September 17, 2012

U. of Wyo. shuttle sees dramatic ridership boost

Photo courtesy University of Wyoming

Photo courtesy University of Wyoming
Students Chris Thompson, Heidi Montano and Rian Wilfong say it’s a no-brainer why ridership on the University of Wyoming (UW) shuttle buses has increased dramatically this semester: It’s convenient, free and the buses quickly get them directly to where they want to go.

Statistics kept by UW Transit and Parking Services show there were more than 24,000 riders the first week of class — a whopping 41% increase from the first week of 2011. The biggest increase, 49%, was on the Union Express shuttle from the 30th and Willett park-and-ride lot. Paul Kunkel, Transit and Parking Services manager, attributes part of the increase on that route to the opening of the Bison Run Village and Grove apartments.

Peak times for the Union Express are from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Kunkel says a fifth bus was added to the rotation during that time, reducing the headways from seven to five minutes to accommodate additional ridership.

Thompson, a mathematics major from Sulphur Springs, Colo., started riding the bus this fall when he was among the first tenants of the new Bison Run Village housing complex east of War Memorial Stadium.

“I just have to walk across the street to get a quick ride to campus, and it gets me to class a lot faster than if I had to drive around looking for parking,” he says. “Not to mention fuel costs — it saves me a lot of money.”

Fuel savings is the major reason Wilfong takes the South Express shuttle into campus every day. Ridership on that route to and from the south lot at 15th and Spring Creek streets has increased 23%.

“I drive a diesel, so it’s a big savings for me, and I only have to walk about a block to get the parking lot,” says the nursing student from Rock Springs. “I recommend it for anyone living on a college student’s budget.”

Montano, a junior in psychology from Sheridan, also rides the South Express.

“I really love the transit system; it is so nice,” she says. “I’ve ridden the bus to campus ever since I arrived at the university. It is very convenient.”

The increase in ridership at the South Lot is just due to the parking lot being complete and more vehicles being able to park in the lot and ride the shuttle, Kunkel says. Additionally, ridership on the Gem City Grand, a free bus route that serves the Grand Avenue corridor seven days a week, was up 44% from a typical week from last spring. Kunkel attributes the increased ridership to more awareness of the service and more people finding out how useful it can be.

UW operates the Gem City Grand with authorization by the Albany County Transportation Authority. A proposition will be on the Nov. 6 ballot for a half mill levy tax to be used to sustain current Gem City Grand service and potentially expand to new routes within the community.

In July, Transit and Parking began operating the SafeRide, a free program that provides safe transportation to UW students and the Laramie community. The program gives approximately 33,000 rides a month and totaled about 250,000 total rides last year. SafeRide previously was managed by the Associated Students of UW.

In addition to the Union and South Express, UW also operates a Classroom Express with seven stop locations; and a campus shuttle that services the perimeter of campus.

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