Starkville, Miss. (WCBI) – After a slow start in January and one of the area’s coldest winters on record, Starkville’s joint venture to connect MSU and the community through a public bus system is showing signs of picking up steam. But it’s leaders know they’ve still got a lot of road to cover. More and more those SMART looking buses are becoming a very familiar site as they cruise Old Boardtown, West Starkville and other areas 12 hours a day. From what we understand, the Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit is slowly gaining acceptance in the community.
“We’ve actually seen double digit growth, percentage growth each month from January to February. What we are seeing with March is that we are continuing that trend. But we actually saw some changes due to Spring Break. Now that’s just the student population,” said Jeremiah Dumas, SMART Director.
The in-campus bus system has been around since 1996. In the first two months, the average daily ridership on the city routes grew from between 30 and 40 riders to more than 50. University and city officials are closely watching to see where changes might need to be made. The state which is helping fund the system also is watching.
“The good thing though is the community routes continue to grow despite the activities of Spring Break. But beyond the numbers its encouraging, the stories, and the comments that are being told by the bus drivers back to us about what individuals in the community are saying. How important this is,” said Dumas.
The goal is to improve efficiency while attracting more community riders.
“And so in the next grant cycle which we have already applied for we see some changes in the community side starting this fall that will go to areas that have not been serviced,” said Dumas.
According to Dumas, they have added Old Main and Boardtown Loop Routes and they are learning a lot in the first year. They also are talking about shortening some ridership times. The Oxford system that was a model for Starkville is undergoing its third expansion in the last six years.