Monday, November 20, 2006

Five Pillars of Urban Living--Part I

I have defined the five pillars as:
1.Public Transportation
2.Local Newspaper
3.Local TV News
4.Public Libraries
5.Quality of the Pizza
Let's see how Charlottesville measures up.
Public Transportation: I am one of the few people in C'ville who actually commutes by bus to work. There's a bus stop half a block away, and it is reliable enough that nearly every day, I clock in at UVA at exactly 6:49am. Getting home is another story. The Number 3 bus—the one that runs between Belmont and Greenleaf Park, runs just once an hour. If I get out of work at 3:00pm, I must wait a good 15 minutes for the bus, which then takes me on what is admittedly a fascinating tour of Belmont, up steep hills and around tight corners on impossibly narrow streets. The problem is, after a long day of work, you don't want to be riding through the Sunrise Trailer Court, thinking, “I could have been home 15 minutes ago.” I usually walk home and get to my house just as the #3 is passing. Walking saves me time because I'm spending my commuting time getting my exercise. I know other bus routes run more frequently than once an hour. While I wait for the #3, the #7 “Fashion Square” route bus will pass me three times, which is like a slap in the face.

Can we talk about Sunday service? The biggest employer in Charlottesville—UVA (medical center in particular) is open seven days a week. Why don't the buses run seven days a week? In the morning, I wait at the same stop with a woman who works the food service line for UVA students. Students tend to eat every day, so the food service people must work on Sundays. On Sundays, this woman has to take a cab to work, which takes a big bite out of her pay for the day. Also, the buses stop running too early. When my husband worked evening shift, getting out of work at UVA at 11:30PM, he could run and grab the last free trolley to the downtown mall, but he'd have to walk home from there. How lame is that?

There's also the idiocy of all the buses including a circuit of downtown on their routes, allowing for transfer stops. What other city has seven routes that all overlap each other? I fail to see how the new bus transfer station will help the situation. I suppose it means we won't have a queue of six buses lined up at Market & Second St, or along Water St anymore, but it still means that every bus rider must pointlessly circle the Downtown Mall.

Lest I forget, let me say a word about the “trolleys.” Is this a city or is it Disneyland? The fake historic is just cheesy. Sorry. I believe the trolleys were intended for tourists, who, it appears want to be endlessly shuttled between UVA grounds and the Downtown Mall. I've never seen anyone remotely touristy on the trolleys. They are used instead by people who want a quick free ride down Main St—which is a nice thing to have—but riding in a city bus that's disguised as an old fashioned street car gives one the same ridiculous feeling you experience when riding a kiddie ride at an amusement park.


  1. Oh man, those trolleys? Give you a sore butt, that's what they'll do. All pretty and everything, but not as ergonomically designed as the regular buses.

  2. I am looking forward to this series quite a bit! The 5 pillars ... fantastic.