O-U Transit prepares for record rider year
Transit officials have set the stage for yet another record-setting fall with the expected arrival of six new buses this month, additional route mileage and more frequent service on some routes.
The vast majority of riders are students, staff and faculty of the University of Mississippi.
“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 serves student-dominated housing complexes west of the Ole Miss campus.
Brown and Gold lines, which will shuttle commuters from lots on the edge of campus to points near the campus center, will have enough buses to offer every-five-minutes pickup and dropoff.
“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.”
Lett said while last fall semester averaged around 6,000 passengers per class day, he anticipates averaging about 7,000 this year.
“Six years ago when we were having 80 and 90 riders a day, we wouldn’t have dreamed of this,” said Transit Commission Chairwoman Donna Gurley. “It’s wonderful.”
“Oxford carries more people than any other system in the state of Mississippi, including in the capital city,” Lett said.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has cautioned state and local transportation officials to prepare for possible restrictions on transportation funding.
Lett was nonchalant about the prospect of losing the federal grants that fund most of Oxford-University Transit’s costs.
“I’ve been in transit for 40 years,” he said. “I’ve been through scenarios before when the Trust Fund has gotten low. There’s one word behind it – ‘politics.’”
He said even in a worst-case scenario, nothing would change for the transit system until Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins.
“I’m not nervous about it at all, and I oversee lots of transit services,” he said. “We have to take a deep breath; it won’t happen. … I’ve never seen road building and transit stop. It may slow down, but it won’t stop.”
“If you’re already in the pipe, as we are, that’s going to be funded first,” Harris added.