Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Ultimate Bliss on the number 8 bus.

I am sensing a certain lack of enthusiasm about my bus posts but I want to finish what I started so you are going to have to bear with me and tolerate a few more entries about the whirlwind of public transportation in Charlottesville.  But take heart, there are only ten routes, and I have now covered six of them, plus my experience on the number seven, which started this whole project.  I am not going to make a special trip on the number 7 because why would I want to go through that again?

I didn't plan on having a bus adventure today, but I dropped my car off to be inspected and my usual mode of travel between C'ville Imports and my house is the Trolley.  The Charlottesville free trolley was meant to be used by tourists as shuttle between downtown and UVA.  It's a bus pimped out to look old fashioned and it is completely ridiculous; an urban Disneyland ride full of homeless people.  I am always embarrassed to be seen on it. And the seats are super uncomfortable.


Actually, the trolley has two characters.  Near the university, where I got on, the riders are almost exclusively students.  We passed Scott Stadium and eventually turned onto McCormick Rd, through the heart of the grounds.  The trolley is convenient if you want to get to UVA but don't want to deal with the fierce parking situation.  There's a stop at Alderman Library and I'm thinking I might take advantage of the trolley as a means of getting there.  And you should too--if you are not aware, one of the perks of living here is that residents may check out materials from UVA's libraries.  You do not need to be UVA staff.  That's pretty generous and the UVA libraries offer a lot that is interesting to the general public, especially fiction.  It's my go-to place for books I can't find at the public library.  Not all universities allow this, by any means.  My brother has to pay a hefty fee to be able to use the library at the public university of which he is an alumnus.

Once we passed the hospital, the character of the trolley changed.  A group of Burmese refuges, along with a Japanese tourist got on the bus at 9th St. He had the baseball cap, windbreaker and alert posture of the tourist, although I didn't see a camera.  At the Greyhound station, a man with a large rolling suitcase got on.  There were many empty seats but he squeezed in next to the tourist and proceeded to soundlessly sing, bang imaginary drums, dance with his upper body and otherwise behave in a way to scare the pants off our little Japanese tourist.  The tourist got off at the downtown mall, the singing/dancing man got off at the Haven homeless shelter.

From the transit center I had planned to walk home, but the number 8 bus was just pulling up so I impulsively hopped on.  Here is a picture of the transit center I keep mentioning.  Behind it is the Belmont Bridge, and Belmont beyond.

I knew that the number 8 bus goes to K-Mart, which it does, rather more efficiently than the number 5 gets to Wal-mart.  First it heads down Preston Ave/Barracks Rd.  I drive down Preston all the time, but it was nice to see it from a bus.  There are some elegant houses along Barracks Rd, although the trees make me think "jungle."  There's also a very expensive neighborhood between Barracks Rd/Dairy Rd/Rugby Rd.  My kids and I once got lost there on a dark December night, looking for Christmas lights.  It turns out the people of that neighborhood do not indulge in Christmas lights.  Or street lights.

We pulled into Barracks Rd. Shopping Center--which is served by three bus routes, the 7, 5, and 8--and then headed up Emmet St and into the Kroger Shopping center and then across Hydraulic into the K-Mart shopping center, which is soon going to see a lot of action when the new Whole Foods opens in early June.  That area is already very congested.  I am dreading what it will be like with WF in business.

From K-Mart, the bus turned into the Seminole Square shopping center and then headed back toward town, first turning into the Best Buy shopping center.  My goodness!  What a lot of shopping centers Charlottesville has!  Since there was almost no one on the bus, we got ahead of schedule and had to wait for a few minutes at a stop on Angus Rd, next to Best Buy.  I realized that this stop is directly in front of Ultimate Bliss, C'ville's adult shop.  Charlottesvillians need never worry about not having a car to go buy sex toys because the number 8 bus is there for you.

We headed down Preston, back downtown.  At the stop in front of the Haven, I noticed the suitcase guy, holding court among a group of other homeless men.    I walked home from the transit center.  The entire circuit of the number 8 had been just under an hour.  The bus had been mostly empty, did not vibrate my brain into a coma, and it was a beautiful, chilly spring day on which to observe more of Charlottesville.

9 comments:

  1. I love your bus route posts! Thanks for undertaking the project. Plus I love your projects! Hope all else is going well!

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  2. Likewise my enthusiasm is unabated. I can't wait for you to observe my bus, the one that goes to CHS.

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  3. I love your bus posts!! I hope that the powers that be at CTS, I mean CAT, are reading them.

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  4. My family rides the trolley a lot, as it takes us from downtown to the university and the Corner. The husband I would (and do) happily walk that short distance, but our children are not on board with that plan.

    As for the new Whole Foods, I am not looking forward to the new location, even though it's much closer to my house. As you noted, the roads are always congested and the traffic sucks.

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  5. My family rides the trolley a lot, as it takes us from downtown to the university and the Corner. The husband I would (and do) happily walk that short distance, but our children are not on board with that plan.

    As for the new Whole Foods, I am not looking forward to the new location, even though it's much closer to my house. As you noted, the roads are always congested and the traffic sucks.

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  6. One plus to the new WFM location: it will be served by two bus routes, neither of which are the #5. ;)

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  7. I agree that these posts are fab. I have much enthusiasm for them.

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  8. Your town paper should totally run a series based on your bus posts.

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  9. I used to ride the #4 from JPA extended to West Main Street for work, and the #7 (I believe) from Fifeville to business school behind Barrack's Road. The #4 was perpetually empty. It seemed such a waste to have such a large bus. The UVA bus was also often empty, but had a lot of hospital traffic. I always thought the Trolley was the most like a regular urban bus, with a real mix of people, as most everyone uses West Main Street and a free bus is a great thing.

    I recently remarked to a friend that bus/bike ridership will never increase as long as roads keep getting expanded to accommodate cars. The pressure point for trying out a new mode of transit gets removed and people find that individual car travel remains the most efficient and cost effective. This may be more true for bike/pedestrian use, as buses must use the same lanes as cars. If there was a high speed bus lane on 29, UVA commuters could find that the bus alternative is really worth trying though. I think the best hope for bus use in Charlottesville is the commuter, who has the same route every day at the most congested time. The rush hours are a time when frequency could be bumped up to make riding the bus actually competitive from a efficient and comfort perspective.

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