August 8, 2014 11:53:47 AM
The Mississippi State University Student Association-funded Night Route, a transportation system that moves students from campus to various Starkville bars and restaurants, will transition to a taxi-based system that takes riders home from some venues, MSUSA President Brett Harris confirmed during his group's budget presentation to aldermen Tuesday.
MSUSA's total Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget $339,000 draws funding from Starkville's 2 percent food and beverage tax and was built using a baseline $325,000 in addition to $14,000 in surplus revenues collected last year. Of that figure, $23,000 will fund transportation initiatives, Harris told aldermen, but the association will transition the Night Route from the shuttles as ridership declined last year to an average of 750 people per semester.
The group's 2 percent budget will continue to focus on events and other offerings that help expand 2 percent returns, including funding streams for Music Maker Productions ($131,000), Bulldog Bash ($120,000) and the Old Main Music Festival ($30,000).
The Night Route, which runs many Thursday-through-Saturday night shifts from about 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. on selected dates, would tentatively move to the taxi system next week, Harris said in an email.
The new service will be restricted to students who live within a geographic area that incorporates major bar and restaurant locations as well as student residential areas, Harris said, but the SA president did not reveal those specifics this week.
Students can then place a call, give their student identification and a free ride will come to their location. Harris said one valid student identification must be shown for every three passengers.
"As a student association, we promote safety for students and members of the city, and I believe that is exactly what these cabs will be doing," he said in an email. "Our job as a student government is to make the best possible atmosphere for students. We want students to always be safe and to always have a ride.
"Based off of other institutions that are currently using a model like this, we believe it will be very successful," Harris added. "If this program keeps just one student from picking up the keys to their car and driving after they've been drinking, it will be a success in our eyes."
The Starkville-MSU SMART Route, a city-campus bus connector, is expected to link downtown and Cotton District bars with campus and other residential areas each night until 8 p.m.
Besides MSU's student group, the 2 percent food and beverage tax helps fund Starkville's tourism initiatives and park system. A percentage of those monies also comes back to city government-specific coffers.
Legislators are expected to address the tax's renewal next year.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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