A Crozet Commuter Train?

From Charlottesville Tomorrow (read the whole thing) :

Encouraged by the reality of daily passenger service from Lynchburg to Washington, D.C., Albemarle County Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) sought the full Board’s support for a feasibility study for daily commuter service from Crozet to Charlottesville. The Board agreed on April 1, 2009 to send a letter to Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) officially seeking grant opportunities to study the idea further.

The service is proposed to be run on rails operated by the Buckingham Branch Rail Road (BBRR) , according to Mallek. She has met with Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris to discuss the idea with the railroad company’s officials. Buckingham Branch operates a railroad line that runs nearly 200 miles from Clifton Forge to Richmond on its Piedmont Branch.

The idea sprung up from a conversation between City resident John Pfaltz and Gale Wilson, the General Manager of the BBRR’s Richmond-Alleghany Division. Wilson identified three challenges, according to Pfaltz:

* Amtrak would need to sponsor the project and CSX, which owns the rail line, would need to approve the service

* CSX trains and Amtrak’s Cardinal service would take priority on the line

* Fencing would be required to keep pedestrians off of the track through Charlottesville

Pfaltz said the second item could be overcome by extending a “passing track” that currently exists in Ivy. This extra track would allow either the CSX train or the commuter train to park while the other train passes by. He estimates the start-up costs would be around $5 million.

(Hat Tip: C-Ville)

In a poll on RealCrozetVA last year, nearly 90% of respondents said that they would be willing to use rail service from Crozet to Charlottesville. About 60% of respondents said that they would be willing to pay less that five dollars each way –

The real challenge may lie in the answer to this question – what do you do when you get to Charlottesville? One idea is to have one of the rail cars be a bike car – then use bicycles to get around town.

Some studies have shown that properties close to transit are worth more …

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9 Replies to “A Crozet Commuter Train?”

  1. I can't imagine the State paying for a study for Albemarle County. I wonder how much is this study going to cost us taxpayers.

    I have a better idea, let Ann Mallek and Ann Thompson pay for the study since they don't mind spending the County taxpayers money like it's pulled off trees. If the State helped it would be the same thing.

  2. This is wonderful news. I hope something comes of it. I would definitely use a train. As far as what to do when you get to town, once you get to the station in C-ville, you could easily hop on the trolley and then connect to buses if needed — or walk or bike or segway. Crozet will continue to grow, albeit more slowly now than in recent years, and eventually the roads to town will be overloaded. I suspect that the previous commenter wouldn't like tax dollars going to widen US 240 & 250 either — or the eventual results of that scenario. Working to establish train service now is, to my mind, a much better solution. Hooray for Ann Malek and Ann Thompson for being proactive.

  3. I had to laugh out loud when I read this. Yes, Crozet is growing and will continue to be one of the fastest growing areas in Albemarle County. However we are many many years away from a rail system to Charlottesville taking precendent over far more important needs the Crozet area will need far more than a rail system to Charlottesville.. Jim, I agree in 25 years we will look back and see how much things will cost and how much cheaper it would have been to have done them at todays prices but that will always be the case when looking at projects 25 years in arrears.

    I would hope Mallek and Thompson would focus on far more important and pertinent needs for the Crozet area.

  4. In the interests of lively discussion, I would like to hear more from Wes on what he considers the “far more important and pertinent needs for the Crozet area.” There are other needs that I would like to see our representatives address, too, but I do not see them as necessarily either/or choices. I believe planning ahead for transportation is key, and that if you leave it to chance, you are likely to wind up with less than optimal choices later (or possibly no good alternatives).

  5. Beth –

    Thanks for the comment. If we don’t plan, we are setting ourselves up for failure, in my opinion. Right now, to my knowledge, there are no real plans in place (or being considered) for long-range transportation plans that seek alternatives to the car. We’re going to continue to grow – in 25-50-100 years – why not start planning now for that growth?

  6. The problem is funding. Ann mentioned “finding a pot of money”. We need to find it!!

    I feel planning is smart but we must find away to fund this project and make it fit in with our other needs.

    We need funding for road improvements,schools, upgrading infrastructure, our water problems and a county with a budget deficit needed to meet our current core needs.

  7. I wonder if Waynesboro and Staunton could pitch in to get a daily commuter line all the way into Cville. There are plenty of folks who are starting to commute in from the other side of the mountains, and the rail infrastructure is already there for this. Crozet would benefit without Albemarle having to shoulder the entire cost of the service.

    Has this idea been suggested with anyone in those towns?

  8. Daniel –

    I’ll suggest it to them myself … I absolutely agree with you. Our region is shrinking even as the population expands, and we need to begin thinking about infrastructure.

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