Special Edition
Apr 28, 2009

Getting Around

by Amanda Sullivan

Click. Click. Click. Liberty University students 2,012, 2,013 and 2,014 climbed aboard the Greater Lynchburg Transit Company (GLTC) bus, which is labeled with a bright yellow “EXPRESS” sign adhered to the front window. The transit system on Liberty’s campus was implemented just over two years ago to help ease traffic congestion on the roads.
With Liberty’s expansive growth in recent years, the school now comprises more than half of the GLTC’s ridership, according to GLTC Assistant General Manager Scott Willis. The school’s growth will soon cause the transit program to reach 2 million riders within the first two years of its existence.

“As of January 2009, for the fiscal year 2009, LU ridership is 69.1 percent of our total ridership – traditional city route plus LU on-campus routes,” Willis said. “Of our city-only ridership, 9.8 percent of the trips have been paid for
by an LU ID (student, faculty or staff).”

The total GLTC ridership for fixed routes for the 2009 fiscal year is nearly 1.9 million, with Liberty on-campus passengers making up 1.2 million of the number. The city routes have bussed 648,737 passengers, of which 63,649 riders used a Liberty ID to utilize the LU Universal pass, according to Willis.

Liberty’s partnership with the GLTC has affected more than the number of patrons who board the bus each year. In fact, the joint venture has created a need for more employees within the GLTC walls, which is a welcomed reality with the current economic crisis.

“We hired about 25 additional operators — most (of whom are) full time,” Willis said. “We also had to hire two more supervisors.”

Although Liberty has impacted GLTC ridership and Lynchburg residents via employment, the university also increases the company’s cash flow, because of increased government funding.

“Liberty pays about $1.6 million per year for the bus service. The City of Lynchburg pays $1.1 million for the city service,” Willis said. “The Commonwealth and the federal government pay in about $2.4 million. The rest comes from some other partners (such as) Amherst County and Lynchburg Sheltered Industries and cash fares.”
Despite the large intake of money, GLTC does not retain the funds.

“Keep in mind we are non-profit so we are not ‘making money’ off anything. Liberty pays for the service it receives — nothing more, nothing less. Because of Liberty, we will be eligible for more federal and state funding,” Willis said. “This will reduce the amount Liberty has to pay. However, I believe the University intends to expand service instead of reduce the Liberty internal transit budget to GLTC.”

The GLTC has also added more busses to accommodate the expansion caused by Liberty’s ridership. The company recently replaced six of the 14 busses Liberty uses for transit purposes.

In addition, Liberty also brings a younger ridership to the transportation company. In recent years, the GLTC’s ridership has consisted of the economically disadvantaged, the elderly or the disabled, according to Willis.

“With Liberty and other college students riding our busses, we’re able to project an image of coolness that goes with riding the bus,” Willis said. “This is just picking up steam. We’re hoping to keep building it.”

Because of Liberty’s contribution of more youthful riders, the GLTC has been able to more fully develop routes that were previously lacking a quick pace.

“One direct benefit to our regular city ridership has been the addition of a 4F bus (route) funded by Liberty,” Willis said.

“This provides 30-minute service down Fort Avenue to the River Ridge Mall and Liberty. Without Liberty’s contribution, this would be a 60-minute service.

Liberty’s input will expand to encompass future routes that will assist both commuter students and Lynchburg residents, according to Willis.

“As of right now, Liberty plans on funding additional service on other city routes to the benefit of Liberty commuter students and all bus riders,” Willis said. “More generally, Liberty is a major player in the community. It is very beneficial to be partnered with such an influential organization.”

 


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