By CARL SMITH
Mississippi State University Shuttle Operations Manager Jeanette Bailey says transportation officials are ready for an influx of Bulldog fans this football season and are hopeful more visitors utilize the university’s game-day transportation systems.
MSU operates three game-day shuttles which ferry fans from downtown Starkville, the Mississippi Horse Park and the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park to on-campus drop-off locations near Davis Wade Stadium. Shuttles begin running three hours before kickoff and end two hours following the end of the day’s football game.
In the last three years, Bailey said the game-day shuttle system transported almost 90,000 fans to MSU’s campus. Last year, 26,185 fans were transported by the system, while the two previous years saw a combined average of more than 30,000 passengers. Funding for the routes, Bailey said, comes from joint efforts between the athletic department.
More than 16,000 fans rode the research park route last year, and the route has averaged approximately 16,000 passengers in the past three years, Bailey said. Fans are picked up at the research park and dropped off near Humphrey Coliseum.
The route that services the Mississippi Horse Park has experienced the most growth in the past three years, Bailey said. Since 2009, officials have doubled the number horse park route shuttles due to an influx of passengers. In 2009, Bailey said only 434 passengers rode the route, while almost 3,000 fans used it last year. Horse park Executive Director Bricklee Miller said a change to campus RV rules helped boost the route’s usage. Horse park passengers are picked up at the facility and transported to a drop-off location near Thompson Hall.
“Now, you have to be a member of the Bulldog Club to park your RVs on campus. We support non-reserved RV spots, whether they are MSU fans or not. We have plenty of space for our fans and easy access from the highway system,” Miller said. “It’s nice to serve as a place for our out-of-town visitors because the horse park is sometimes a first-glance at MSU for other teams’ fans.”
The downtown route transported more than 10,000 fans to campus in 2009, but last year’s number dropped to 7,185. Bailey said rainy conditions last year contributed to lower numbers on all of the game-day routes. In Starkville, the route picks up passengers from the Oktibbeha County Court Annex at 108 West Main St. and from Starkville Daily News, located at 304 Lampkin St. and drops off at Giles Hall.
“(The downtown game-day shuttle route) is a great service that we, the city of Starkville and MSU athletics are able to provide to visiting and local fans, but it also gives us a great opportunity to showcase downtown Starkville and local retailers,” Jennifer Gregory, Greater Starkville Development Partnership vice president for tourism and chief operating officer, said. “I definitely believe the shuttle and the shopping access it brings have helped revitalize the downtown area.”
Fans can access maps of each transit route within MSU’s new online fan guide — located at http://www.fanguide.msstate.edu  — and use a live shuttle map located at http://www.transit.msstate.edu/map . The interactive live map displays information including how full a bus is and the estimated time of arrival to its next stop.
“There are so many things that technology can bring us now, and we’re excited to be able to give this kind of information to our fans,” Mike Harris, MSU Parking Services director, said. “It provides convenience, and that’s what we’re really aiming for.”