Surry commuter bus route eyed

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, June 8, 2016

By Matt Leonard

Staff Writer

The Williamsburg Area Transit Authority is considering changes to some of its bus routes and fares, including the line currently serving parts of Surry County.

The transit organization is considering more runs on the line early in the morning and fewer in the afternoon, according to Jamie Jackson, a WATA official who spoke at a public hearing at the Surry Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday.

“What we’re trying to do is provide more frequency so riders don’t have to wait up to two hours for the next bus,” Jackson said.

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This means targeting “peak” riding times, she said, which are early in the morning and afternoon. The hours that could see a drop in trips are between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Jackson said WATA had struggled with reliability in Surry recently because the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry was using its smallest ferry, the Virginia, while the larger Williamsburg ferry is in drydock for repairs and updates.

“Sometimes we miss the boat, if they don’t have room the bus can’t get on,” Jackson said.

The proposed route change also adds a stop at the Jamestown Settlement, giving riders an earlier transfer point on the Jamestown line.

The changes to routes are based on surveys and data gathered by a consultant, Jackson said.

Three stops would be eliminated on the Surry line with the change. The Jamestown Road and campus center stop, the North Boundary Street stop, and the John Tyler Road and Farm Fresh stop would no longer be served by the Surry line. This is because the Surry line would no longer be running to the train station under the proposed changes. But the recommendations have the Jamestown line running to the station instead.

There are some proposed fare increases as well: one-way fare would go up by 25 cents to $1.50; all day fare would go up a dollar to $3; and a 30-day pass would jump to $45, up from $35. The last fare increase for WATA was in 2012.

Without a fare increase, WATA could be forced to consider reduced serve, Jackson said.

In fiscal 2015, WATA provided 8,000 trips in the Surry community, according to Jackson. The passenger rate per hour was 2.2 for the year, which Jackson said is low because the current route goes all the way to the train where fewer people use stops. The authority gives about one million trips a year for its entire district.

Rhonda Russell, the director of planning and community development for Surry County, said the bus gets a lot of use with people going to the Williamsburg area for jobs, especially in the summer to work at Busch Gardens, she said.

According to the authority’s website, it has provided serve to Surry County since 2007, when Virginia approved a $112,000 grant to assist Surry and WATA in becoming partners. The state hoped the program would reduce traffic on State Routes 10 and 31 while also providing easy access to the Williamsburg community for Surry residents.

Nine of WATA’s 11 lines have proposed changes to them under this new plan.

There are two more public hearings on the proposed changes. The first is June 9 at 5 p.m. in the Toano Middle School cafeteria. The last hearing is June 11 at 4 p.m. in the James City County Recreation Center Room C.

Jackson said they hope to make these changes by the end of the calendar year, but it depends on the board’s recommendation.  {/mprestriction}