Packing them in: Ole Miss officials hope more will ride bus to campus

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – University of Mississippi officials expect yet another record enrollment of freshmen this fall. Because most freshmen are required to live on campus, even more upperclassmen and graduates will have to commute.
A few years ago, that inevitably would have meant more cars competing for a limited number of commuter parking spaces. Today, some of the increase will decide to commute onto campus by bus from their apartments or from two park-and-ride lots at Ole Miss.
“The administration is really concerned about the number of new freshmen coming to campus and is looking for ways to encourage them not to bring their cars,” said transit commission member Shannon Richardson, the university’s assistant director of campus recreation. “It’s a 14 percent increase over last year, and last year was really tight.”
Linda Christian, director of parking services at the university, said, “We’re thinking commuter students are going to go off the scale.”
Oxford-University Transit (OUT) will distribute information about its service during Welcome Week for incoming students on Aug. 24-25. Ole Miss subsidizes fares so that staff, students and faculty members may ride the system free.
Several bus routes largely serve student-dominated apartment complexes. Starting Monday, buses will run every 15 minutes during the morning commute.
A new development will be a $20 one-year commuter parking permit for students or employees who park at the South Lot just off Highway 6 or the old Walmart parking lot and ride OUT into the central campus. By comparison, a regular permit to park on campus is $75.
City Planner Tim Akers said last year the onslaught of new folks to Oxford and Ole Miss created traffic problems that sometimes delayed buses in their scheduled routes.
“Last year when school started, there was a lot of confusion, a lot of traffic, a lot of delay,” he said. “I anticipate we’ll have the same problems this year for the first two or three weeks, so we need to just get used to it.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com