University shuttle routes extended
New shuttle routes and schedules took effect on the first day of classes, Aug. 27.
According to Pam Mooney, the director of Parking and Transportation Services, this project has been in progress since last January.
“We try to limit changes during the academic year, so we like to make changes in the fall,” Mooney said.
Kenilworth, Goucher and Timonium, the off-campus routes, now each use two buses instead of one. The new on-campus Black Express Route will transport students between West Village and the main campus Monday through Thursday. Towson Center and University Village will not be stops on this route, but the Gold Route will cover these locations, along with the rest of the campus, from Monday to Friday.
There will also be a new Tiger in Town Route that runs from 4:45 p.m. to approximately 2:30 a.m., seven days a week. Its purpose is to get students into the heart of Towson for work or entertainment purposes.
Mooney claims that overcrowding of the buses made expansions like these necessary.
“Last year, we saw a 24 percent increase in ridership. The transportation industry usually sees 6 to 8 percent growth per year,” Mooney said.
According to Mooney, Towson’s shuttle service was first introduced about five years ago. The purpose of the shuttle service was to give students an alternative to having cars on campus. In effect, the shuttles have reduced parking on campus, which eliminates the need to spend money on more parking garages.
“We are self-supported, which means that all of our expenses are paid for by users,” Mooney said.
Traffic patterns, construction and loading times contributed to adjustments to the shuttle schedules. For example, according to Mooney, there are now 40-minute routes instead of 30-minute ones because of the longer loading times experienced on crowded buses. But she claims that these schedule changes are also a response to cultural shifts.
“People [of this generation] don’t get to places as early, so the schedule was moved to allow students to get to class closer to class times. The times hit closer to the hour mark,” Mooney said.
In order to implement these changes, Parking and Transportation services bought four new buses that cost $125,000 each. The NextBus service that provides students with arrival times of shuttles had to be modified, costing between $5,000 and $6,000.
Redoing the schedules also required that managers and supervisors put in extra hours. Because of the expenses, demand for these changes had to be high.
“We constantly look at ridership, talk to students and meet with [University Residence Government] and SGA representatives to determine demand,” Mooney said.
Mooney is excited that the new shuttle options will coincide better with student schedules.
“It’s a lot of great things for the students, and that’s what we’re here for. We have to manage the service; it’s not a taxi service so you can’t expect it to be there exactly when you want to go, but I think it’s a great service. We have about a 90 percent on-time rate, which is very good in [this] industry. We’re shooting for 95 [percent], so hopefully we’ll be able to get there,” Mooney said.