UT Profile: Baylor U. shuttles crucial to easing congestion

Posted on February 14, 2011

[IMAGE]BaylorBUS-2.jpg[/IMAGE] Waco, Texas-based Baylor University’s two shuttle bus systems, the DASH and the Baylor University Shuttle (BUS), are helping the school in its effort to make the campus more pedestrian-friendly and ease traffic congestion. 

The University has held a contract with Waco Transit since 2000. The agency provides six 35-foot Opus buses to circulate both on and off-campus, Matt Penney, director, parking and transportation services, Baylor University, said. All six BUS routes begin running at 7:30 a.m. on 15-minute headways, and conclude service by 5:30 p.m. daily.

[IMAGE]BaylorUDASHbus2011-6.jpg[/IMAGE] The DASH, which began operating in August, 2009 to provide more access to downtown Waco, was created through collaboration between the Downtown Merchants Association Development and Public Improvement District and Baylor University. It brings students to campus from nearby apartments and offers an outlet for anyone on campus to visit downtown retailers and restaurants.

Before 2000, there were only a handful of buses running on the campus. The system gradually developed from one or two buses into the well-planned system that it is today, Penney said. Students pay a small fee to fund the service and get to ride without paying a fare. “You can just hop on, whether you’re a student or not, and ride to wherever you need to go on campus,” he added.

The biggest benefit of the two shuttle services is bringing those students that use a car to commute to Baylor from some of the remote parking areas on campus. “That connection can’t be made without the transit service,” Penney explained. “Without the shuttles, it [would be] really hard to require students to go certain places or do certain things because they wouldn’t be able to get there.”

BUS also significantly mitigates much of the parking congestion on campus. The Red route, which travels to two major apartment complexes that are located across a major thoroughfare, is almost filled to capacity in peak hours. It brings students right to the heart of campus. “Those are all students that don’t bring cars, which benefits the entire campus,” Penney said.

To enhance the service further, Baylor is looking into using real-time data. In a couple of years the University also plans to offer a later night campus bus service. “We’ve had one in the past, but the demand wasn’t there, so with limited resources we decided not to continue that, but we still see a limited need for it. That’s one of the things we evaluate every year.”

One of Baylor’s most recent changes has been to slowly remove interior parking and head toward parking on the perimeters of campus. The University is currently transitioning to a residential campus. “We’re starting to remove the parking from the interior of campus to the exterior and making it a walking campus,” Penney said. "Consequently, BUS fulfills that increasing need for on-campus transportation and the students are responding to that by riding. It’ll continue to head in that direction for the next several years.”

Promotion of the service, which includes showcasing a BUS vehicle at Freshman Orientation, and during the first couple of days of the fall semester, while students are moving in, is paying off, Penney said. Ridership, on the DASH in particular, is up by 30 percent. “We’ve done something right with our bus service, and we just need to continue doing what we’re doing.”

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