Williamsburg Area Transit Authority (WATA)
Safe, Efficient, and Accessible Public Transit
Increasing ridership and keeping safety standards in mind, Williamsburg Area Transit Authority is committed to the community
The Williamsburg Area Transit Authority (WATA) has serviced those who visit, live, and work in James City County, the City of Williamsburg, and York County through the provision of safe, efficient, and accessible public transit since its establishment in 1977. Originally known as the James City County Transit (JCCT), the organization sought to provide public transport to those who needed it most. JCCT was renamed Williamsburg Area Transport following a shift into multi-jurisdiction transportation, rebranding a final time to the WATA in 2006 after being recognized as a regional transit authority. Today, WATA operates eleven fixed and two specialty routes.
WATA representatives Ben Goodill (Director of Planning and Administration) and Iyanla XO (Marketing and Administrative Specialist) showcase the authority as an essential public infrastructure that connects the Williamsburg area, provides its community with accessible travel alternatives, and supports the local tourism and events industry.
Ben begins, “We service a large geographical area, essentially spanning from Toano all the way down to the Lackey and Newport News area. It really is a beautiful area with a lot of rich history, a strong military presence, and tons of opportunities to partake in tourism and cultural events. Some of our major tourist attractions include Busch Gardens, Historic Jamestown Settlement, Yorktown Beach, and of course, Colonial Williamsburg.”
Iyanla describes the relationship between WATA and the communities it supports as collaborative in nature. “We essentially connect the whole area, and we really take pride in being a member of each community here. Partnerships with each of our localities are fantastic. They do a great job communicating with us on planning processes, upcoming projects, and developments, changes in strategic plans, etc. They help to keep us informed of the needs of the area, and we’re able to plan transit services accordingly.”
There are many projects in the pipeline, not only for WATA itself but within each of the region’s localities. Ben explains, “It’s certainly an exciting time in terms of growth around here. We are seeing new developments pop up constantly. James City County has a large project in the works for Route 60, which is the Pocahontas Trail corridor, and we will be working with them to bring bus bays and shelters to that stretch of roadway. We’re really excited about that project. It’s still a couple of years off, but it certainly, is something that is going to be noticed here in the community.
“As far as our organization goes, we are taking on a huge expansion and upgrade project at our main bus depot. Right now, we have all our bus services at this facility; it’s our administrative and office space, our operations and maintenance location, we have a bus wash on site, and also a driver’s lounge area. We plan to completely redo the interior of the existing main building to add additional office space. We will also add a new bus wash area, and a vault, and improve available space for maintenance. Next year we intend on securing construction for a 2025 completion date, and it will be approximately a $15 million project.”
WATA communicates with its partners and communities primarily through social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The organization is an important distributor of service alerts, event notices, and infrastructure upgrades, Iyanla says. “We have seen about a 40% increase in people coming to visit our pages to keep themselves updated and plan their day. For example, we have Election Day coming up, so we will have free rides to voting locations. Anytime we can have a free day is an opportunity to attract bus riders- this lowers emissions, reduces traffic, and promotes public transport as an alternative to private cars, etc.”
WATA works collaboratively with community partners from around the region to ensure rides are safe, efficient, and accessible for all. “When we talk about public transit, we talk about regional connectivity,”
Ben shares. “We’ve worked hard with our partner agencies Hampton Roads Transit and Suffolk Transit to make it simple for our riders to transfer bus lines between systems. It’s also important that we understand our region and stay abreast of changing needs within the population. Some of our other partners that help us do so are the College of William and Mary, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, local social services, businesses including the Revolutionary Golf and Grill, and the City of Williamsburg, who we recently collaborated with to service an adventure race for the community.”
WATA fosters a working culture that encourages growth, integrity, service, relationships, and purpose. “This is my hometown. I’ve always wanted to work in a role that was directly involved with community and service. I’m glad that in my position I get to make a genuine difference by improving the day-to-day lives of people who need this service the most,” Iyanla says.
Ben adds, “What I enjoy most is the people and the environment that have been built here at WATA. With everything that’s happened in the last couple of years, obviously, there have been a ton of unique challenges to face. I certainly give our operators a ton of credit for their ability to step up and take that on; they’ve been fantastic to work with. We’re a small administrative staff here of six people, so everything is very friendly, it’s very close-knit. Being able to get to know everyone, both professionally and on a more personal level, means it’s just a great place to be.”
Looking to the future, WATA has some grand plans set in motion. Ben notes staff is excited to see continued investment in modern transport technologies. “We’re really at an interesting time in terms of WATA’s development. We are rebuilding this facility, and we’ve purchased property to build a second facility, which will be called the Northern Transfer facility. We have invested just over a million dollars into our transit technologies recently to make sure that our transit service is easy to use for everyone who accesses it. These technologies will help us provide better access to real-time vehicle information, help us shift towards sustainable and electric transport, and allow riders to purchase tickets right from their phone.”
“We actually are in the middle of beginning our public engagement section of WATA’s transit strategic plan for the next five to 10 years. We want to make sure that we’re staying ahead of the developing community, keeping a close eye on where important points of interest are so we can make ourselves a staple of this community. This is directly in line with our vision, which is that WATA will become the transportation option of choice for people who live, work, and visit the Williamsburg Area,” he concluded.
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AT A GLANCE
Williamsburg Area Transit Authority (WATA)
What: Local transit authority providing public transport for the Williamsburg area
Where: WATA is headquartered in Williamsburg, VA