In August, 2009, Waco, Texas-based Baylor University partnered with the Downtown Merchants Association, Developers and Public Improvement District (PID) to launch a free downtown bus shuttle service from the Baylor campus to downtown Waco area restaurants and shops.
The Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) travels daily from the campus to downtown Waco during the school year. The bus will pick up Baylor faculty, staff and students in front of Penland Residence Hall. The shuttle operates on a flag stop system that has the ability to stop anywhere along the route as long as the driver considers the stop to be safe. The service will be available from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The DASH is the only linkage shuttle service between downtown and the University.
The downtown area shuttle runs every 20 minutes from the Baylor campus to downtown Waco. The service is scheduled to operate in conjunction with the academic calendar offering service each day Baylor is in session. One vehicle, a North American Bus Industries Opus energy-efficient, low floor bus, runs on the route.
The shuttle service is available to anyone, from faculty and staff and students to the public. “It’s a flag-stop service. You just raise your hand. You don’t have to produce any form of identification or a token or pay,” said Chris Krause, assistant vice president for campus services, Baylor University.
The route is the fourth to be added to the Baylor University Shuttle (BUS), a fixed route transportation system operated by Waco Transit in cooperation with the Baylor Department of Campus Services.
According to Krause, the Downtown Waco Public Improvement District (PID) came up with the concept of connecting the university and downtown.
Downtown Waco and Baylor University have in the past partnered to find ways to connect the campus and downtown in meaningful ways, Krause explained. “A flurry of development activity downtown in the last several years, hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction and development due to housing by private companies more than likely helped spur that conversation along,” Krause noted.
The conversation started approximately one year ago, Krause said. Local builders of a student housing facility in the downtown area sit on the PID board of directors, a cross-section of downtown area merchants, the city of Waco and the University of Baylor. They initiated discussion with the PID. The board worked through the summer to create a public-private partnership linking downtown and the University with the shuttle service, coming up with a feasible route that everyone on the PID and all the merchants agreed on. There were also campus infrastructure issues that needed to be addressed to accommodate the route.
“It moved along pretty quickly. Dr. Reagan Ramsower, our vice president of finance and administration, is the University representative to the PID and was instrumental in those conversations with the downtown merchants, the city, and the developers,” said Krause.
“There’s been a significant amount of partnership between the University and downtown Waco, what we call town and gown in the last 20 months, and this was just further evidence of that,” added Krause.
From August through April, the route had 15,718 riders, with an average of approximately 103 riders a day. Since the University plans to relocate its School of Social Work to the same downtown area in spring of 2011, Krause anticipates increased ridership next year.
“As with anything, your first time out, some of it is just folks becoming familiar with it. We find in our area — Central Texas — that a lot of our students have not been introduced to or are not familiar with mass transit,” said Krause. Since students may not know how to tell the bus to stop, or how to flag it down, the University set up a bus the first week of class and invited students to come aboard. “They could see the buttons to press [for a stop request], pick up shuttle route maps, talk to the managers and just get a sense of what it’s all about. Demystify the whole thing.”