Feb 6, 2007

GLTC and LU go off campus

by Erin Fitch, News Reporter

From now on, Liberty students can leave their cars and walking shoes at home for some off-campus trips. The buses that have been circling campus are now servicing Wards Road shopping hot spots such as Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Subway, Target and Best Buy.

Students can use the new Wards Road line from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday will operate on an abbreviated schedule, with services starting just before noon and ending around 9:30 p.m.

The buses depart for Wards Road from LU transit stops at the Campus East clubhouse, East Dorm 24, Main Campus Dorm 5 and the Keyhole.

Lee Beaumont, director of LU auxiliary services, said the move is Liberty’s way of trying to accommodate the students who might have difficulties traveling off campus.
“A lot of folks don’t have cars,” said Beaumont.

Yet, for those students with vehicles, rising on-campus parking fees have also been troubling. Both Beaumont and Tyler Falwell, project manager of LU transit, emphasize the bus service as a viable alternative to help accommodate all students.

Students who cannot afford $300 worth of parking all year long, or even $30 for a tank of gas, can find feasible solutions for their needs thanks to the buses.

Falwell added that another concern of the administration is keeping students safe on campus.

“This is more than a convenient tool -- it’s a safety tool,” said Falwell. “It helps calm the nervousness of parents to see the steps LU is willing to take to make sure their son or daughter is looked after in the best way possible.”

Brothers Jeremi and Jason Sanchez, who are freshman students from Florida, enjoy the transit system and were very enthusiastic about its off-campus expansion.

Neither brother has a car, so the buses are useful tools for them besides just getting around the school.

“We also use it for recreation,” said Jeremi Sanchez. “It gives you an excuse to meet new people.”
At the time, the two were already planning their first bus trip to Wal-Mart the next day, not for anything to shop for in particular, but just for the mere pleasure of getting off campus.

Freshman Dan Kelly, who already uses the on-campus transit service, also plans to use the bus system to go shopping off-campus.

“I’d probably use it to go to Wal-Mart once a week, minimum,” said Kelly.

Falwell said this latest expansion is just the start of more to come.

“The next thing we’re looking into is the experimental route of apartment complexes,” said Falwell, who would like to see stops at some of Lynchburg’s most heavily commuter-populated apartment complexes, such as County Green and Walden Pond.

The new route to apartment complexes could be created either by the end of this semester or by the start of next semester, according to Falwell.

With the opportunity to serve such areas, he also anticipates a decrease in the amount of traffic and parking on campus. “Just leave your car on your property and come on over,” said Falwell.

However, some students see a few kinks that still need to be ironed out for the bus service to work well for them, such as overcrowding and confusing time schedules.

Freshman Justin Melvin complained he has been late for class waiting on a bus that was not already filled to capacity. “I missed two buses just this morning,” he said.

Sophomore Leigh Detzel also said the transit system can be unclear to her. “The red and blue buses aren’t clearly labeled. It’s confusing to me.”

Falwell admitted the transit service is still “getting the wrinkles out” and encourages student feedback to help communicate how LU transit can better serve their needs.

One way Falwell said this communication can be accomplished is to e-mail suggestions, questions and complaints to transit@liberty.edu.

“We want to take student input seriously,” said Beaumont. “This service is really for the students.”

Contact Erin Fitch and eefitch@liberty.edu.
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