With the demand for buses growing as the number of students does, two more buses are expected to join the fleet of more than 30 by the end of this week.
As new buses are put into production, the rest of the buses are undergoing major renovations. The renovations include digital signs to track arrival times in real-time and announcers on buses to better notify passengers when they approach their stops. Mike Harris, director for parking and transportation on campus, said he hopes to continue improving on-board technology in the future.
“Obviously, we’re in the 21st century now, so we want to do to make it as easy and convenient as we can for our riders to let them know when the buses are coming,” Harris said.
The renovations will cost $150,000 and are expected to take six weeks. Of that money, $104,000 will be dedicated to branding the fleet with a new coat of paint. Harris said the changes will help cement the OUT bus as a brand.
“When you have a system such as ours that’s grown over 30 buses, you’re becoming kind of the face of the community, and you want that to be something that people can readily look at and know that that’s what that is,” Harris said.
Since January, problems with overcrowding on certain bus lines have been addressed by changing the yellow and express lines. The yellow line now loops around Oxford’s business district, servicing the apartments around the outer rim of the area. The express route is now the only line servicing Campus Creek and Campus Walk apartments.
“What we’ve seen is a lot of students choosing to ride the bus in those areas, and part of it is that we’ve made a shorter route,” Donna Gurley, chair of OUT Commission, said.
Overloading may be a larger issue in the future as new apartments rise up behind the strip mall just outside the university, OUT bus driver Carol Pringle.
“Anytime new housing goes up, we definitely have to look at those routes to see if we have enough buses to handle the additional students,” Pringle said. “I think we need to look at a new route there because that traffic is so congested on Jackson Avenue already.”
Ron Biggs, superintendent of OUT, reported positive responses from the route changes. Biggs said the route into the university is expected to shut down from May 18-Aug. 11 as work on a new roundabout gets underway.
“That’s such a huge project in such a small window of time,” Gurley said. “It’s going to be crazy.”
The project will close entry into campus from the east side, forcing all vehicular transit into the school to stick to Jackson Avenue. Getting out will require passengers to exit through Manning Way, an outlet near Oxford’s business district. Biggs said the time change in users’ experiences on the new routes will be minimal.
This article was submitted to The Daily Mississippian from an advanced reporting class.