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17 April 2007
JSU Studying Transit System for Campus

By Steve Ivey
Anniston Star Staff Writer

Students at Jacksonville State University may have another way to get around next year.

The JSU board of trustees heard a plan Monday for a shuttle system to make the campus more pedestrian friendly.

Board members also unanimously agreed to keep JSU’s tuition rates the same for the third straight year.

Mickey Hall of Skipper Consulting, a transit consulting firm based in Birmingham, recommended JSU establish two routes through campus and another through other parts of town.

JSU asked Hall to study a bus system as part of a $1.9 million federal transportation grant the school received in 2004. JSU President Bill Meehan said the university must notify the federal government of its plans by mid-June to avoid losing the money. Trustees then would need to approve any other student fees to operate the system, and perhaps hire a contractor to run it.

Hall said JSU has 4,662 parking spaces on campus, and about 3,100 of them are occupied during peak times.

He said 30 percent of students, faculty and staff who bring cars to campus move them at some point during the day.

“I know it’s not what you hear day to day, but there really are parking spaces out there,” Hall said. “They’re just not convenient. They’re scattered everywhere. Everybody wants to park right at the door of their classroom.”

Hall said a feasibility study found 98 percent of students said they would use a bus system, but he said realistically about 2,500 students, or about 28 percent of JSU’s enrollment, would use the shuttles daily.

Bill Curtis, executive director of the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, said the grant money could only be used for buying buses similar to airport shuttles and building shelters, and not for operating costs.

Hall’s presentation called for three routes from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Two buses each would run on an east and west campus route every five to eight minutes, making 12 to 15 stops.

Another bus would run every 30 minutes through parts of Jacksonville.

Other buses would run 6 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

Based on those plans, Hall said the total operating costs would be $840,000 per year. JSU or the city would have to contribute about $500,000 each year, with the rest coming from other federal grants.

Meehan said the Jacksonville City Council had not taken action yet, but he said the city’s participation was “doubtful.”

Hall said students could ride the buses for free, with the public able to ride for $1.

Hall also suggested restricting parking on Trustee Circle and University Circle to faculty and staff only. Students would park on the campus perimeter.

To pay for the operating costs, Hall said most universities charge students a transit fee.

He said Auburn runs 41 buses on its 1,800-acre campus and charges students $89 per semester. JSU’s system would probably cost students about $40 per semester for five buses on its 318 acres, he said.

“Many campuses are going to shuttle systems combined with parking restrictions,” Curtis said. “One of the problems JSU has is Alabama 21 runs right through the middle of campus. If all the student parking is remote, it opens access to that shuttle system.”

Newly elected Student Government Association members told Meehan at the meeting students would not oppose the new fee, though some doubted how many students would abandon the independence of driving their own cars.

Also at the meeting, the board:

• Agreed to maintain tuition rates for the third straight year.

In-state undergraduate tuition will remain $169 per hour and out-of-state tuition remains $338 per hour.

Graduate tuition remains $225 per hour for in-state students and $450 per hour for out-of-state students.

Meehan said the change three years ago to charge students per hour instead of a flat-rate full-time fee has helped JSU avoid raising tuition.

Full-time, in-state undergraduates taking 12 hours – about four classes – in the fall and spring semesters will continue to pay $4,056 of tuition per year, while out-of-state students would pay $8,112. In-state graduate students taking nine hours would pay $4,050 for two full-time semesters, while out-of-state grad students would pay $8,100.

• Approved a 10 percent increase to on-campus housing rates.

Residence hall prices will range from $895 per semester at Daugette Hall to $1,320 at Sparkman Hall.

Apartments will cost between $1,145 and $1,650 per semester.

• Awarded a $4.7 million contract to Eidson and Associates of Cullman to build the Little River Canyon Field School.

• Heard an enrollment update from Rebecca Turner, vice president for academic and student affairs.

Turner said 2,652 potential freshmen had applied so far this year for the fall semester, a 16 percent increase from fall 2006.

JSU is also receiving more applicants from Georgia. So far, 616 Georgia students have applied to JSU for the fall, a 19 percent increase over last year.

JSU hopes to increase its overall enrollment to 10,000 by 2010. The university enrolled 8,957 students for the fall 2006 semester.

About Steve Ivey

Steve Ivey covers education for The Anniston Star.

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