Team Coverage | The Waynesboro Circulator
The Waynesboro Circulator debuted Monday, bringing with it a new era of public transit to the River City. AFP editor Chris Graham met with city officials and representatives of Virginia Regional Transit to learn more about the new bus service. Watch his video report and read more about the Circulator in a written report.
News: It’s about time
For the same amount of money, the city can serve up to four times as many public-transit riders every month. Here’s my question – why didn’t somebody think of the Waynesboro Circulator before now?
“What this program is enabling us to do is to utilize that same funding stream to meet the needs of so many more citizens. And we’re actually thinking that the ridership numbers with this deviated fixed route could possibly triple if not quadruple over time,” said City Councilwoman Lorie Smith, who pushed behind the scenes for the city to make a change from the demand-response service under the old CATS system to the deviated fixed-route Waynesboro Circulator, which debuted today with a schedule commencing at 7:50 a.m. weekdays and looping hourly through 17 stops, with connections to Staunton, Blue Ridge Community College and Harrisonburg also part of the route for 50 cents per fare.
CATS, Coordinated Area Transportation Services, was an on-demand service that riders had to arrange ahead of time. The Waynesboro Circulator does have an element of prearrangement built in for riders with disabilities who are ADA-certified and live within three-quarters of a mile of the scheduled route, but it’s not the old CATS in any way, shape or form.
But neither is it mass transit, said Mark McGregor, the president and CEO of the Purcellville-based Virginia Regional Transit, which will manage the Waynesboro Circulator program. “This is transit designed for this community. Hopefully to move as many people with as little local support as possible, so that we can help stimulate the local economy here in Waynesboro, so that we can help move people to essential services, whether they be medical, family-related or just quality-of-life issues,” McGregor said.
VRT general manager Michael Socha said the idea for the Circulator came up during a review by the transit company of user numbers in Waynesboro. “We began to see a peak in the ridership and usage,” Sacha said of a VRT survey of users that was presented to the city earlier this year that included the recommnendation that “perhaps a different concept would work,” Sacha said.
“The overwhelming support of the mayor and City Council and VPAS and the Disability Services Board has been tremendous,” Sacha said. “They see better access to service centers and social agencies like the YMCA and shopping centers, so we feel like we’re on a good track.”
Socha said the demand-response service has averaged 450 riders per month. He projects ridership will double in the first month of operations of the Waynesboro Circulator. “I’d like to see ridership in the 2,000 to 2,500 per month range at the one-year mark, which I think is very valuable,” Socha said. “And I know from being in business that when you ride, you’re out there spending money, so to the business community, when you’re investing in public transit, that money is spent when people get out of their homes and can shop in the local area.”
Smith and Mayor Tim Williams both feel the key to the story is that the city isn’t having to commit anything more in terms of taxpayer dollars to make the Waynesboro Circulator a reality.
“We know we’re going to reach more citizens with the same amount of money that we’ve been allocating,” Smith said.
“I appreciate them doing more with less, because as everyone knows these are tough budgetary times. It’s just a very exciting day to see this new route go in place,” Williams said.
– Story and Video by Chris Graham