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9 May 2008

Committee to Study JSU Transit System

A committee soon will begin studying a possible bus transit system to serve students at Jacksonville State University. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

By Dan Whisenhunt
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

If planning stays on track, students at Jacksonville State University could be served by a campus bus system by fall 2009, JSU officials say.

"We're looking to create a committee to oversee the development and implementation of this thing," said Clint Carlson, JSU vice president for Administrative and Business Affairs. Within the next month, JSU President Bill Meehan should confirm the committee members, he said.

The committee would include representation from students, university police and "probably somebody from our facilities group," Carlson said. He didn't know the size of the committee, but said it wouldn't be "too large."

JSU officials started seriously discussing the idea of campus buses in 2004, when the school was awarded around $2 million in federal grant money. At the time, officials said the bus system could be running within two years but studies and planning got in the way, Meehan said.

"It takes awhile to get those things done," Meehan said, adding that the studies aren't over. Carlson said part of that involved making sure this is something students want.

"This is not something I've wanted to move fast on," Carlson said, explaining the delay. "I wanted everyone to be clear on what we're going to do, because once we get into this thing, (we're) in it for the long haul."

Carlson said additional studies would help the university determine how the plan will go forward. One idea would divide campus parking between residents and commuters along with adding bus routes. At present, JSU's student parking is not divided among commuters and residents.

A 2007 study on the idea noted there were 4,662 parking spots on campus, and students occupied 66 percent of them during peak hours.

"Everyone likes to drive and park in front of their building," Meehan said.

Meehan said the university is looking at three main routes, including one that goes as far south as the Wal-Mart in Jacksonville. The 2007 study recommended the university buy six 30-seat buses, including one spare. The study said the peak hours of the service would be from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

It estimated the cost of running the system at $840,000 per year, but said t federal grants are available to cover part of that.

"We're trying to break the dependency of students in their vehicles and having to drive around everywhere they go," Carlson said. "We're trying to address the gridlock on campus between classes and we would like to make this place a little more pedestrian-friendly."

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt covers K-12 schools and higher education for The Star.

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