By Alyssa Schnugg
Since the Oxford-University Transit system first went live in 2008, ridership has gone from 100,000 riders in a year to over 1 million riders annually in just a few years.
That kind of growth usually does not come without some consequences.
On Tuesday, General Manager Donna Zampella said OUT is making some changes and addressing some issues it’s had recently that has caused some hardships for OUT and its riders.
“We are working very hard and addressing those concerns,” Zampella said. “Oxford’s transportation is a work in progress.”
Last month, seven buses broke down with one catching on fire. No injuries were reported; however, Zampella said the aging buses are causing routes to run late.
“In the past, we’ve used the ‘Band-Aid’ approach to fix them and we’ve acquired older buses from other organizations and just inherited their problems,” she told the aldermen. “This has caused us to continue down the wrong path.”
Zampella said five new buses are expected to arrive in January and another four are expected this time next year.
“This will make us a more reliable company because right now, we can’t say we’re reliable,” she said.
To help communication with the community and its riders, OUT partnered with Triangle Consultants who have developed a new website, OUTransit.com.
Zampella also said OUT currently uses Nextbus for its GPS mapping but is working with Triangle Consultants who are creating a new GPS program to eventually replace Nextbus.
“It will be tailored just for around Oxford, which is what we need, and will be a fraction of the cost,” she said.
In an effort to increase ridership with the citizens of Oxford, OUT offered free bus rides to everyone in June and July. University of Mississippi students always ride free since the University pays annually to cover their students; however, non-students pay $1 to ride the bus.
“I believe it was a huge success since we carried about 4,000 more passengers in June and July this year than last year in June and July,” Zampell said. “August went back to (non-UM student) riders paying the fare and we had 675 more passengers than August last year and 820 more in September this year than last.”