By this time next week, you could be riding on the Afton Express.
The new commuter transportation service — between Charlottesville and Albemarle County on one side and Waynesboro, Staunton and Augusta County on the other — will launch Sept. 1 after a decade and more of discussion.
A regional planning collaborative heard from a consultant in 2016 that more than 1,200 people daily commute from Augusta County to Charlottesville, the University of Virginia or the Sentara-Martha Jefferson Hospital campus in Albemarle County. That number likely has only increased.
The effort got a major boost around 2019, when local jurisdictions and UVa kicked in money to support the service and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation provided staff support and guidance, transit planner Nancy Gourley told The News Virginian of Waynesboro.
Now the Afton Express is set to make its first series of runs on Sept. 1.
The bus will complete four eastbound runs in the morning, starting at 5 a.m. in Fishersville, and four westbound trips in the afternoon, with the last bus leaving Charlottesville at 6 p.m.
Buses will stop at city locations that provide easy connections to UVa buses or to the Charlottesville Area Transit Service for onward travel.
Those thousands of commuters will save on fuel costs and on wear and tear on their vehicles. Commuters could actually work on their way to work if they wanted to, thanks to buses fully equipped with Wi-Fi and USB ports — or they could just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Then there’s the positive impact on the environment.
“Estimates suggest that this service could reduce vehicle miles traveled by 875,000 miles a year,” said UVa Director of Transportation Becca White. “Imagine how much that reduction makes a difference in tailpipe emissions [and] demand for fuel.”
Oh, and about that free offer?
Commuters won’t have to pay a thing during the month of September. After that, cost will be $3 one way, payable upon boarding, with the option of obtaining a fare card that will drop the price to $2.50 per trip.
It’s been a long time in the works, but the Afton Express is finally rolling. We wish it every success.
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