The experiences of Charlottesville’s riders mirror those found elsewhere, something I can attest to having ridden dozens of systems while traveling cross-country. These systems’ inability to be cost-effective or prompt boils down to the fact that they are being operated in sprawling, non-intensive areas. It doesn’t help that many are run by public monopolies that are held to minimal performance standards.
This is not to say that transit should be abolished, or go unimproved, especially not in urbanizing areas. But in smaller ones like Charlottesville, the more pragmatic solution to transportation problems may be some combination of maintaining service along intensive routes, and experimenting with car programs, including ones tailored for those who can’t drive. The upshot of improving transportation access in this sort of model could be an increase in job access that gives more opportunity to lower income Americans.
The loaning model has already caught on in Portland, San Francisco, and other cities that are friendly to the “sharing economy.” Perhaps smaller cities with similar political climates could be the ones to try vouchers.