By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Record enrollment and constrained parking at the University of Mississippi spurred a spike in Oxford-University Transit’s ridership last month.
September’s 81,964 passenger boardings far surpassed the previous one-month record of 55,428, set a year earlier. Of the new record, 78,805 of the riders represented staff, faculty and students at the university.
“Wow!” several Transit Commission members said as they reviewed the new numbers, which reflect more riders on most established routes plus the addition of two commuter routes that shuttle passengers between the campus core and two outlying parking lots.
With ridership that largely reflects the university’s academic calendar, O-U Transit use is typically highest in September, with slightly fewer riders in October, November, February, March and April.
System manager Ron Biggs said usage hasn’t dropped much thus far this month.
“Even in the afternoon, the driver on the Yellow Line will call in and let us know he’s full,” said Biggs. “We’re averaging 4,200 or 4,300 riders a day, and it’s holding pretty steady.”
Isaac Astill, the university’s director of parking and transportation, added, “I’m getting a lot of requests for extension of bus hours. They want it for night classes. I think that’s something we need to look at for next year.”
If aldermen authorize the transaction, O-U Transit will buy three more used buses from the transit system in Charlotte, N.C., bringing its total temporarily to 23, with an intention to retire two of its older buses, said City Planner Tim Akers.
Not everything about the system is rosy, however. Astill said one recurring complaint is that buses often don’t meet the published schedules.
Several commission members suggested that varying traffic and road construction projects make published schedules impossible to meet.
“Maybe this board should get rid of the published schedule and just say the bus comes along every 20 minutes or whatever interval it is,” Astill said. “I think we need to have some measurable processes in place and decide which ones will be appropriate.”
O-U Transit does provide a GPS-based tracking system. It may be accessed online at www.nextbus.com/predictor/stopSelector.jsp?a=oxford-ms. The system estimates when the next bus will arrive at any given stop.