[IMAGE]ElonBioBus2FULL.jpg[/IMAGE] A new bus route at Elon, N.C.-based Elon University puts students on the road to civic engagement.
The new route, the BioBus Downtown/East Burlington Express Loop, is part of a free bus system that takes students and the public from the campus student center into downtown Burlington, N.C.
“The new Downtown/East Burlington Express Loop is responding to the requests of community members, faculty, staff and students who need transportation to volunteer with local agencies,” said Mary Morrison, director of the Kernodle Center for Service Learning. “We want to provide an opportunity for more consistent interactions with our community.”
The route will also make volunteering easier for academic service learning and federal work study students who need transportation away from campus. Volunteer services that students can access by the new bus route for volunteer work include the American Red Cross, Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity. Dozens of agencies are serviced by the loop.
Elon University’s BioBus made its first trek on the new route on Feb. 2, despite a snowstorm.
“[The new route] allows students to hop on at the student center and it takes them to different nonprofit community partners,” said Eric Townsend, spokesperson. The entire route is approximately one hour long, and runs four times a week from 2:30 p.m. through 5:30 p.m. on the hour.
The bus travels through downtown and the east Burlington area, where a number of agencies with long-standing ties to Elon University are located. “[The route] allows students who either don’t have cars or perhaps have trouble finding transportation to get out there to volunteer, and helps to reduce the traffic load,” he added.
Townsend explains that to create the route, organizers identified the safest and most convenient areas to place stops, enabling them to service the largest number of agencies.
In addition to individual students many faculty members in charge of service learning expressed interest in the route. “You have students who engage, learn and work in the community as part of their curriculum, and this offers a way not only for individual students to go out and explore different volunteer opportunities, but for classes themselves to organize, take trips together. We have students who don’t have cars on campus who are very civically engaged and are looking to explore different volunteer opportunities and we heard from them as well,” said Townsend.
Funding for the bus that runs along the route came from a federal grant. The Burlington City Council has also pledged support for the pilot project. No capital costs were involved, said Townsend, but the operational cost for the four-month pilot is approximately $17,000, which includes vehicle maintenance, fuel and driver wages. “We’re going to re-evaluate after the spring semester, to see if the demand does continue,” he added.