Williamsburg Area Transit Authority
Williamsburg Area Transit Authority (WATA) is a governmentally operated agency which provides transit bus and paratransit services in the City of Williamsburg, James City County, and York County in the Historic Triangle area of the Virginia Peninsula subregion of Hampton Roads in southeastern Virginia.
WATA operates 8 regular routes within the city and 2 counties, using a "hub and spokes" system based at the intermodal Williamsburg Transportation Center. Additionally, a connection to the City of Newport News and the Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) public transit bus system is provided on the Grey Line serving U.S. Route 60 east by traveling into the western edge of Newport News and meeting HRT's Route 116 Mall-Hall Loop at Lee Hall, Virginia.
History, service area
Williamsburg Area Transit Authority (WATA) is the successor to James City County Transit, which was also governmentally operated by James City County in the community for many years. In the early 21st century, by changing from being known as James City County Transit to the newer name of "Williamsburg Area Transport", the scope and area of the current services were more accurately described as part of a new organizational structure authorized by the Virginia General Assembly. In 2008, "Williamsburg Area Transport" re-branded into "Williamsburg Area Transit Authority".
WATA services are almost entirely operated within the City of Williamsburg and the two adjacent counties, and serve citizens and visitors to all three localities. Historic sites and extensive tourism form the basis for an unusual operating environment in comparison to similar sized localities elsewhere in Virginia and the United States.
James City County and York County are each one of the eight original shires of Virginia formed in 1634, and are two of the oldest counties in Virginia as well as the present United States. The City of Williamsburg, long-located along the border of the two counties, was originally founded in 1623 as Middle Plantation, initially a fortified community midway across the Virginia Peninsula on high ground. It was selected as the site of the new College of William and Mary, a long-desired effort of the colonists which was established by a Royal Charter issued in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary II, joint sovereigns of England, Scotland and Ireland. Several years later, partially due a persuasive presentation to the House of Burgesses by the Reverend Dr. James Blair and a group of his students, the tiny community was selected to replace the harsh weather and other environmental conditions at Jamestown and became the capital of the Colony of Virginia in 1698, renamed the following year in honor of King William. Williamsburg became the first chartered city in Virginia in 1722 during colonial times, and became an independent city under a change in Virginia's state constitution in 1871. The first mental health facility in the United States was established at Williamsburg in 1770, and its successor, Eastern State Hospital, a state-owned facility, continues to operate nearby in modern times.
Beginning in 1926, the extensive restoration of a central part of Williamsburg to the era of the pre-American Revolutionary War era of the late 1780s was initially funded and led by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Their efforts and generous contributions and those of their descendants and many others resulted in the creation and initial endowment of Colonial Williamsburg. Rather than simply an effort to preserve the antiquity, the combination of extensive restoration and thoughtful recreation of the entire colonial town facilitates envisioning the atmosphere and embracing the ideals of the 18th century patriots. As a tangible birthplace of democracy, Colonial Williamsburg and the surrounding area developed into one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
Other major historical points of the WAT service area include Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement, and Yorktown Battlefield and Yorktown Victory Center, all joined by the National Park Service's bucolic Colonial Parkway, a scenic byway which is itself a National Historical Landmark as well.
Additionally, the WATA service area encompasses several prominent museums and other attractions including two major theme parks, hospitality businesses which include dozens of hotels and restaurants, and several shopping outlet complexes. The area has grown popular for resort complexes and as a choice for relocating retirees from other areas. The area also has large U.S. military complexes at Camp Peary, the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station, and is adjacent to the U.S. Army base at Fort Eustis. Rounding out the community are as residential areas, schools, retail and industrial enterprises.
Specific unincorporated communities within the WATA service area generally include:
The services of Williamsburg Area Transit Authority are partially funded through rider fares, a form of user fees. The system is also subsidized by the local governments of the City of Williamsburg, James City County and York County, as well as purchases of services by the College of William and Mary, Colonial Williamsburg, and other community organizations.
WATA also receives state and federal financial and technical assistance from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which is an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
Public route system: hub and spokes
WATA operates what is often called a "hub and spokes" bus routing system. At designated intervals, the transit buses all meet at a coordinated time at a central location (in this instance the Williamsburg Transportation Center), and then serve various outlying areas in many directions on eight color-codes routes.
The "hub and spokes" route system does not include:
- demand responsive paratransit service provided with smaller buses
- rubber-tired trolley replica buses operated on the short shuttle loops at the Riverwalk Landing along the riverfront area at Yorktown.
- Special routes linking points in the Historic Triangle and satellite parking which may operate on specified temporary schedules in conjunction with special events at Jamestown 2007.
