Student routes boost Oxford’s transit numbers

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Ridership on Oxford-University Transit nearly tripled after new routes were added to serve more student-dominated apartment complexes.
In February, March and April – the full months of the spring semester at the University of Mississippi – monthly ridership on the six-days-a-week service averaged 15,788. In the full fall-semester months of September, October and November after adding the new routes, the monthly average jumped to 41,671, topping out at 46,643 in September.
“We were down a little bit in November because the students were gone a week for Thanksgiving,” said Ron Biggs, the system’s manager. Even so, Ole Miss faculty, staff and faculty members accounted for more than 88 percent of the month’s riders.
Transit officials note how favorably OUT’s ridership compares to that of Jackson, which has 10 times Oxford’s population and three times as many routes. JATRAN’s ridership is reported at 2,300-2,500 per day, while OUT’s passenger count neared 1,800 per day in September and October.
City Planner Tim Akers, who was one of the early champions of Oxford’s and Ole Miss’ joint bus system, said OUT benefits from university students and personnel who want to avoid traffic and parking hassles, as well as from Oxford’s layout.
“The built environment in Oxford is designed for transit: It’s dense and compact,” he said.
Several changes are in store for Oxford-University Transit. The Orange Route, which reaches Oxford’s westernmost parts, will be terminated in May due to low ridership, but the Green Route – the circuit that generates nearly half the passenger pickups in the whole system – will likely be getting four new 45-passenger buses.
OUT riders are already benefiting from more than a dozen shelters along the routes, with a total of 20 planned in coming weeks. The system also anticipates the addition of a $23,000 GPS program that will allow customers to determine from their computers or smartphones exactly when the next bus will reach any given stop.
“The university is going to have an interest in the GPS system,” said Jim Windham, Ole Miss’ director of procurement and one of the university’s representatives on the transit commission. “They would love to put a link on the home page.”

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.