Oct 31, 2006

Buses haul 15,000 students in one week

by Joanne Tang, News Editor
There have been big developments happening within Liberty, the first of which is the shuttle system. Implemented two weeks ago, the transit system has since transported 40,000 riders around campus, using several buses traveling on two lines.

 One thing Lee Beaumont, director of auxiliary services, and the Transportation department in charge of the transit system make clear is that the system is still in its beginning stages and will continue to be improved. Several staff members recently met with a Facebook group that was set up in response to the transit system and the new parking regulation that restricts resident students from parking on Campus North.

Discussion between staff and the students has helped to bring to light some concerns students have about the shuttle system. Some students broached the subject of night classes and needing to walk from Campus North to their dorm at night. Starting this week, buses will run until 10 p.m., helping the students who leave class late at night get to their dorms easier.

Many students recently had concerns about waiting time at the bus stops and being late for class. Beaumont said the desired wait time should be at most seven to right minutes and with more buses being bought and put on the roads, the time between buses will decrease even more.

“The consensus among administration was that it (the need for a transit system) was urgent,” said Tyler Falwell of the Transportation department.

Mary Beth Blanchard, head bus driver, manages the blue line and also aids in planning routes and managing buses. She has been a driver for Lynchburg city schools and sees a huge difference when she drives for Liberty.

“I love it,” she said. “I always greet the kids and tell them to have a good day.”

She said Liberty students were very well behaved and are genuinely appreciative.

Her routine on the blue line starts with a pre-trip at 6:30 a.m. Though the buses don’t start transporting students until 7 a.m., the buses need to be checked and warmed up. When they are ready, they begin at Campus East and make their way to Campus North. After passing the Vines Center, it returns to make the trip once again. The other line, the red line, maintains a route from main campus to Campus North.

Also in the works to help students is a perimeter road, which should ease traffic. Several more tunnels are being planned — a vehicular tunnel to run under the railroad and down to Harvard St. and a pedestrian tunnel to end near Panera Bread. In addition, there are plans to expand the transit system to include off-campus stops.

With the weather getting colder and more inclement, there is “more urgency” to place more buses on the roads. Transportation is planning to install bus shelters at bus stops to shield students from the elements while they wait.

The department has recently purchased more buses and they will be placed on the roads as soon as they are checked for mechanical safety.

As for students who feel the parking restrictions are hindering their freedom, Beaumont said they are trying to give students the best and to make it easier for them to get around campus. He said he had no doubt the students will adapt.

“Our students are very innovative,” he said. He said the only method to get the traffic congestion resolved was to have mass transportation on the r oads and at the same time, reduce the amount of vehicles.

While there are still a few glitches, “We’re only a few weeks away from students being able to go outside at 10:15 and see a bus on a specific timetable,” Falwell said.

“We are committed to providing solutions to traffic,” said Beaumont.

Contact Joanne Tang at jtang@liberty.edu.

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