Williamsburg Transportation Center
The regular route buses all meet at the Williamsburg Transportation Center at the start of the hour. Located at a restored Chesapeake and Ohio Railway station owned by Colonial Williamsburg in downtown Williamsburg, the Transportation Center not only serves WATA's regular routes, but also service:
- Amtrak passenger rail
- Greyhound Lines intercity bus service
- Carolina Trailways intercity bus service
- Hampton Roads Transit (Expressways Route 121)
- local taxicab and car rental services
The Commonwealth of Virginia and Department of Motor Vehicles has certified local bus company Oleta Coach Lines, Inc for a bus route from The Williamsburg Transportation Center to shopping malls around The Hampton Roads area. The Williamsburg bus route runs from Williamsburg to Hampton, to Newport News then back to Williamsburg. It runs twice on Tuesdays. This has been certified as a Public Convenience and Necessity bus route.
WATA route lines
The WATA system serves eight route lines, all of which are color-coded:
- Grey Line: U.S. Route 60 between WATA Transit Center and Lee Hall (including Busch Gardens). Also serves Grove Community, Windy Hill, James River Commerce Park, Green Mount Industrial Park, and Lee Hall in Newport News, where a connection with Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) service is available.
- Blue Line: U.S. Route 60 between WATA Transit Center and Williamsburg Outlet Mall. Serves as a connector for passengers transferring from or to either Purple Lines.
- Green Line: The College of William and Mary and Marshall-Wythe School of Law, with New Town being served after 5:00 p.m. EST.
- Yellow Line: WATA Transit Center to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA (operates Memorial Day through Labor Day only)
- Purple Line 1: New Town to Williamsburg Outlet Mall in Lightfoot. Also serves Old Towne Medical Center and James City County Human Services Building.
- Purple Line 2: Stonehouse Commerce Park in Toano to Williamsburg Outlet mall. Also serves Williamsburg Pottery, Croaker public library, Burnt Ordinary Apartments, and Norge.
- Orange Line: WATA Transit Center to State Route 143 (Merrimack Trail) @ Tam-O-Shanter Blvd (serves Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center), Capitol Landing Road, Marquis shopping center on Rte. 199, and James-York Plaza Shopping Center.
- Tan Line: WATA Transit Center to Williamsburg Outlet Mall on U.S. Route 60 (Richmond Road) at Lightfoot, Lowes/Wal Mart shopping center on East Mooretown Road, adjacent to the Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, and Great Wolf Lodge.
- Red Line: WATA Transit Center to Steeplechase Apartments, New Town, Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse complex, Monticello Marketplace shopping center (Target/Ukrop's), and Jamestown Road between Rte. 199 and Merchant's Square.
Surry Park and Ride bus service
To help mitigate rush hour traffic and new delays due to heightened security measures on the Jamestown Ferry, in October 2007, WATA began a Park and Ride transit bus service from 3 stops in Surry County across the James River to limited stops at several major points in James City County and Williamsburg, terminating at the Williamsburg Transportation Center, where connections are available with other WATA routes, HRT, and intercity services.
1. Newport News Connection (Grey Line) - In October, 2006, WATA was in the process of updating their website to reflect a recent service change. All Grey Line buses now continue to Lee Hall and connect to Hampton Roads Transit Route 116 (Mall-Hall loop). Riders should refer to the trips coming from Newport News for the correct times.
At that time, WATA and HRT would not accept each other's transfers fare wise. This is accurate as of May 7, 2013.
2. Colonial Williamsburg - All WATA lines serve the Colonial Williamsburg (CW) area. For service to the CW Visitors Center, riders should use WATA's Orange line (or the Yellow line during the peak spring-summer months).
3. Possible Grey Line confusion - It is notable that Colonial Williamsburg, which operates its own fleet of grey and white colored transit buses and minibuses, also has a "Grey Line" route. This is not to be confused with WAT's Grey Line route for US Route 60 East which ends at Lee Hall. The WAT buses on that route are normally painted beige, white and burgundy in color, and clearly marked for WAT with the words "Williamsburg Area Transport"
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WATA bus services operates Monday - Saturday, reduced service on Sundays, and no service on some holidays.
All WATA buses are equipped with two-way radio communications.
Pending expansion of routes and operating schedules
Recent changes to routes include the Marquis shopping center that opened in October, 2008. This shopping center can be reached on the Orange Line. Other changes to follow include more frequently (every half-hour instead of every hour) at certain times on some routes.
The Williamsburg Trolley
In May 2008, Williamsburg Area Transit Authority announced that it had recently received a grant for three trolley-replica type buses that will serve the local shopping areas of New Town, High Street, Richmond Road, Jamestown Road, and Merchants Square in Colonial Williamsburg. The Williamsburg Trolley began service in August 2009. The event was marked with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at New Town. The trolley runs every day except on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Each of the trolley cars feature ornamental wooden seating, a cheerful, two-toned red and green exterior and bicycle racks. On warm days, the trolley has an open-air atmosphere. Trolley drivers also point out historic sites, restaurants, and must-visit attractions.
In 2011, WATA expanded its services to include a storefront location in the Williamsburg Outlet Mall on Richmond Road. The center acts as a hub for public information and waiting areas for passengers, and will eventually include ticket and bus fare sales.