The number four bus in Charlottesville serves Fry's Spring, Fifeville, UVA, downtown, and a bit of Belmont. It's the one bus that can get me to work on time, and while I prefer to walk or bike, I take the number 4 in bad weather. In the early morning the bus is full and virtually everyone works at UVA. There's a quiet atmosphere of people preparing to start their work day. Late mornings, the bus is practically deserted.
I picked it up on Avon St. and we immediately turned down Elliot Ave and then left on Ridge, and right on Bailey Ave into Fifeville. Here the houses are modest duplexes, well maintained with neat lawns, flowers and picket fences. We turned onto Prospect Ave, toward the Blue Ridge Commons housing project and the duplexes got progressively shabbier, with weedy yards, cheap resin patio furniture, plastic children's toys and fences that look more like pens. The snowy winter of 2009-10, I rode this bus a lot and was fascinated with this strip of houses, which got shabbier and shabbier, until the stop in front of Blue Ridge Commons, where there is the saddest house of all with a bare dirt yard and a few battered toys.
Turning the corner toward the nicely renovated Forest Hills Park, where a man in surgical scrubs pushed his young child in a swing, the houses start to look better. We wind through this neighborhood, come out on Cherry Ave from Rockcreek Dr. and turn toward the hospital. There's a quick loop around UVA and then it's back down Cherry Ave although this time the bus goes all the way to Fry's Spring in the southwest corner of Charlottesville. Fry's Spring has a different feel from other Charlottesville neighborhoods. The architecture is different, with cozy 1920's and 30's bungalows. It looks like what I imagine older neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon look like, although since I've never been to Portland I could be way off base. There are more trees, and even though it has hills, it feels low and sort of cuddled into the ground, whereas Belmont feels bare and wind-swept in comparison.
I can't remember precisely what streets we traveled. I know the number four used to go north on JPA but not any longer. After ending up on Cherry Ave (again) we turned down Shamrock Rd into Johnson Village. I remember when we were first looking for a house in Charlottesville, my sister-in-law cautioned me that I would hate Johnson Village, and it's true that 1960's and 70's suburban architecture doesn't appeal to me, but while this neighborhood may have once looked raw, it has had forty years to develop mature trees and shrubs, and with the dogwoods and azaleas blooming, it is very pretty. It's also a good neighborhood for gawking at Christmas lights.
Surprise, surprise, we were back on Cherry Ave and looped through UVA once again. In the newly opened Emily Couric Cancer Center, I spotted the same woman reading a magazine in the waiting room who had been there the first time we passed. This time, instead of turning onto Cherry, we went straight down 9th St. SW and back into Fifeville, covering much of the same ground we had earlier in the route. We passed Forest Hills Park again, and the same man in surgical scrubs was still pushing his child in the same swing.
And here we were on--wait for it--Cherry Ave--where we continued straight toward Ridge St. where it changes its name to Elliot Ave, and turned onto Avon St. to head downtown. I got off here, and missed the last loop up Avon, to Market to Water to the transit center because I have covered that ground so many times on the other buses.
I appreciate that the number four stops in front of UVA at 06:45, but I stand by my rant that the number 3/6 should also do so. ANY bus that stops at UVA should get people there before the start of their shifts. I'm lucky that I can walk easily to a stop on the number 4 route, but not everyone in Belmont can.