OUR OPINION: O-U Transit prepares for record rider year

Problems created by success in Oxford and on the University of Mississippi campus continue pushing a united effort for solutions to stay ahead of the transportation curve, an enviable record in a complex town-and-gown relationship.

Oxford-University Transit anticipates another record-setting fall with the expected arrival of six new buses, additional route mileage and more frequent service on some routes. In direct relation, Ole Miss officials cannot comment on specific enrollment projections by board of trustees’ policy, but expect, in a key official’s words, “another very good year.”

Students, staff and faculty of the university comprise most of the ridership because the campus is literally at full capacity for vehicles as well as on-campus students.

“The Yellow Line has become the heaviest-ridership route on the system,” said Tim Lett, a regional manager with McDonald Transit, which oversees Oxford-University Transit. “We’re looking at adding a fourth bus on that route.”

The Yellow Line, as reporter Errol Castens has written, serves thousands of students in housing complexes west of the Ole Miss campus.

On-campus shuttles will carry commuters from lots on the edge of campus to points near the campus center, close to the academic core of classrooms and laboratories.

“Since we’re pushing cars off campus, we’ve got to expand service,” said Mike Harris, director of parking and transportation for the university. “More and more universities will have to design as pedestrian campuses.”

In Castens’ reporting, Lett said while last fall semester averaged around 6,000 passengers per class day, he anticipates averaging about 7,000 this year.

“Oxford carries more people than any other system in the state of Mississippi, including in the capital city,” Lett said.

Oxford and the university’s planning and anticipation, followed by fast action, is an example for other communities considering transit systems.

Systems work when a core ridership is identified and located, followed by affordable action to fully develop potential, which creates momentum for continuing success.

O-U Transit’s success is not without financial risk (federal funding is involved), but that is a situation in which a willing and influential congressional delegation and staff work can be immensely helpful.