Could regional expansion solve Charlottesville, Virginia’s transit ‘death spiral?’

Five years ago Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT) had a ridership of 2.4 million; this year the city’s transit expects to serve just 1.7 million riders. The system lost more than one-fourth of its ridership since 2014, and CAT’s new director Garland Williams says it’s in a “death spiral.”

By Williams’ own admission the current system is failing riders due to unreliability, decreasing coverage, and one-way routes that serve CAT better than they do its customers. A growing affordability crisis in the region has pushed low-income residents—the backbone of CAT’s current ridership—ever further into surrounding counties where its buses don’t reach. A regionally-connected transit system would be more useful to them, and could help win back riders.