Western expands shuttle service

Joe Lord

Mass transit has evolved again on the Hill.

A new bus service, created by Western and the Student Government Association, began running this semester to replace Provide-A-Ride. There have also been expansions to daytime routes.

The Topper Transit night bus runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It stops on campus and runs to Bowling Green hot spots like Great Escape Theater, Wal-Mart and Greenwood Mall, according to SGA President Jamie Sears.

In addition, Sears said, the shuttle makes stops on Friday and Saturday after 10:45 p.m. at several places, including the downtown square and near Baker Boys Bar & Grill. It will also continue to make stops at 10 other locations until 2 a.m.

Sears said the Topper Transit will also make late night runs to the Gables apartments.

“It gives people a safe alternative, and Provide-A-Ride started because we were concerned people were walking home intoxicated or driving intoxicated,” she said.

The new shuttle service was the brain child of former SGA President Leslie Bedo, who modeled it after a similar program at Northern Kentucky University, called Tank System.

But some have concerns about the new system replacing Provide-A-Ride, a program started in spring 1997.

“It’s excluding a lot of people,” said Marion senior Brandi Hagan, who won’t be able to get a ride home because she lives in an area the shuttle doesn’t service.

Hagan said she used Provide-A-Ride last year, but doesn’t have a use for the new program.

“It’s a good idea, but if it went to more places it would be better,” she said.

SGA formerly contracted a taxi from Yellow Cab Company to be on-call Thursday and Friday nights, Sears said, for Western students in need of a ride. SGA paid about $13,000 to keep the program running last school year.

The Topper Transit program will cost Western about $40,000 this year, said Angie Jackson, financial services manager for Facilities Management. Of that, SGA will contribute about $13,000, and the rest will come from the university.

She said the new service is available to all Western students, but those catching the late night run – from 10:45 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. – will have to show their student IDs to get on the bus.

“Just to make sure we’re picking up our students,” Jackson said.

Non-students can ride the shuttle, as long as they are with a Western student.

The Topper Transit early run begins at 6:05 p.m. and ends at 9:45 p.m. on Thursdays. It has a final drop off at 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

There has been another expansion in the shuttle service this school year.

Jackson said Western has bought three used yellow school buses in the past two months and is trying to get a five-year lease on a new bus. They’ve also hired a new driver for the night route and are searching to fill a driver vacancy.

Jackson said the expansion is going to be used, in part, for the new express shuttle, which picks up students at the old Bowling Green Mall and drops off at three spots on campus. It was created with the intention of bypassing South Campus, but increasing shuttle demand could cause it to stop there if other routes are overloading.

“There’s a possibility the express shuttle will stop at South Campus,” she said.

Jonathan Chilcote, a junior from Akron, Ohio, said catching the shuttle from the Campbell Lane lot is his most convenient mode of transportation. He lives on Campbell Lane and decided last week spot hunting on campus wasn’t worth the effort.

“Why hassle with it anymore?” he said.

Chilcote said the shuttle works fine for him, except during peak hours.

“In the afternoon, it’s pretty packed,” he said.

The university is trying to cope with the increased demand for mass transportation.

Jackson said the shuttle averaged about 450 students seven years ago. Now, about 2,500 students are expected to ride the bus daily.

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]