Transit Services looks at growth, new changes

Jeremiah Dumas
Logan Kirkland
Staff Writer

Mississippi State University Parking and Transit Services is taking a look at its continued growth and changes for the coming new year.

During the last Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting, representatives from MSU Parking and Transit services provided an update on their usage and modifications to their current bus routes. 

Director of MSU's Parking and Transit Services Jeremiah Dumas said since 2014, there has been more than 2.8 million total riders utilizing the transit services.

This past fiscal year, Dumas said there have been a total of 681,000 total riders. 

“Our city routes have seen significant increases with the routes that go to the hospital and up north,” Dumas said. “That’s our biggest increase.”

Dumas said about 22 percent of residents utilize the S.M.A.R.T. bus city routes.

Out of surveyed riders, Dumas said 63 percent use the services for education, 36 percent use the services for public and employment usage and 25 percent were without any other form of transportation.

“We’re getting to a point now to where a lot of our people are not accessing education. They’re accessing jobs, retail or shopping,” Dumas said. “Which tells us our ridership is shifting.”

Dumas said he noticed the shift and need of resident usage when Transit Services closed their routes between Christmas and New Year's, when Mississippi State University was not in session. 

“We found real quickly that there were a lot of people out there that depended on us as their only means of transportation,” Dumas said.

Although residents are utilizing the bus services, Dumas said the service in the most demand is its Paratransit services.

S.M.A.R.T. Paratransit is an ADA service provided for disabled residents. ADA service eligibility and certification is required to use the service.

The downloadable applications must be filled out completely. The Physician's Verification of Disability Form must be completed by a doctor, licensed health care provider, or licensed rehabillitator or social worker.

Once S.M.A.R.T. receives a completed application, the person applying may be contacted to schedule an in-person interview to aid in the determination of your eligibility. Upon request, transportation will be provided free of charge both to and from the interview site.

Those looking to use Paratransit services must call 24 hours in advance.

In the past fiscal year, there was a total of 2,656 Paratransit trips. There was a total of 340 riders per month.

“We cannot meet the demand that’s out there for Paratransit at this point with the vehicles and drivers we have,” Dumas said.

Although Transit Services is having difficulty keeping up with the demand, Dumas said there is another Paratransit van on the way to be utilized.

As for changes, Dumas said Aug. 1 there will be a change in some of the routes by modifying or extending them. Also, residents can download a phone application which will tell users where any bus is at a given time.

Other improvements Dumas said they would like to accomplish is overall efficiency, increase customer service and maintain bus shelters and benches.

Initially, Transit Services was designed specifically for students, but with the shift in usage, Dumas said he hopes to make it part of many residents’ daily routine.

“We’re developing this thing so it can be like other urban transit systems where all classes and all groups of people will use it and rely on it and see it as a positive,” Dumas said.