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Roanoke City Leaders exploring expansion to public transportation services

Published: May. 8, 2022 at 7:01 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - For years, Roanoke City leaders have wanted to expand public transportation services.

“We have always been unable to take those steps because of the funding necessary to do that,” said City Manager Bob Cowell at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Cowell said the city receives a fixed amount for transit in each budget. But they may have found a way to potentially expand services with one-time American Rescue Plan Act money. They have found $3 million of the ARPA funds that would go toward a mobility initiative.

“It’s one of the easiest things for me to quantify what it would take to do it because it is one of those rare instances where it is purely money,” said Cowell at the meeting.

The initiative will focus on a pilot program that would extend transportation hours until 12:45 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and offer a 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday service. Cowell wanted to make it clear that this wouldn’t keep more buses on the roads, but would potentially be contracted van-type service.

A second part of the initiative would include bus stop improvements, like shelters that would be helpful during weather.

“Which includes a range from putting in more landing pads. We might not be able to have a full shelter but at least in more instances people aren’t just stepping off the bus into mud.”

Councilman Joe Cobb, who is on the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization, feels this is a win-win for all residents.

“For people who work later, whether it’s in industry or restaurants or businesses that stay open later, this provides an extraordinary service which I think we’re going to see the benefits from,” said Cobb.

City Manager Bob Cowell hopes they can make this a pilot program sometime in the near future, but also hopes to see a positive response that can lead to more funding and ultimately become permanent.

There is not a current date when Roanoke might see these changes and the guidance will have to go through the Greater Richmond Transit Company before moving forward.

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