Oct 3, 2006

Shuttle system a reality

by Joshua King

For the multitude of students and faculty who make the daily pilgrimage through blazing sunshine or cold, wet rain to attend classes at Campus North and back again, their travel-weary feet may at last find some relief.

That relief comes in the form of a long awaited shuttle service on the Liberty campus. University officials plan on having the transportation system up and running later this fall. They are presently finalizing bus routes around campus and identifying bus stop locations.

The shuttle service will initially consist of six buses currently being utilized by Thomas Road Baptist Church that can transport approximately 50 people at a time throughout the day. The anticipated service time will begin around 7 a.m. and run until 5 p.m., with the possibility of a limited service until 10 p.m. The projected routes, once completed, will encompass Campus North, Campus East, the Vines Center, the LaHaye Student Center and the dorms on Main Campus.

“Lynchurg city officals are working closely with LU to establish buses to make stops on campus,” said Barry Moore, Vice President of University Relations.

Moore said it will hopefully be established by mid-winter this year.

“We’ve got a lot of folks who know what to do to make this thing work,” he said. “We are coordinating with experts at Thomas Road who have a number of years of transportation expertise.”

Beaumont is excited at the benefits the transportation system will bring to the university as a whole.

“I’m very happy to see it,” he said. “It is definitely something we need.”

The majority of students on campus agree.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Anthony Fiske, a freshman. “I do have a class on North every day, so it would be nice to ride a shuttle instead of having to walk to my car or walk all the way to North.”

“A shuttle would be great for someone without a vehicle,” said Phillip White, also a freshman. “I sometimes ride a bicycle over to the LaHaye Center, and I’m on the swim team, so I go there almost every day.”

The shuttle service will benefit more than just those without vehicles. Student drivers may find some comfort in knowing their increased parking fees are financing the operation. Drivers will now have the opportunity to save on gas by taking a bus instead. 

“I think it will be a huge help,” said sophomore Lacey Judd. “I usually walk to Campus North because I don’t like to drive and use gas. It’s also hard to find parking, so it sometimes takes longer to drive than to walk.”

Beaumont says that transportation this fall will predominantly be focused on a Main Campus route, but students and faculty can expect to see an expanded service in the spring.

“I think you’re going to see the transit system become more efficient as we proceed throughout the spring semester,” he said.

According to Beaumont, before that efficiency can occur, several important factors have to be taken into consideration. “There are three components to it,” he said. “You have the road system, the buses and the staff. If any of those is lacking, it makes it difficult to have an efficient service.”

The road system will primarily consist of a perimeter road for the buses in order to better facilitate traffic flow.  Once the system is up and running with the TRBC buses, the university will look into building its own fleet of similar buses. In order for that to happen, a sufficient number of staff must first be available. “We’re going to need to build an appropriately sized staff to accommodate all the buses,” said Beaumont. He also stresses that one of the most important components is the response from the student body.

“We’re really open to feedback,” he said. “We want as much student involvement as possible. We want to hear the positive as well as the negative and any possible adjustments that can be made.”

Besides simply commenting, students may also be involved in the creative aspects of the operation. Beaumont says the university is open to suggestions for naming the various buses and routes. Overall, he believes everyone on campus will be sufficiently satisfied with the system.

“I believe that after a few months of efficient operation, feedback, adjustments and improvements, the students, as well as the faculty and staff, will get right on board with it,” he said. “They’re going to like it, and it will certainly meet the needs of the entire university.”

Contact Joshua King at jlking@liberty.edu.

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