Shuttle system gets S.M.A.R.T.

Bus

An expanded shuttle system servicing campus and the local community is averaging nearly 3,500 passengers every day.

The new Starkville-Mississippi State University Area Rapid Transit, also known as S.M.A.R.T., is an expansion of an earlier shuttle system that primarily focused on the MSU campus. The new service provides campus-to-city service from 7 a.m.- 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, with a couple of routes also operating Saturdays.

MSU officials say daily ridership continues to increase as the new transportation service works to carry out its mission of more easily linking a growing campus with a growing city.

While passengers ride at no cost, children 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult. All of the new shuttles meet accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Off-campus stops include Vowell’s Marketplace (formerly Piggly Wiggly), Regions Bank, OCH Regional Medical Center, Walmart, Collegiate Heights Apartments, Spruill Townhouses and Starkville Sportsplex, among others. Specific details on the system’s seven routes may be found at www.smart.msstate.edu.

“We have had a shuttle program in service since 1996, but S.M.A.R.T. expands that program to offer much needed transportation services to the City of Starkville,” said Jeremiah Dumas, MSU’s director of parking, transit and sustainability. “We have a total of 32 buses in our fleet, 11 of which are used in support of the university for campus tours and other events, and 21 that are utilized on the S.M.A.R.T. system.”

Easily identifiable, S.M.A.R.T. shuttles are wrapped in graphics that incorporate campus, city and Mississippi Department of Transportation attributes, which set them apart from the traditional shuttles.

Dumas said most universities have public transit operated by the city, a private contractor or both. What makes the S.M.A.R.T. system unique is its operation by the university through MDOT, he emphasized.

Funded via a 5311 Rural Transit Grant by MDOT, the S.M.A.R.T. system is unique “because it is a free service to all.

“This program provides matching operation and capital dollars,” Dumas said. “The matching funds for the grant are provided by MSU Parking Services.”

Feedback for the S.M.A.R.T. system has been very positive, Dumas added.

“Several riders rely on our system for all of their daily transit needs, and those are the stories that really make you feel great,” he said. “Even with our short history, it is great to see the reliability and the impact this system has on an individual’s quality of life.

“We realize that we are a new program and that we have much to learn,” he said, while adding that “we are committed to continual improvement.”

Dumas said, “Our goal is to evolve this system so that it has the ability to serve as a replacement—not just a supplement—for private and single occupancy travel miles."

“We have already requested changes in our next grant application,” he said. “We hope to shorten length of routes, increase number of routes, and provide more services to targeted areas in the community.

“We also plan to extend hours, so that we can overlap with evening classes, shift changes and dining hours,” Dumas said.

Written by Sasha Steinberg, Photography by Megan Bean