Leaving the car at home

By Posted on May 21 2019 | By

Warrenton Circuit Rider increases popularity with additional bus

From the earliest days of the United States, members of the clergy roamed the sparsely settled frontier bringing the word of God to the colonials. They were called circuit riders.

The preachers’ role faded as the Nation grew but the name stuck in our lexicon. Today thousands of area residents hop aboard a bus with the same name that circulates around Warrenton providing access to shopping, medical appointments, dining and more.

Similar to yesteryear, Warrenton’s Circuit Rider is making believers out of its audience. Especially anyone who needs to get from point A to B without car keys.

Launched in 1998 the service is a collaborative effort between Virginia Regional Transit, the town of Warrenton and Fauquier Family Resource Network. Phil Thompson, director of operations for VRT, oversees the service in concert with other local organizations.

“I’m very pleased to be part of a community-minded transportation system like Circuit Rider,” said Thompson.

Virginia Regional Transit is headquartered in Purcellville and is a not-for-profit organization providing affordable transportation solutions for a host of Old Dominion communities.

“A locality invests 32 percent of what it costs to operate a route and we pull-down grant funding from through the commonwealth from the Federal Transit Administration,” he said.

Thompson has held his position since 2012 and after a brief break returned again in 2017. Prior to that, he worked in the fuel and gas industry. His position takes him all over Virginia overseeing VRT’s portfolio.

Service Expansion
Monday through Friday the Circuit Rider motors around Warrenton from 7:30 in the morning to 8 o’clock at night providing transportation to a wide range of users. Saturday service runs from 9:30 10:30 p.m.

Grocery shoppers looking to score dinner, handicap individuals headed to a doctor’s appointment and green-minded drivers giving the family auto a day off all are among the residents climbing aboard the bus.

Since September 2018, there is a second reason to grab a ride. An additional 19 passenger bus was added to the Warrenton circuit eight months ago, reducing the drive time for each run from over an hour to 45 minutes while expanding the number of stops from 20 to 24.

“Over the years it became more difficult to maintain the loop schedule and stay on time. And it was routinely overcrowded,” said Thompson.

The solution again came in a united effort. This time involving VRT, the town of Warrenton and the Fauquier Mobility Council. Funding was provided in part from a grant from the local PATH Foundation.

“The joint effort assisted in funding the expansion through the introduction of a second bus; we now have two loops that connect at a central point near the post office.”

The result has been a leap from 2,220 riders a month to some 3,200. “It’s pretty impressive what the collaboration achieved.” It’s anticipated almost 40,000 riders will ride the sleek looking buses this year because of the expanded service.

And where does the bus go? Almost everywhere in town that a public or commercial entity operates.

The two routes are dubbed Maroon and the Black. The first starts at the post office and winds its way through the northern part of town to the medical buildings on Blackwell Road and then on to Giant, Safeway, nearby apartment complexes, Rite-Aid, the bowling alley, Subway, Food Lion and the Warrenton middle school.

The Black Route heads south from 3rd and Main Street to Leeds Square, the community center, Fauquier Hospital, Walmart and the Lord Fairfax Community College.

Locations for pickups are listed on the service’s website but Thompson underscores, “You don’t necessarily need to be at a specific stop to catch a ride. As long as we can safely pull over and safely pick you up, we will do so with our ‘flag down service’.”

What do the users of the Virginia Regional Transport think if its rides? Its Facebook page tells it all:

“I love this service because it’s convenient and affordable for people on tight budgets!!”

“My brother used VRT for years and was more than pleased with their operation. Dependable and trustworthy!

“I would like to say just how impressed I am by the leadership of this company. They are working to fix the issues and I can say I truly felt heard. Thank you all for your help and genuine concern.”

“Awesome! Convenient! On time! Thank you!!”

And what’s the price for all this attentive service? Fifty cents a ride. A charge that hasn’t changed in 21 years. These folks don’t believe in inflation.

In summing up his experience in serving our county seat Thompson said, “Warrenton is a wonderful community for us to be part of. We are blessed to be there.”

For a full description of the Circuit Rider routes, location of stops and pickup times take a courtesy ride at


Published in the May 1, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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