Chattanooga Volkswagen plant not interested in bus service now, CARTA says

Chattanooga Volkswagen plant not interested in bus service now, CARTA says

December 31st, 2010 by Cliff Hightower in News

Talks to get CARTA service to the new Volkswagen plant have stalled.

The automaker has been talking with the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority about providing bus service to the VW assembly plant, but funding is a stumbling block, a CARTA official said this week.

"The issue was funding, and we don't have the money to expand," said Jill Veron, director of planning and transportation for CARTA.

VW spokesman Guenther Scherelis said this week that talks will resume "when we have our work force on board in the second quarter [of 2011]."

Veron said officials from CARTA, Volkswagen and Chattanooga met earlier this year to discuss bus service to the plant.

She said public transportation is provided by the governments in Europe and that Germany-based VW expected the same here.

Scherelis said VW believed it was much too early to talk.

"We are fully aware we are living in a different country," he said.

After Chattanooga government learned that VW wouldn't pay, it wasn't interested, either, Veron said.

Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said he understood VW determined that most of its workers would drive their own vehicles to the plant. He said if money is needed for CARTA service, a request would have to be made to the City Council.

Beeland said the city would like to see studies to show that public transportation would be cost-effective.

"We need proof," he said.

He said he isn't sure if VW backed out because it was asked to pay for part of the service.

"I think there were a lot of reasons and not just one," he said. "The main one is, who is going to use it?"

CARTA did not respond to requests for information on how much money it would take to create bus lines to Enterprise South.

Veron said CARTA planned a three-tier strategy -- bus fares, company contribution and public money through the city. CARTA officials also planned on using park-and-ride lots in and around the city where employees could board buses.

"We felt like we had a product that would be appealing to their employees," she said. "We felt like there was a segment that would have been interested."

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CliffHightower.


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