Public transportation in the Valley expands with route over Afton Mountain
By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
Transportation between the Shenandoah Valley and the other side of Afton Mountain is about to get more accessible.
The Afton Express will be ready Sept. 1 to carry passengers to and from across the mountain.
For the month of September, rides are free for everyone.
After Sept. 30, rides are $3.00 one way, or $6 round-trip.
“This has been coming for a long time, and finally the right partners came together,” said Rachel Salatin, marketing coordinator for the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission.
Afton Express is an extension of BRITE transit, and BRITE buses are one of the commission’s programs.
The partners making the Afton Express possible are the cities of Staunton, Waynesboro and Charlottesville, Augusta and Albemarle counties and UVA.
“Public transportation in a rural area such as ours can be difficult,” Salatin said.
Through funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and matching funds from the partner localities, the Afton Express is ready for commuters on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
According to Salatin, the Afton Express “has been a long time coming.”
The CSPDC began talking about the new bus route in 2017, and performed feasibility studies. A lot of individuals who live in Fishersville, and the cities of Staunton and Waynesboro commute over Afton Mountain to jobs in the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
Salatin said that the Afton Express will have three pick-up sites: the Staunton Mall, the Fishersville Park & Ride lot, and the Waynesboro Park & Ride Lot by Target.
Commuters will have four morning times between 5 and 8 a.m. on weekdays to catch the Afton Express, and four afternoon rides between 3 and 6 p.m. to get back to Staunton, Waynesboro or Augusta County.
Salatin said that “the idea is to run them for commuters, for patients and for shoppers.”
Drop-off sites will be at Bavaro Hall on UVA campus, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library on UVA campus, West Main Street in Charlottesville near the Amtrak station, the Charlottesville Downtown Transit Station near the historic downtown mall, and the Fifth Street Station near Wegman’s.
For now, weekend pick-up and drop-off times are not available.
“We don’t know what is to come for Afton Express. This is what we have funding for now,” Salatin said.
Salatin said that a cost savings option will be available of a 10-ride fair card for $25 for the Afton Express.
WiFi and charging stations will be available free on the Afton Express so that commuters can work on their personal computers or relax.
Afton Express will follow CDC guidelines as other BRITE buses follow, including requiring passengers wear masks and social distance as much as possible.
Salatin said free masks will be available for passengers.
And the Afton Express “will be kept clean and sanitary between rides” to further protect passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information, visit www.aftonexpress.org , or follow the Afton Express on Facebook (@Aftonepress) and Twitter (@AftonBus).