O-U Transit victim of own success

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Oxford-University Transit Manager Ron Biggs has a problem, but it’s one he’s glad to have. Some buses heading into the University of Mississippi during morning rush are so crowded that riders must occasionally wait for the next one.
Jasmine Turner of Charleston takes the Yellow Line most days from her Campus Walk apartment.
“I hate getting up an hour early to take the bus,” she said, noting that she often has to stand. “Some days I just make the 15-minute walk.”
Grace Boland of Jackson says she’ll sometimes walk to the next stop on the student-dominated Green Line if a bus is full, confident that the next bus there will have discharged some passengers.
“I take the bus every day,” she said. “I don’t know why I even bought a $70 parking pass.”
Biggs said the buses are only occasionally filled to standing capacity, which is about 50 percent above seating capacity – as many as 67 people on some buses.
“We get very little complaint, actually. I think the students realize they’re going to have to get up a little early to catch the bus in time for class,” he said. “Usually (ridership) tapers off a little after the first two weeks of a semester, but this year there are so many students, and we’re still crowded.”
Biggs said if ridership continues to increase, the system may have to add yet more buses as the budget allows it.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he said. “When we first started, people were complaining about wasting taxpayers’ money on empty buses.”
OUT commissioners on Wednesday heard requests from several people to open the Green Line to Saturday service. A huge freshman class at Ole Miss means most other students, including internationals, must find off-campus housing.
“OUT has helped the international community tremendously,” one woman said. “The Green Line has been really helpful for them Monday through Friday, but they feel completely isolated on the weekends.”
Sandipan Datta, a doctoral student from India and the president of Ole Miss’ Graduate Student Council, said, “If you could have service just to Walmart and the Square, you would help a great deal.”
Tim Lett, vice president of McDonald Transit, which helps oversee the transit system, said he would look at possible options but that the extra day can’t be added to the route immediately.
“No matter what we do, we can’t do anything before next spring,” he said.

errol.castens@journalinc.com