The latest U.S. Census report could mean big changes for bus service in Leesburg and Loudoun County. Because of a change in designation from “rural” to “urban,” Virginia Regional Transit will stop operating in the Loudoun after Sept. 30 if replacement funds cannot be found, according to a memo sent from County Administrator Tim Hemstreet to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.
“We have heard about this possibility for the last couple of weeks,” said Leesburg Town Council Member Marty Martinez. “We need to start making a move on this so we can get the funding.”
The Leesburg Town Council discussed the issue last week, Martinez said, and the town will do whatever it can to bring the issue to light, while seeking as much public support as possible.
Dan Scandling, chief of staff for Congressman Frank Wolf (R-10), said the office has had multiple conversations with Federal Transportation Administration, the Commonwealth and local officials, including Virginia Regional Transit, the town and the county. Wolf’s office organized a conference call last week with all the parties involved.
The process is now waiting for action from the Virginia General Assembly, where Del. Randy Minchew (R-10) amended a bill to continue VRT service through June 30, 2014.
“I put in a budget amendment as a vehicle for providing stopgap funding in replacement of these lost … funds until Virginia Regional Transit, Leesburg, and Loudoun can determine a more-permanent solution,” Minchew said. “The transit services provided by VRT to Leesburg and Loudoun County are very important to many citizens who rely upon them to get to work, to doctor's appointments and the like.”
Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstattd said that if this amendment does not pass the General Assembly, then the service would end Sept. 30.
Umstattd said that Congressman Wolf’s office has been helpful in trying to facilitate a solution, “but with the impasse on Capitol Hill, it does not look promising for our residents who use VRT buses to get to work and back.”
The full cost of the VRT service is $500,000. During Tuesday’s meeting, the Leesburg Town Council agreed to send the following email to federal and state elected officials:
At last night's Leesburg Town Council meeting, the Council voted 6-0-1 (with one member absent) to formally request that our federal and state legislators work closely together to continue funding VRT's current bus routes in Leesburg and Loudoun County. You will be receiving a more formal letter from us this week. The Town Council also directed Town staff to work with VRT to distribute flyers to all riders alerting them that, without federal-state cooperation, VRT bus service would end September 30th of this year if the state budget amendments do not pass, and on June 30, 2014 if no other funding source is available.
Thank-you for whatever you can do to keep the service running.
Very sincerely yours,
Kristen Umstattd, Mayor
Town of Leesburg
cc: Dan Scandling, Chief of Staff, Congressman Wolf
Scott Price, U.S. Senator Mark Warner
Senator Mark Herring
Senator Dick Black
Senator Barbara Favola
Delegate Joe May
Delegate Tom Rust
Delegate Randy Minchew
Delegate David Ramadan
Delegate Tag Greason
“Hopefully enough people will reach out to the state and federal legislators so we can get some action, we can‘t afford to lose this funding,” Martinez said.