Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
Every day about 4,000 people take public transportation in Oxford. Ridership on Oxford University Transit (O.U.T.) has gone up a drastic 700 percent since the buses started rolling in 2008.
“Each year it increases as the students increase,” says Ron Biggs, O.U.T. superintendent.
From its start with four employees, O.U.T. has grown to 22 employees. The O.U.T. system now has 22 buses and five different routes throughout Oxford and the Ole Miss campus.
Biggs says students use the buses most often.
“The student ridership is anywhere from 85 to 95 percent of the riders.”
Ole Miss currently covers the cost to ride for all university students and faculty. The university encourages students to use the bus system to save money on gas and to help with parking problems on campus.
Ellie Boyd, an Ole Miss student, says that “the bus makes it easier to get to class on time without having to stress out over finding a spot.”
The O.U.T. system is not only used by students, but also by Oxford locals, who often use the bus daily.
“I depend on the bus system to make it to work because I currently don’t have a car,” says Julia Simons, an Oxford resident who works on the Square.
O.U.T. offers non-students rides for less than $1 and monthly passes as low as $15. Government money helps keep the cost low.
“What funds the system is grants through the federal transportation administration and grants from MDOT [Mississippi Department of Transportation]. The city and the university have a match local share, so they split what the grant doesn’t cover,” says Biggs.
The subsidies are important, according to bus driver Carol Pringle.
“The locals usually pay by fare with cash instead of the monthly pass because they can’t afford the pass upfront,” says Pringle.
Biggs says that because of local matches, even with an increase in bus usage, fares will remain the same so that public transportation stays affordable.
As Oxford continues to grow, Biggs says O.U.T. will too. The transit system plans to extend bus routes and operating hours.
“Next fall we will be expanding the lines to later hours, so I will be hiring even more people.”