Mar 3, 2009

Transit survey brings change

by Mandi Forth and Drew Menard

In order to improve the effectiveness of transportation on campus, Liberty recently posted a survey on the Splash page where students, faculty and staff alike could openly and anonymously voice their opinions. Such surveys have been the traditional method Liberty uses to gauge public opinion on the transit system, and implement necessary changes.

“Student feedback is very important,” Richard Martin, director of financial research and analysis, said. “The entire transit system has been built around the three previous annual transit surveys. The annual survey is the most important planning tool that we have and use for determining how best to operate the transit system.”

The transit system has grown exponentially since its inception. The buses, which transport 83 percent of students on a weekly basis, will carry 2.3 million passengers this year. More people ride Liberty’s buses in nine months than ride the Roanoke and Lynchburg systems combined in 12 months, according to Martin.

“When we started LU Transit in October 2006, it was fashioned entirely on a survey we did on August - September 2006,” Martin said.
According to Martin, 829 people participated in the latest survey, 82 percent of which were Liberty students. The ultimate goal of the survey was to evaluate the transit system and find out what services could be offered to make it more efficient.

Overall, the feedback from the survey was improved from previous years.

“Over 82 percent rated the service six on a 10 point scale or higher,” Martin said. “Bus cleanliness and operating hours improved over last year.”

“The transit system has improved a lot since it began. It runs smoothly and I have rarely had to wait long for a bus,” Melissa Rogers, a graduate student, said.

The area of greatest concern for LU transit was service frequency, where 41 percent rated it as a six or lower.

But many different suggestions were made during the survey. Brian Corley, a recruiter for the Washington Semester program, suggested that there be more shelter available at bus stops so that students would not have to wait out in the inclement weather while waiting for a bus.

“As a male, it was hard to see an older woman waiting for a bus and shivering while huddled under an umbrella,” Corley said.

“No one likes waiting in the rain and cold,” junior Elaine Gordon said.
One of the main questions that was asked on the survey was what would students think of more routes or alternative routes to cut down on the heavy traffic.

“They need more buses during transition times, and a more efficient way to get people on the bus, the massive rush to the bus is annoying and inconvenient when you have been waiting for awhile and you still don’t get on,” Gordon said.

In response, Liberty will begin implementing changes to accommodate some of the needs students expressed as early as next week, according to Martin.

“We will be adding more capacity to help out the class transfer demands and will also operate the Express route later in the evening,” Martin said. “We also understand a need to better provide real-time information about the buses including, estimated arrival times, and will be working with GLTC to expedite these projects.”

Another concept the transit system is working on is trying to cut down on single person parking by expanding the bus system to go around to local apartments for commuter students. Martin expressed his desire to focus on commuter students so that they can reduce the amount of parking issues on campus.

“We will be looking to taking on campus buses to some commuter areas when on campus demand is low and will be working with various nearby apartments on partnerships to make this happen,” Martin said.
Costs for the transit system are included in the cost of attendance. Next year, this fee, which is about $75 per semester, will be viewed as a separate charge on tuition. Students will still have to pay it, like they have in the past, but now it will be like the activity fee, according to Martin.

“That way students will have a good idea of what the fees actually are,” he said.

Martin said that students’ understanding of the costs of transit will “stir more creative discussion about what really needs to be done to make (the transit system) worthwhile for students.”

Also, Martin said that Liberty plans to lower the cost of parking and provide incentives for carpooling commuter, including a guaranteed ride home if your party leaves early and exemption days for taking a second vehicle.

The results of the survey are now available online, and can be viewed at liberty.edu/transit.

Contact Amanda Forth at
ajforth@liberty.edu.

Contact Drew Menard at
ajmenard@liberty.edu.

 


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