December 27, 2012 10:24:34 AM
Mike Harris, director of Parking Services at Mississippi State University, said he thinks the university's first full semester with a circular bus route to the Starkville Sportsplex has been a success.
"As the first route added, I think it's a good sign," Harris said. "I don't think it's going to do anything but grow."
Implemented at the beginning of the fall semester, the Sportsplex Park and Ride program was part of a few changes in Parking and Transit Services at MSU, including extended hours that have the buses rolling from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Additionally it was announced that parking at the Sportsplex and riding the shuttle would come at no cost to faculty, staff or students and that no permit would be needed to park there.
Through Dec. 17, Harris said 9,358 people had used the new Sportsplex route, translating to about 110 to 150 riders a day. In total, all the bus routes in MSU's fleet served 306,223 riders this semester.
Harris said the numbers are more than encouraging, especially from a sustainability aspect.
"It's a lot better to carry 30 or 40 folks on a bus than to have 30 or 40 cars come to campus," he said. "Anything we can do to limit (the number of cars coming on campus) is a plus."
But the money-saving potential of diverting willing park-and-riders off campus is more tangible to Harris.
"We can either build more parking or add more buses," he said. "And it costs a whole lot more to build parking than it does to add a bus."
In October, the Mississippi Department of Transportation approved a $2 million federal grant that would fund a bus transit system to better connect Starkville to MSU's campus. The cooperative effort between the city, university and county is set to provide three public routes, free to the public.
Harris said he has no doubt the additional routes will prove there has been a need for a more connective relationship between the city and the university and that rider numbers will attest to that.
"As we continue to add additional routes next fall, as we roll out some of these new grant buses, it's going to get more and more usage," he said. "There are just a lot of things that this does good for us, and I think we will eventually see that."