By Caroline Hewitt
This September marks Oxford-University Transit’s 10 year anniversary of service to the city of Oxford and Ole Miss. To celebrate this achievement, OUT is throwing an early anniversary party on Friday.
Oxford-University Transit (OUT) was originally founded by Robert Babbitt, a CEO of a transit management company. Babbitt’s daughter attended Ole Miss at the time, and during Babbitt’s visit, he noticed that the city of Oxford did not have any form of public transportation. After meeting with former Mayor Richard Howorth, OUT began in 2008.
OUT started serving the Oxford community with only two routes and five small cutaway buses. Ten years later, OUT is now ranked the number one agency of transportation in the state of Mississippi, according to General Manager of OUT Ron Biggs, with a total of 13 routes and 29 buses.
Biggs said he has been with the bus service since the beginning. Over the past 10 years, Biggs has not only watched the company grow but has also witnessed the growth and expansion of the university.
“Because of the limited space on campus and the new facilities that are being built, as it continues to grow, there is no way you can find parking on campus,” Biggs said. “We help to provide forms of park-and-ride lots, and this eliminates a lot of vehicle traffic on campus.”
Since the traffic and availability of parking on campus is unpredictable, many students choose to use the OUT buses to make it to class on time. Tori Borbash, a recent Ole Miss graduate, learned the ends and outs of parking on campus during her four years at the university.
“Sometimes, parking on campus can be really difficult during certain parts of the day,” Borbash said. “If I had a class later than 9 a.m., I wouldn’t even bother going to campus and looking for a spot.”
With 20,890 students attending the Oxford campus and only 12,588 parking permits available to students, OUT and the Ole Miss Department of Parking and Transportation work hand-in-hand. Mike Harrison, director of parking and transportation, advocates for the bus system.
“The buses have an enormous impact in helping us manage the growth we have experienced. The bus system has been a life preserver in a sea of growth,” Harris said. “I would like to ask all students to try out the bus system, especially the new Rebel Red and Rebel Blue Lines on our campus loop.”
The Rebel Red and Rebel Blue lines were introduced to students and faculty last January and are the most recent additions to the OUT bus routes. Since the university’s recent purchase of the old Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi site, and the new facility on Chucky Mullins, OUT will introduce another route in January of 2019.
“This past year we saw ridership in excess of 1.4 million riders. We will continue to add buses and routes as funds allow and demand dictates,” Harris said. “We plan to continue to upgrade our transit system with technology. Future technology additions will include Wi-Fi for the convenience of our passengers.”
In celebration of this milestone, a banquet dinner will be held at The Inn at Ole Miss in the Gertrude Ford Banquet Hall at 7 p.m. Friday. Some expected attendees of the event will include individuals from the Mississippi Department of Transportation in Jackson, the Board of Alderman and the Oxford Transit Commission.
“We are here to provide this service and make it as convenient and helpful to them as we can,” Biggs said. “We hope the people of Oxford will continue to use it and we will get better each year. We look to continue to grow and be the best public transit system there is.”