's called intermodal, and it's today's big buzzword in urban planning circles. It's also what critics say Charlottesville's proposed transit center at the east end of the Downtown Mall lacks.

At one time, the city transit center was headed for the Amtrak station property owned by developer Gabe Silverman on West Main, the optimum in intermodality.

When that deal fell through two years ago, the city decided to use property it already owns to take advantage of $6.5 million in federal funds.

"Now it's become a political decision rather than a transportation decision," says transportation consultant Peter Kleeman, who calls the Mall location a "second choice" driven by deadlines for spending the federal funds.

City planning director Jim Tolbert disagrees. He says the city hired a firm to look at seven or eight locations, and the east end of the Mall was deemed the best– and is intermodal. "It's got bike lockers, and it's accessible to pedestrians," Tolbert says.

The city is holding a public workshop May 21 at 6:30pm at Charlottesville High School on the transit center and the proposed Presidents' Plaza plan that revitalizes the east end of the mall.

For those who don't like the location, well, it's already a done deal. The workshop is for public input on the design, says Tolbert, and groundbreaking is scheduled to begin early next spring.

The Presidents' Plaza plan calls for closing Seventh Street, and that's a concern, even for supporters like architect Gate Pratt. "It's a little bit of a shame, the loss of connectivity at that end of the Mall," he laments.

Pratt concedes that a central location closer to Main Street or UVA would be preferable but acknowledges that's hard to find.

Still, Kleeman dares suggest letting go of the federal funds for now to allow time to come up with a comprehensive transportation plan that could link both current and future transportation modes, such as a light rail system.

"Why do a crappy job now," he asks, "when in the future, we could do a better job?"


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