Rise in Ridership Fuels Shuttle Bus Expansion
Route 883 Adds West Campus Stops and Wal-Mart Student Trips to Schedule
Apr. 1, 2011
Continued surges in ridership have spurred the University to add new stops and service for the Comet Cruiser, the shuttle bus that ferries students to campus from area housing and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit rail station.
And on Fridays only, the shuttle will make trips to a Wal-Mart store on Coit Road in Plano. The latter route addition was made in response to a special request from the Student Government.
The Comet Cruiser takes riders to the Bush Turnpike light rail station.
“Our growing student body has resulted in an increased demand in transportation services, and the University is being responsive,” said Dr. Calvin D. Jamison, senior vice president for Business Affairs. “We listened to the students’ needs and the adjustments in the routes are reflective of their feedback.”
Ridership on the UT Dallas Comet Cruiser shuttle bus – Route 883 – averaged 54,000 passengers per month last year. That number is more than double the monthly average recorded in 2008, the first year of service.
The surge in demand corresponds with the university’s growth in enrollment, which leapt to more than 17,128 students in 2010 for an increase of 8.5 percent from the previous year.
Vishal Channe, the Student Government International Affairs chair, said the additional services will help the roughly 600 international students who came to UT Dallas last fall.
“Roughly 70 percent of the influx had to find housing off campus, most renting apartments along McCallum,” Channe said. “The Comet Cruiser is their only transportation to campus. I think this reliance will continue.”
Channe said the University’s timing for adding service to Wal-Mart couldn’t be better.
“Last year, we (SG) did a survey of 520 students. Roughly 88 percent said they were in favor of shuttle service to Wal-Mart,” Channe said, “because students plan for grocery shopping on weekends. It will make students’ lives simpler.”
“Students who stay in the McCallum area will be excited as the same bus now will take them from the University to grocery shopping and on home. It represents a time savings of at least 30 minutes,” Channe said.
UT Dallas partnered with Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) in 2007 to provide shuttle service to link campus with the George Bush Turnpike rail station, resulting in the Comet Cruiser Route 883.
DART spokesman John Quinn said, “DART enjoys partnerships with public and private entities because it brings people to public transportation. As a matter of fact, DART ridership is down system-wide. But the one exception – an anomaly, really - are these supplemental shuttle services, where growth is exploding.”
Wal-Mart Stop to Give Students
Expanded Access to Shopping
The Comet Cruiser (Route 883) begins offering shuttle service to the Wal-Mart on Coit Road and Mapleshade Lane beginning April 1.
The Friday-only trips represent a response to Student Government requests, according to Parking and Transportation Supervisor Paul Smith.
The last shuttle will depart Wal-Mart at 3:50 p.m. and return to campus at 4 p.m. The plans and times are subject to change depending on ridership, Parking and Transportation Supervisor Paul Smith said.
Route 883 originates at UT Dallas with two buses traveling opposite directions in a stretched figure-eight pattern.
On one leg of the journey, the bus heads north and then east on Renner Road toward the DART rail station at Bush Turnpike and Central Expressway.
On the other leg, it heads west from the rail station through campus, then loops by shopping areas and restaurants off Coit and Campbell Road and onto McCallum Boulevard, where a series of apartments provide off-campus housing for students.
Last October, to keep up with a surge in demand for service, the University added a third bus that circulates on the western loop only. Starting April 1, that bus will add daily stops at the University’s Waterview Science and Technology Center (WSTC) and the Research Operations Center (ROC) before continuing on to the retail and apartment areas.