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Expanded bus service awaits returning students

Aug. 23, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Tuesday, Sept. 4, is more than just the start of the fall semester for Western Michigan University students. It's also the first day all routes in an expanded bus service goes online that gives students free transportation to both campus and city locations.

When most students left Kalamazoo at the end of the spring semester, the status of student access to free bus service was still up in the air, according to Lowell P. Rinker, WMU vice president for business and finance. But the University was able to preserve and even expand the service over the summer, thanks to a new public-private partnership hammered out in late May.

"We've preserved the total package. The major changes in bus service students will see this fall will be a slightly different look to some of the buses they ride and a third bus added to the main campus route," says Rinker. "With a lot of student input and terrific collaboration between Kalamazoo Metro Transit and the WMU staff, we've managed to put together a bus package that even enhances the service level a bit and still stays within the fiscal constraints we outlined at the beginning of this process."

The new arrangement will bring the private bus firm Indian Trails into the picture to provide service around the main campus and transportation to and from the Parkview Campus beginning Sept. 4. What's more, the frequency on main campus routes will increase.

WMU students can ride free on any route throughout the campus and Metro Transit system, by showing their WMU Bronco Card to any Metro Transit or Indian Trails driver. On Metro Transit buses, a buscycle rack is available to transport bicycles at no extra charge.

Information about bus stops times and routes will be made available in campus residence halls and in the back-to-school issue of the Western Herald. The information can be found online at www.wmich.edu/auxilary/busroute, and each campus bus stop will have a posted map and a service number--(269) 387-2200--to call for those who have questions.

Kalamazoo's Metro Transit will continue service on the Solon-Kendall and Lafayette routes as well as the Lovell and West Michigan routes, and students will continue to have free systemwide access on Metro Transit buses. Metro Transit will also continue service to the College of Health and Human Services and provide shuttle for football and basketball games. Completion of the Metro Transit portion of the arrangement was approved by the Kalamazoo City Commission in late July.

Rinker says the new agreement will cost $1.46 million annually-- far less than the nearly $1.8 million annual cost of the previous contract with Metro Transit. The new three-way partnership represents an even greater savings over the $2.1 cost of a proposed contract renewal Metro Transit offered the campus last spring as the end of the previous contract was looming. Rinker and his staff began exploring alternate ways of providing transportation when the cost of continuing the Metro Transit contract past its July 31 end date was quoted at $300,000 or 19 percent higher per year than the previous contract. The cost increases were due to rising fuel costs and inflationary pressures.

"We had to find a way to decrease costs for bus service," Rinker says. "We spent months working with the Western Student Association and with Students for a Sustainable Earth to gauge student needs and desires. We know how important bus transportation is to many students, so when a simple renewal of the existing contract became too expensive, we began looking at other options and we put out a request for proposals from the private sector. We received some great proposals and ultimately accepted one from Indian Trails."

Rinker notes the deal negotiated is for a one-year period, which will give the University and its transit partners an opportunity to make adjustments at the end of the initial contract. The new agreement, he says, brings some immediate changes to University business offices, which will now be responsible for administrative support for all on-campus bus routes.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400