Oxford-University Transit leaders consider expansion

Oxford StockBy Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Ridership for Oxford-University Transit was down in November due to the week-long Thanksgiving break that the University of Mississippi takes.

Ridership through the first 11 months of the year, however, is up 27.8 percent at 652,992, continuing a trend of growing each year since the system began in 2008.

The system’s leaders will consider several changes to accommodate more growth. Oxford City Planner Tim Akers suggested including funds in the 2014-15 budget, which will be drafted in February, for several new buses.

“We can have the buses six months after application to MDOT,” OUT Manager Ron Biggs told transit commission members this week. “We’ll have them ready in time to add before August.”

The Orange Route serving the west end of Oxford was formerly slated for termination. With ridership having gone from a low of 18 to an average now of 70 passengers a day, the route runs from 6:30 to 10:45 a.m. and 2:45 to 5:30 p.m. Biggs said it would grow yet again if afternoon operation were extended to 6:30.

Akers asked commissioners to consider other changes.

“Are we going to extend the Green Route to a new development on Old Taylor Road?” he asked, referring to a concentrated area of student apartments.

The Gold shuttle route from the South Lot to the heart of campus usually closes for the summer, but Ole Miss Transportation Manager Hal Robinson suggested it stay open to help mitigate the loss of some 600 spaces in March due to construction. Akers agreed and suggested the route may even need another bus.

The system’s success has been noted statewide.

At last month’s Mississippi Public Transit Association annual meeting, OUT Office Manager Shamekia Lowe received the Outstanding Employee Award, and Biggs was presented the Charles Carr Leadership Award, the association’s highest honor.

“The awards were a surprise to both of us,” Biggs said. “It was very humbling to have people think that highly of our work.”

errol.castens@journalinc.com