Commissioners reluctant to support Asheville transit plan

Proposed New Leicester ART bus route
SEEING GREEN: The city of Asheville's Transit Master Plan calls for county contributions to expand bus service beyond city limits along routes such as this proposed New Leicester Highway extension, a prospect several commissioners found unpalatable. Graphic courtesy of Buncombe County

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners is not quite ready to get on the bus to support Asheville’s ambitious new Transit Master Plan. At the board’s Dec. 4 meeting, members expressed concerns over the city’s impending requests for county funds to expand its Asheville Redefines Transit service.

“This is Buncombe County; it’s not the city of Buncombe,” said Commissioner Mike Fryar. “Every time I turn around, the city wants something. This building’s not pink,” he added, referencing City Hall’s distinctive art deco facade.

As explained by county planner Matt Cable, Asheville plans to request $62,657 in the next fiscal year to finance an ART route extending beyond city limits along New Leicester Highway, thereby serving the Erwin school district and an Ingles Market. By fiscal year 2029, the requested allocation could exceed $950,000 once a new route to Weaverville and a flex route serving the Reynolds community are tacked on.

Additionally, noted Cable, the city’s plans could create unknown extra expenses for the county’s Mountain Mobility service as it adjusts to changes in ART routing and scheduling. The county is also Asheville’s provider for paratransit service for people with disabilities, required under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act to operate during the same hours as bus service.

“We could see the contractor that operates the service request a rate increase there because we’re operating extended hours of service in order to meet our contractual obligations with the city,” Cable explained. He also projected a decrease in revenue due to paratransit customers taking advantage of the fare-free weekend trial program included as part of the city’s plan.

Commissioner Al Whitesides said collaboration between the city and county could lead to more efficient transit for the region’s residents but criticized the current iteration of the plan. “I see us putting a lot of money in this over the years, but I don’t see the services getting to the people in the county who really need the services,” he said. “Maybe I’m just a simple-minded country boy, but I’ve always looked at things [as], if I’m going to put out my money, I want to get something out of it.”

Whitesides also noted the county’s limited role in designing the current Transit Master Plan. Although the board contributed $7,600 to the cost of the study, county staff did not participate in developing its work program or selecting the consultants that conducted it. “I can see us doing a plan, but we’ve got to have more input in it and we’ve got to be represented at the table so that we’re getting something out of it.”

Board Chair Brownie Newman took a slightly more conciliatory tone. “I think we need to be open-minded in what meets people’s needs the best,” he said. But Newman also acknowledged the high cost of providing transit and said the county would not yet take any definitive action on supporting the city’s plan.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Green Scene editor and city government beat reporter for Mountain Xpress. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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9 thoughts on “Commissioners reluctant to support Asheville transit plan

    • Lulz

      No, they realize people are pissed because of the scandals. Give it time and they’ll be full speed ahead on stupidity.

  1. jay reese

    The only way we are going to reduce congestion is to provide people with an alternative to driving. The societal cost of a car centric transportation system far outweighs the cost of developing an active transit system. We need to start now making the shift away from the single occupant vehicle due to the influx of new residents and the car they have strapped to their ass or this problem will continue to grow

  2. luther blissett

    ‘“This is Buncombe County; it’s not the city of Buncombe,” said Commissioner Mike Fryar.’

    Given a) the city limits; b) the rise of development just outside city limits; c) the end of involuntary annexation, Mr Fryar and his colleagues are trying to have their cake and eat it. If the commission is willing to permit denser development in Arden and Reynolds and Candler and Leicester and the unincorporated space between Woodfin and Weaverville, then it has to accept the externalities of those decisions. Mountain Mobility plus the Black Mountain / Swannanoa route plus a couple of feeder routes in Candler and Weaverville aren’t sufficient.

    The W4 runs up Leicester Hwy to the Dollar General and turns round. Does that make sense, when it’s a mile further to the big Ingles and Erwin High? No, but that’s where the city ends.

    It’s strange that people who get angry about freeloading seem fine with the county doing that for transit.

    • Lulz

      LOL so for 64 grand, the bus can go a mile more? Are you telling me that the additional 2 miles back and forth will consume 64 grand in fuel? Damn howndo I score these contracts. I too want to rip off stupid tax payers.

      • luther blissett

        If you’ve done the work to price out the cost-per-mile, then point us to your spreadsheet.

  3. bsummers

    Technically, Mike Fryar, Asheville City Hall is not “pink”. It’s Fandango, Flamingo, French Rose, with hints of Bubblegum. Meaning, it’s more fun than ‘Khaki’…

  4. bus

    Here’s something interesting. I ride the bus (when it’s operating). Yesterday one of the busses caught fire!!! Ask around…if it hasn’t be covered up, perhaps you can hear other’s descriptions. If attention isn’t paid to the sorry ART “Transit” system, people may get injured!

    • Jay Reese

      The incident with the bus catching fire was on FB so there is no conspiracy to cover anything up. While the bus system has issues it continues to get better every year. As more funding is diverted away from car centric transportation development and spend on active transit the system will continue to grow and one day be a viable option to driving.

      40,000 people die every year due to automobile crashes so please stop with the fear mongering about the bus system

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