By Alyssa Schnugg
Fewer students on campus and low passenger numbers have caused there to be fewer Oxford-University Transit bus routes, buses, and ultimately, fewer bus drivers on the road.
On Wednesday, OUT Manager Donna Zampella told the OUT Board of Directors the University of Mississippi has decided to suspend the Gold and Silver routes due to low ridership.
The Gold route services the South Lot Park-N-Ride parking lot. Park-N-Ride permit holders who utilize the South Lot will need to park at alternate locations like the Jackson Avenue Center Park-N-Ride areas or the South Campus Recreation Center Park-N-Ride areas.
The Silver route goes between the South Campus Recreation Center and Kennon Observatory. Riders between these locations should use the Old Taylor Road Express route or the Green route buses.
The two routes will end on Sept. 14 and begin again at the start of the spring semester.
Additional changes include a reduction in the number of buses operating on various routes, including the Old Taylor Road Express, Yellow, Hathorn Express, Bronze and Green routes. Service reduction in some cases will reduce bus frequency, extending the time between available buses.
Zampella reported that 11,158 riders took the bus in August, down from 41,000 riders in August 2019.
“We knew this was what it was going to be like,” she said. “Going forward, we expect about an average of 1,000 riders a day. That will probably be the norm from now until January.”
Since some of the routes are suspended and there are fewer buses on other routes, Zampella said a handful of drivers have been put on furlough.
“I didn’t want to lose any drivers,” she said. “At some point, COVID-19 is going to die down and we’ll get back to normal.”
Zampella said some of OUTs “older” bus drivers who work mostly for health insurance were given the option to be furloughed.
“We let them decide, and we had enough drivers who wanted to furlough voluntarily,” she said. “They will be furloughed until January.”
Zampella said OUT will also be looking at possibly suspending the Lyceum route that runs daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from the Square parking garage to the Lyceum.
“We carried one person on that route (in August),” she said.
Gameday shuttles are still being discussed and waiting on word from the University. Previously, with tailgating in the Grove, buses to campus started at 6 a.m. on game days. However, with tailgating likely not happening, OUT is still working with university officials on when to start the shuttles to the stadium.
The first home game is slated for Sept. 26.